Optimal Situations for Risky MLB Free Agents to Be 2014 Success Stories

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent INovember 19, 2013

Optimal Situations for Risky MLB Free Agents to Be 2014 Success Stories

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Every offseason, there are a significant number of free agents that come with risks attached. Some players are coming off a poor year, others are dealing with nagging injuries that limit their defensive abilities and some are question marks because of their home ballparks.

    However, each of these risky MLB free agents can be a success story in 2014 if they end up in the right situation.

    For some players, it is a matter of finding the right team to fit in with. Other players will benefit from a new ballpark or the opportunity to play in a city in which they are more comfortable.

Phil Hughes: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

    Phil Hughes was absolutely terrible for the New York Yankees last season. He went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA and 24 home runs allowed in a contract year. Needless to say, there is a lot of risk for any team signing Hughes that he might not even pitch well enough to be their fifth starter.

    However, there is some good news for whomever signs Hughes. Last season, he was much better on the road—away from Yankee Stadium and its short porch—posting a 3.88 ERA and giving up only seven home runs.

    Moving to PNC Park—which has a home run factor of 0.679 compared with 1.128 for Yankee Stadium, according to ESPN—would greatly benefit Hughes. Additionally, Hughes could benefit by having Gold Glove-winning outfielder Andrew McCutchen patrolling center field for him.  

    Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors has mentioned the Pirates as a potential landing spot for Hughes. He would make sense either as a fallback option should A.J. Burnett not return or as a possible long reliever in their bullpen.

Roy Halladay: Houston Astros

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Over the past few seasons, Roy Halladay has gone from a Cy Young contender to a pitcher who has struggled to put on a good performance. With shoulder surgery limiting him to just 13 starts in 2013, Halladay went 4-5 with a 6.82 ERA.

    At this point in his career, Halladay is no longer an ace, but he can still have tremendous value to a pitching staff. If he is able to recover, he can serve as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but more importantly as a mentor to young pitchers.

    If Halladay is looking for a one-year deal to help rebuild his value, the Houston Astros could be a perfect fit. It would be a low-pressure situation and his tutelage would be invaluable to the Astros' young starters.

    With Jarred Cosart, Jordan Lyles, Brad Peacock and Alex White all in the early stages of their career and Mark Appel and Mike Foltynewicz potentially on their way to the majors in 2014, having Halladay in Houston would prove to be an outstanding situation for the franchise.

Edward Mujica: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    Edward Mujica was outstanding as the St. Louis Cardinals closer in the first half of 2013, but he ran into some problems late in the year. After posting an 11.05 ERA in September, he eventually lost his closer role before the postseason began.

    Mujica will likely be looking for a fresh start in a new city. Moving out of the closer role, which he was in for the first time in 2013, may also help Mujica pick up his performance.

    One of the teams with an eye on Mujica is the Philadelphia Phillies. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the team is interested in him for the setup man role. This seems like a great match for both sides. Mujica and Jonathan Papelbon would give the Phillies a great one-two punch at the end of games.

Corey Hart: Milwaukee Brewers

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Following two knee surgeries, it is safe to say that Corey Hart is a risk for whichever team signs him. However, there is a lot of potential reward if he is able to regain the offensive abilities that he had before he got hurt. Hart slugged at least 30 home runs in 2010 and 2012.

    It is clear that the Milwaukee Brewers had problems at first base last season while Hart was on the shelf. Their first basemen were the worst in the MLB last season with a .206 batting average and .259 on-base percentage.

    Milwaukee knows what Hart can do in their ballpark if he is healthy. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that Hart would take a discounted deal to stay in town. Given that the Brewers can get him at a lower cost than anyone else, re-signing Hart seems like the smart move.

Carlos Beltran: New York Yankees

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    H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

    While Carlos Beltran may no longer be a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, he still has a lot of potential value to offer to a team. Given his age and his past knee issues, it would make sense that Beltran signs with an American League team so that he has the opportunity to DH once or twice a week.

    Beltran's last two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals have proven that he still has a lot of pop in his bat and that he is a valuable contributor in the middle of a top lineup. With the New York Yankees losing Curtis Granderson to free agency, Beltran could come in as the perfect replacement. The short porch at Yankee Stadium could also help improve Beltran's numbers if he were to come to New York.

    Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News has reported the Yankees interest in Beltran and it is definitely an avenue that they will seriously pursue this winter.

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