2012 MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 30 Biggest Bargains on the Market

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2011

2012 MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 30 Biggest Bargains on the Market

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    The 2012 MLB Free Agent class features a number of big names at many positions. Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and Jonathan Papelbon will all get big deals. However, for the teams that cannot afford them, there are a number of players who will be bargains.

    Signing players to more cost effective deals can allow teams to make multiple moves. It also allows cash strapped teams to make improvements. Some of these players are just undervalued, while others are often aging veterans who only have one or two years of solid production left in them.

30. Aaron Miles

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    Aaron Miles has the ability to play a number of infield positions. This versatility has been important to his teams during the course of his major league career.

    Miles will likely sign for less than one million dollars this offseason. To get a career .281 hitter who can also be a leader for that price is a steal.

29. Scott Hairston

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    One thing that is clear about Scott Hairston is that he has power. He is a great power bat off of the bench and is an ideal fourth outfielder. His one problem has been his inability to hit for a high average.

    Teams may be able to snag Hairston this winter for under a million dollars a year. This would be a good signing for many teams.

28. Miguel Batista

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    As a 40-year old pitcher, Miguel Batista is not going to get a big deal in the winter. He has had a good year with the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals.

    He likely still has a little bit of gas left in the tank. If he does return, Batista will likely sign for the veterans' minimum.

27. Francisco Rodriguez

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    A number of teams will be looking for closers this winter. Francisco Rodriguez has done an outstanding job in that role in the past.

    He got a massive deal from the New York Mets last time he was a free agent, but that will not be the case this year. Rodriguez will get a big deal, but he will be much more affordable than the other closers on the market.

26. Kerry Wood

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    While Kerry Wood is no longer the star that he was as a starter, he is still a very productive pitcher. The Chicago Cubs got him on a great deal when they signed him for the 2011 season.

    Whoever signs Wood this offseason will also be getting a very good deal. He could be a cheap closer for a team like the New York Mets, or in a more likely scenario, he will become a set up man for a contending team.

25. Johnny Damon

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    Johnny Damon proved that he still is an everyday player in the majors, even at age 37. He will be a free agent after the year, and he could sign for under five million dollars.

    Considering the fact that Damon was just four home runs and one stolen base away from a 20/20 season, this could be a big bargain for whoever signs him.

24. Jimmy Rollins

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    The shortstop that will get all of the attention on the free agent market this winter is Jose Reyes. Jimmy Rollins has the ability to produce at a slightly lower level than Reyes for only a fraction of the price.

    It seems that the Philadelphia Phillies may look to retain Rollins, and they may be able to do so for less than $7 million a year.

23. Joel Zumaya

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    Joel Zumaya missed all of the 2011 season as the result of an elbow surgery. Before he got hurt, the flame throwing reliever was one of the best pitchers in the Detroit Tigers bullpen.

    Since he is coming off of an injury, Zumaya will be a very affordable relief option. It is possible that a team could sign him to a minor-league deal.

22. Jason Kubel

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    There are two Minnesota Twins outfielders that will be free agents during the winter. Jason Kubel will be the more undervalued of the two players.

    Kubel was hurt during the season, and he was limited to just 99 games this season. He has the ability to hit .275 with 25 home runs. Kubel could be one of the best players signed for under nine million dollars a year.

21. Mark DeRosa

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    The deal that Mark DeRosa signed with the San Francisco Giants before the 2010 season looks like an absolute mistake at this point. He played just 73 games with the team over two season and was paid $12 million.

    Some team will be able to get a great deal if they manage to sign DeRosa this winter. He would be lucky to get anything more than a minor league deal this winter.

20. Jeff Francis

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    On the surface, Jeff Francis has some ugly numbers. A career 61-66 record as well as a 4.78 ERA means that Francis will not get a big deal this winter.

    However, Francis is better than his numbers indicate. For his career, he has a 4.40 xFIP and a 4.40 FIP. His record will get better if he moves to a better team. Francis should be a serviceable fourth starter that can be signed for a very affordable price. 

19. Ryan Doumit

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    Good catchers are hard to find in the major leagues. Ryan Doumit may not be great defensively, but he certainly can hit.

    He was limited by injuries during the 2011 season, but still managed to bat over .300 with eight home runs in 77 games. Doumit will be fairly affordable considering what he can do when he is healthy.

18. Bruce Chen

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    It seems as if Bruce Chen has been around the major league for years. He has pitched 13 seasons in the majors and is 34.

    Chen is coming off one of his best seasons in the majors and is a great clubhouse leader. A team should be able to sign him for about three million dollars.

17. Greg Dobbs

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    Greg Dobbs has a strong season with the Florida Marlins in 2011, and it only cost the team $600,000. While the next team to sign Dobbs won't get as good of a deal, they should be able to get him for under one and a half million dollars.

    Dobbs can be a starting third baseman, and he also has the ability to play in the outfield.

