Big MLB Offseason Values Still Available in Shrinking Player Pool

Luke Strickland@LSTRICK21Contributor IIIDecember 22, 2015

Big MLB Offseason Values Still Available in Shrinking Player Pool

0 of 4

    Howie Kendrick is one of a handful of MLB players who can provide a team with tremendous value in 2016.
    Howie Kendrick is one of a handful of MLB players who can provide a team with tremendous value in 2016.Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    It's almost Christmas, and 2016 is right around the corner. It's hard to believe that we're just over two months away from hearing those fateful words: "pitchers and catchers."

    Before we get there, though, there are still plenty of moves left to be made. Most of the heavy lifting has already been done, but several quality players with immense value remain on the market.

    David Price, Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward and other high-profile names have understandably received most of the attention this winter. There's very little doubt that MLB's top free-agent targets will have a huge impact in 2016 and beyond.

    But in many cases, it's the underrated, low-profile moves that are directly responsible for success in the following year. By not breaking the bank in free agency, teams can improve and stay out of long-term contracts that may serve as an albatross for years to come.

    That's where the likes of Howie Kendrick, Ian Kennedy, John Jaso and Mitch Moreland come in. No, those names won't be universally celebrated by acquiring fanbases. But each of those players brings value to the table, and can be had at a reasonable price.

    Finding that value is what separates the good teams from the great ones. Let's look at a few candidates who could provide that spark for needy teams next season. 

Howie Kendrick

1 of 4

    Howie Kendrick can still hit and would be a solid short-term option for teams ready to win now.
    Howie Kendrick can still hit and would be a solid short-term option for teams ready to win now.Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Howie Kendrick is a professional hitter and is capable of performing in a stopgap role for a contender in need of a reliable infielder. 

    Since his debut in 2006, Kendrick has sported a career slash line of .293/.333/.423. In a season in which he's played in more than 100 games, the 32-year-old has never seen his average dip below .279. 

    Batting average is an archaic way of evaluating a player, but Kendrick's peripheral stats back up his production. He's posted consistent on-base percentages while striking out less than 20 percent in each of the past four seasons. Kendrick hits the ball to all fields and continues to generate hard contact as he progresses into the latter stages of his career. 

    On the flip side, Kendrick is coming off an injury-plagued season. He also saw a considerable drop-off in defensive runs saved and UZR in 2015, which is risky for teams interested in inking him to a multiyear deal. 

    The defensive woes will hurt his value, but Kendrick will still get paid for his offensive abilities. At 32, he's shown no signs of deteriorating at the dish, which makes him an attractive short-term option for teams like the Washington Nationals, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels. 

Ian Kennedy

2 of 4

    Ian Kennedy has the stuff to contribute in a meaningful way in 2016.
    Ian Kennedy has the stuff to contribute in a meaningful way in 2016.Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Entering the offseason, MLB teams knew there would be plenty of opportunities to upgrade their starting rotations due to a deep collection of free-agent hurlers on the market.

    But with the eye-opening contracts and farm-shattering trades starting pitchers have commanded this winter, many pitching-needy teams remain on the prowl for starters as the calender inches toward 2016.

    While Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir and Wei-Yin Chen remain available, right-hander Ian Kennedy could be a cost-effective option for teams hoping to add a starter.

    On paper, Kennedy had a rough 2015. He posted a 4.28 ERA and a 4.51 FIP in 30 starts for the San Diego Padres. Kennedy saw a severe hike in his home run-to-fly-ball ratio, which led to inflated run prevention numbers.

    Yet Kennedy still flashed swing-and-miss stuff this past season. He struck out over 24 percent of the batters he faced, causing hitters serious problems with his fastball-curveball combination. Kennedy posted the lowest contact percentage of his career this past season.

    Strikeouts aren't everything, but Kennedy's knack for creating swing-and-misses is still a valuable trait. For a team in need of a reliable middle-of-the-rotation arm, Kennedy presents a high-risk, high-reward option that could pay dividends in 2016.

John Jaso

3 of 4

    John Jaso crushes right-handed pitching, and that's a trait that a contender could use next season.
    John Jaso crushes right-handed pitching, and that's a trait that a contender could use next season.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Maybe it's because he's done his fine work in Tampa Bay, but John Jaso remains a wildly underrated player across baseball circles.

    For years, Jaso has been a productive major league stick. In 2015, he slashed .286/.380/.459 in an injury-plagued season. Since his debut in 2008, Jaso has posted an on-base percentage over .360 while slugging over .400.

    Jaso's calling card has been his ability to hit right-handed pitching. The 32-year-old has a career slash line of .274/.368/.429 against righties, with a career wRC+ of 127.

    His defensive versatility adds to his value. Jaso is by no means a defensive whiz, but he's caught, played first and even mixed into Tampa Bay's outfield rotation at times last season. According to Chris Booze of Camden Chat, Jaso's ability to play multiple positions could interest a team like the Baltimore Orioles:

    He (Jaso) started his career as a catcher and played the vast majority of his games there until 2015. By most measures he's solidly below average behind the plate, but having a guy who can catch in a pinch can't hurt. Last year he played some outfield for the Rays for the first time in his MLB career. We don't have much data to go on, but it's probably fair to guess he's below average there too. Still, though, it's nice to have someone who can play multiple positions in a pinch.

    Jaso hasn't proven he can play every day, and he has a history of picking up nagging injuries that cost him playing time. Still, on a low-dollar, short-term deal, Jaso could be one of the top bang-for-your-buck signings of the winter.

Mitch Moreland

4 of 4

    Teams with limited funds can still trade for Mitch Moreland's left-handed pop.
    Teams with limited funds can still trade for Mitch Moreland's left-handed pop.Associated Press

    Mitch Moreland isn't a free agent, but his name has been mentioned in trade rumors as he enters the final year of his contract in 2016.

    Since joining the Texas Rangers in 2008, Moreland has developed into a productive middle-of-the-order bat. The 30-year-old slashed .278/.330/.482 with 23 homers and 85 RBI in 2015, and has reached double figures in homers in four different seasons.

    Obviously, the Rangers would like to get what they can for Moreland before he hits free agency next winter. But adjusting the structure of the lineup could be an ulterior motive for a trade.

    Last season, Texas featured a predominately left-handed middle of the lineup, with Moreland, Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton hitting from that side of the plate. Mike Napoli was acquired late last season to add some variety to the heart of the order and played against left-handed pitching down the stretch.

    Napoli has already signed with the Cleveland Indians, per Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, but the Rangers will probably look to replicate that situation once again in 2015. If trading Moreland leads to additional pitching depth, don't be shocked to see Texas pull the trigger on a potential deal.

    If it does, plenty of teams would benefit from his services. Moreland is coming off a career year and has proven he can mash right-handed pitching. Instead of paying a pretty penny for power on the free-agent market, trading for a year of Moreland may be the better alternative.

    Stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.


X