MLB's Best Penny-for-Penny Values Still Available on the Winter Markets
Spring training is three weeks away, yet there are still several players who could help MLB clubs available on the free-agent market.
Perhaps teams want to go through drills and a couple of weeks of exhibition games to see what they have on their rosters before bringing outside help in. Maybe a few of these players are still holding out hope for a starting position that doesn't currently exist.
Obviously, the numerous players still waiting to be signed aren't perfect. They're certainly not stars. But even those who are coming off injury or just can't contribute on a full-time basis anymore can still help out most major league teams. Better yet, these guys won't cost very much.
Here are eight players who have played well during the past couple of seasons that should find employment within the next three weeks or shortly after spring training camps open.
Articles like this were made for Shaun Marcum. He will surely be included in every "best value available" piece until an MLB team signs him.
It's understandable why a club might be hesitant to take a chance on Marcum. He dealt with elbow and calf injuries last season, which limited him to only 21 starts.
The elbow problems are especially a concern, considering he's had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow before. Marcum has thrived on excellent control in his previous three seasons. If he can't be that pitcher, can he be as effective?
But when healthy, he is capable of giving a team 33 starts and 200 innings per season. Will his elbow allow him to throw that many innings for a new team? That's the question that surely has him still available on the free-agent market.
According to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres are interested in Marcum. At this point of the offseason, he could end up as the best bargain of the winter.
Most MLB teams don't get much offense from the catcher position, which makes it surprising that Kelly Shoppach is still on the market.
The 32-year-old catcher doesn't hit for a high average, but does provide some power. Any club looking for some unexpected home-run pop at a low price could get it from Shoppach. Last season, he hit eight home runs and slugged .425 in 245 plate appearances.
Shoppach isn't a stellar defensive catcher, allowing 16 wild pitches and eight passed balls in just 566 innings. He also threw out 33 percent (16-of-48) of opposing baserunners.
But Shoppach isn't going to be a starting catcher for anyone. Ideally, he'd make up for his defensive shortcomings by putting some baseballs in the seats when he's in the lineup. That could help teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs.
After bouncing around the minor league organizations of the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, Scott Podsednik was surprisingly effective for the Boston Red Sox last season.
In 216 plate appearances, Podsednik batted .302 with eight stolen bases. Surprisingly, he was even better against left-handed pitching, albeit in a limited sample size. Podsednik hit .395 with a .775 OPS versus lefties in 42 PAs.
He also played well defensively, according to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, showing above-average capabilities in both corner outfield spots. (He was slightly below average in center, allowing two runs more than a replacement level player at the position would have.)
Podsednik isn't a starting MLB outfielder anymore—though he did make 50 starts for the Red Sox last year and might have been the Phillies' starting left fielder had they not signed Juan Pierre. But as a part-time player, he could be a strong left-handed bat, pinch runner and defensive replacement for virtually every team in baseball.
Matt Capps probably hasn't signed with a team yet because he doesn't strike out many batters.
Most MLB clubs prefer a guy who can miss bats and lock the ninth inning down, rather than put balls in play. In 2011, his last full season, Capps struck out an average of 4.7 batters per nine innings. However, he also walked 1.8 batters per nine, which means Capps doesn't beat himself.
There may be some concerns about Capps' health as well, since he missed the second half of last season with rotator cuff inflammation.
But with several teams still seeking bullpen depth and a right-handed reliever for later innings, Capps should be able to make a meaningful contribution.
The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs are two clubs that quickly come to mind. Capps could also provide a veteran presence for the Houston Astros or Miami Marlins. Perhaps more importantly for all four of these teams, Capps could possibly be flipped at the trade deadline to a contender looking for bullpen help.
Casey Kotchman didn't have a very good season for the Cleveland Indians in 2012. If he had, the Tribe likely would have tried to bring him back.
In 500 plate appearances, Kotchman hit .229 with a .612 OPS, 12 home runs and 55 RBI. But he's only one season removed from batting .306 with an .800 OPS for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.
That raises the obvious question of which version of Kotchman a team might sign.
Kotchman might not find a starting job in MLB this season, but he could make a good platoon partner with Gaby Sanchez with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Perhaps he could also provide some depth for a team like the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays, both of whom he's played with before.
As Dallas Braden put it last year, he will probably find work once he recovers from rotator cuff surgery. Why?
“I’m left-handed and I have a heartbeat," Braden told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The same applies to Rich Hill, who's battled injuries throughout his career and had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in 2011. Hill has only pitched one full season during his eight years in the majors, but when he's able to pitch, he has strikeout stuff.
In 25 appearances for the Boston Red Sox last year, he struck out 21 batters in 19.2 innings. That averages out to 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
The left-hander might have to demonstrate better control for a team to offer him a major league contract, however. He walked 11 batters last year, averaging five walks per nine innings.
Hill would be quite a weapon for any team to employ against opposing left-handed batters. Against lefties last season, Hill allowed a .205 batting average and .674 OPS.
With middle infield defense becoming more of a priority throughout MLB, it's a bit surprising that Ronny Cedeno hasn't found a team to sign with yet.
Last year with the New York Mets, Cedeno hit .259 with a .741 OPS in 186 plate appearances. However, he would be more valuable to any team because of his glove.
According to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, Cedeno was a slightly below-average defensive player at second base and shortstop. For a team looking for a backup utility infielder that may not be able to make spectacular plays but can handle virtually everything hit into his range, Cedeno could provide some value.
Either of the last two teams Cedeno played for—the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates—could use him in just such a role. Perhaps he could help the World Series champion San Francisco Giants if they decide not to re-sign Ryan Theriot.
Any team looking for infield depth or some platoon help could get a solid bat with Adam Kennedy.
Last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 37-year-old infielder hit .262 with a .702 OPS in 201 plate appearances.
Kennedy also provides defensive versatility, being able to play first, second and third base. Judging from FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, third base might be his best defensive position at this point, which should make him marketable to several MLB teams.
That versatility might make Kennedy a contributor to a club like the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees or San Francisco Giants, who could use some depth in the infield.
Kennedy could also conceivably get a lot of time at various positions with the Miami Marlins. A return to the Dodgers might not be out of the question either, though that team is currently loaded with utility infielders.
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