Free agent strategy depends on a team’s budget, as wealthy teams look to add players who can give them an extra push, while teams with limited budgets use the market to fill voids or add veteran leadership. Amidst the spending spree, the following players could provide reasonable value to their respective teams at decent prices. The following is a short list of free agents who could possibly be picked up cheaply. Note: the “offers” are bargain prices, meaning most of these players will likely receive more than the amount specified.
C None, but possibly Michael Barrett. The 33-year old Barrett was solid between 2004 and 2006, and although his numbers declined recently, he would be a great player to invite to camp. Offer: Minor League Deal.
1B Adam LaRoche—Atlanta would likely want LaRoche for another season, but they are presumably reluctant to commit to a long-term deal due to prospect Freddie Freeman. If LaRoche cannot reach a deal with the Braves, he could be available at a reasonable price to a small-market team offering a starting position. Offer: 3 years, 18 million.
2B Nobody—these players are: (1) decent players who will demand more than they are worth (Hudson, Polanco, etc); or (2) utility IF’s who are better replaced by a younger player with upside.
SS Marco Scutaro—even though Scutaro’s numbers might decline, I think Boston signed him for a decent price. Despite the criticism, the concerns seem reflected in the price Boston paid. Contract: 2 years, $12 million.
3B Troy Glaus—still only 33, Glaus provides consistent power when healthy. Since his physical condition is a concern, Glaus is a great candidate for a one-year contract with a small-market team, giving him an incentive to prove himself before reentering the free agent market next season. Offer: 1 year, $1.5 million (maybe $2.5 million…difficult to value Glaus without knowing his health situation).
LF Marlon Byrd—Byrd produced extremely solid numbers last season. While many teams have recently regretted acquiring Rangers OF’s (Gary Matthews, Milton Bradley, etc), Byrd is a talented player who might be available at a solid price. Offer: 3 years, $10 million.
CF Mike Cameron—I’ve always liked Mike Cameron despite the batting average problems. He remains one of the 2-3 best defensive centerfielders in the game statistically and is a great character guy who would be a solid fit for a rebuilding team. Offer: 2 years, $10 million (Note: Boston signed Cameron after I wrote this).
RF Jermaine Dye—Dye is receiving little attention on the free agent market, but it is hard to imagine him not receiving a solid offer somewhere. Since he produces consistent numbers (arguably more consistent than Bay), Dye won’t come super-cheap, but his production will likely justify the price. Offer: 3 years, $18 million.
SP Ben Sheets, Rich Harden, Chien Ming-Wang, Justin Durschesher—even a team desperately needing starting pitching should save their money because no elite starters are available. There are several solid pitchers without rotation spots (ex: Boston’s Clay Bucholz), or a good deal could be available next season when Brandon Webb, Cliff Lee, and Josh Beckett all hit the free agent market.
RP It’s important for teams to have 1-2 great relief pitchers, but beyond that, perhaps the better move here involves signing multiple veteran relievers at discount prices. Middle relievers are difficult to predict, and I would argue a team’s chances are better signing multiple veteran relievers at discount prices. If you sign 8 relievers, chances are 2-3 will be pitching well enough to form a decent middle relief corps. Moreover, the resources can be allocated more efficiently elsewhere.