The 2012 MLB season will, in large part, be shaped by the major players of free agency. Prince Fielder, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, CC Sabathia—these are the big guns, the guys who will be coveted by every fanbase, but had by only one.
Chances are, your favorite team will not enter 2012 with Fielder or Pujols in the middle of the lineup. You will miss out on Reyes’ blinding speed and the remarkable consistency of Sabathia’s quality starts. You will settle for smaller names, incremental improvements and affordable gambles over big splashes and marquee additions.
But fear not.
There is plenty of talent to be had beyond the franchise-types and Scott Boras clients. 2012’s free-agent class will be incredibly deep, and difference makers will appear from all levels of salary structure, not just the top one percent.
With that in mind, here are seven “under-the-radar” (read: affordable) free agents who could become key factors 2012.