16. Nate McLouth

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    In 2008, it appeared as if Nate McLouth was becoming a top tier outfielder. Now, it is not even apparent that he is a major league caliber player.

    McLouth might not get much more than a minor league deal this winter. He will also have to fight his way onto a roster during spring training. If he can play half as well as he did in Pittsburgh, then McLouth will be a steal at that price.

15. Josh Willingham

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    Josh Willingham will be one of the better outfielders on the free agent market this winter. However, he will be more affordable than a number of players with a similar level of talent.

    The big reason for this is because of his strikeout issues. Willingham may get as much as nine or 10 million a year, but even at the price, it will be a good deal.

14. Carlos Pena

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    Carlos Pena actually raised his average by 29 points this season, and he only batted .225. He also once again had strikeout issues.

    With all of Pena's power, he does have one big thing going for him. He can hit for a lot of power. Anytime a team can get a 35-home run threat for under $10 million, they are getting a bargain.

13. Ryan Ludwick

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    When he was with the St. Louis Cardinals, it looked as if Ryan Ludwick was developing into a star player. Ever since he left St. Louis, he has struggled a bit.

    Ludwick can play in the outfield and still has decent power potential. He should sign for under six and a half million dollars a year this winter.

12. Juan Pierre

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    Teams looking for a stolen base threat will be very interested in Juan Pierre this winter. He may not be able to steal 60 bases in a season again, but he is definitely a terror on the base paths.

    Speed guys normally need to settle for short-term deals when they are in their mid-30s. This will likely happen to Pierre as well.

11. Mark Ellis

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    Mark Ellis is a very serviceable second baseman. He is not a star, but he can help a team in a number of different ways.

    Ellis will be 35 years old during the 2012 season, so he should not be expecting a big deal. A team might be able to sign him for two years and five million dollars.

10. Ivan Rodriguez

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    Ivan Rodriguez is nowhere near the player that he ways during the prime of his career. At best, he is a platoon player at catcher.

    Rodriguez may be able to get a one year deal for a bit over one million dollars. He is a steal at that price not because of what he can do on the field, but rather because of what he can do off of it.

    Rodriguez is an outstanding mentor for a young catcher and any other young players on a roster. That is worth well more than the one million dollars that he should get paid.

9. Rick Ankiel

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    Following the 2010 season, Rick Ankiel got a one and a half million dollar deal. He should see a similar offer from a number of teams this winter.

    This is a great price for a third outfielder. He would be an improvement over a number of starters in the league now. Ankiel also has a great arm in the outfield.

8. Alex Gonzalez

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    Alex Gonzalez likely will not got the offer that he is hoping for this winter. Teams just aren't lining up for a 35-year-old shortstop.

    However, the team that signs Gonzalez will be getting a good deal. For about two to three million dollars, they will get a shortstop with a lot of pop.

7. Pat Burrell

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    Pat "The Bat" Burrell rewarded the San Francisco Giants with a good season as a fourth outfielder after they paid him one million dollars in 2011.

    Whoever signs Burrell this offseason should expect to pay a similar price. They should also expect to get similar results.

6. Vladimir Guerrero

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    At this point in his career, Vladimir Guerrero is strictly a designated hitter. He can still be a threat with the bat, and he should be paid accordingly.

    A lucky team may be able to sign Guerrero for about five million dollars. If he can break the 20-home run mark while batting over .285, it will be a great deal.

5. Rod Barajas

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    Power has been a big part of Rod Barajas' game. Even as he has gotten older, Barajas has still been able to hit long balls.

    This offseason, Barajas may get a one-year deal for about two million dollars. If he hits 15 home runs at this price, then it is a great signing.

4. Chris Young

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    Chris Young has pitched in only eight games over the past two years as a result of injuries. However, he has looked phenomenal in those starts.

    Young will likely have to settle for a deal that pays him under one million dollars this winter. If, and this is a big if, he can stay healthy, this deal could be one of the best signings of the offseason.

3. Grady Sizemore

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    As it becomes increasingly more likely that Grady Sizemore will not have his option picked up for next season, it is interesting to consider how much he will get on the free agent market.

    Sizemore has a world of talent, but also has a lot of injury issues. He will need to settle for a one-year deal for between five and seven million dollars. If he returns to being a 20/20 player, then this is a great bargain.

2. Paul Maholm

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    Paul Maholm has seen his win and loss record impacted by the fact that he has played for a number of bad Pittsburgh Pirates teams. He has had two good seasons and a career 4.36 ERA.

    Maholm will get a multi-year deal, and it could be worth as much as seven to eight million dollars a year. If he replicates his success from 2011, then he would make a great signing.

1. Casey Kotchman

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    Prior to the 2011 season, the player who would eventually have the American League's eighth highest batting average signed a minor league deal. Casey Kotchman will get a better deal than that this winter.

    However, Kotchman likely will have a hard time trying to get more than three to four million dollars this off season. At that price, he will once again be a steal.