MLB Free Agents 2014: Analyzing Top Value Players Still Available on Open Market

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2014

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13:  Joel Hanrahan #52 of the Boston Red Sox is relieved in the ninth inning after walking two Tampa Bay Rays batters at Fenway Park on April 13, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Most of the big names have been scooped up from the MLB free-agent market, but that certainly doesn't mean that teams can't continue to improve.

For one reason or another, plenty of potential contributors have been overlooked. If they are given a chance, though, they might prove to be incredibly valuable.

Any general manager can go out and throw a ton of money at a high-profile free agent, but it takes a truly great judge of talent to find diamonds in the rough. Many of the players still available on the market are simply hoping for a major league deal of any kind, so they might ultimately come on the cheap.

Here are three players who are still available to be signed and will prove to be quite valuable in 2014 by outperforming the contracts that they will eventually receive.


Joel Hanrahan

After All-Star seasons in 2011 and 2012 as the Pittsburgh Pirates' closer, Joel Hanrahan was traded to the Boston Red Sox.

Unfortunately, his time in Beantown didn't go according to plan. Hanrahan appeared in just nine games for the Red Sox in 2013, registering four saves and posting a bloated ERA of 9.82. Hanrahan was shut down in May due to injury and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery, which ended his season prematurely. 

Although Tommy John surgery is major for a pitcher, it has been proven over the past several years that those who undergo it can come back better than ever.

If that is the case with Hanrahan, then he could potentially be one of the league's best relievers once again. Hanrahan is just a couple years removed from a season in which he posted 40 saves along with a 1.83 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.

The fact that he is 32 years of age might cause some teams to shy away, but he doesn't have a ton of tread on his tires. Also, Tim Dierkes of is reporting that Hanrahan is well ahead of schedule in his recovery.

The fact that Hanrahan is already throwing off a mound certainly bodes well for his prospects moving forward. Even if he isn't ready for Opening Day and has to sit on some team's disabled list until May or June, he is definitely worth stashing.

Hanrahan has electric stuff and closing experience, which means he has the demeanor necessary to pitch in big spots. He will come at a discount due to his injury and could be an incredible signing, provided he continues to recover.


Michael Young

He may not quite be a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but Michael Young will go down as one of the most consistent players of his era. With seven All-Star nods, six 200-hit seasons and one Gold Glove to his credit, Young has long been one of the league's most under-appreciated players.

He was a true team guy while with the Texas Rangers, as he bounced around between shortstop, second base, third base and first base. Now that Young is 37 years old, that versatility could come in handy for a contending team.

After 13 seasons with the Rangers, Young split 2013 between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers, and he was productive to the tune of a .279 batting average and eight home runs. Young is no longer an All-Star and probably best used as a utility or platoon player, but every good team needs a guy like him.

Despite the fact that Young is generating interest, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the veteran is thinking about retiring.

When asked about retirement by Bailey Stephens of in 2010, Young talked about leaving everything out on the field.

"I know that when my career is over, I'll have no regrets. I'll know that I put every ounce of energy I had into this game," Young said.

There is no question that Young has put in all-out effort throughout his career, so he can be proud of what he has accomplished if he does decide to retire.

With that said, Young proved last year that he has plenty left in the tank. There are likely teams out there doing everything possible to talk him out of retirement and they'll undoubtedly be happy with the results if they're able to.


Eric O'Flaherty

Like Hanrahan, reliever Eric O'Flaherty finds himself in a tough spot due to injury. After 19 appearances in 2013, O'Flaherty had no choice but to undergo Tommy John surgery. It left a major void in the Atlanta Braves' bullpen and derailed what had been a dominant run by O'Flaherty.

Although O'Flaherty may not be ready until some point in the middle of the 2014 season, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that the Braves still have interest in re-signing him.

The Braves shouldn't be the only team with interest, though. Quality left-handed relievers are tough to come by and O'Flaherty happens to be one of the best.

O'Flaherty had an ERA of 2.50 or better in each of his past four seasons, including a minuscule 0.98 mark in 2011. Lefties simply don't see the ball well out of his hand, which makes him the perfect guy to neutralize many of the league's big boppers.

O'Flaherty is capable of working in a setup capacity, but the Braves or some other team would be wise to sign him and allow him to recover at his own pace.

Once he is ready to return, he can be a situational lefty who comes in to face one or two hitters at first. This will allow him to settle back in until he's comfortable enough to pitch full innings.

There isn't a lot of risk involved here, but the reward could be huge.


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