Finding Value Among The Second Tier

After the C.C. Sabathias and the Mark Teixeiras sign their multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts there will undoubtedly be points during the duration of their deals where they don’t perform like they’re being paid.  Maybe not at a Carl Pavano (26 starts over 4 seasons at some $40,000,000) type fiasco, but you can never predict prolonged slumps, nagging injuries, and the ol’ off field issues.  The small market teams and the true contenders will be looking to fill their rosters out with added value without spending like the terror threat level has reached Orange.

Take the Philadelphia Phillies for instance.  They are coming off a World Series victory, and it appears that they will be without all-star 2B Chase Utley for the first couple months of the season.  While it would be near impossible to replace what he does offensively, the Phillies will need a stop-gap capable of keeping their infield defense intact and providing some bottom of the order spark.

Below I have listed several free agents that will not command long-term deals, and could provide a relatively discounted service to prospective teams:

Felipe Lopez 2B/SS:  Whatever happened to the speedy kid in Cincinnati that hit .291 with 23HR 85RBI and a blazing set of wheels?  His motivation was questioned and he was shipped to Washington where he had to learn how to play another position.  Lopez re-emerged last season with St. Louis Cardinals and showed a new found patience while batting .385 in 156AB.  He may never develop into the heir apparent of Barry Larkin, but Lopez may be a good candidate for a 1 year deal loaded with incentives and an option.

Juan Rivera OF/DH:  Rivera is only 30 years old, and his at-bats were severely limited the last couple seasons.  He made $2,025,000 in 2008 and could provide just about any team with an above average 4th outfielder or DH.  His seasonal averages per 162 games played are .284/21/81.  Not bad at all.

Brad Penny RHP:  Penny is a serial second-half disappointment.  Last season was his worst as a big leaguer after having a career year in 2007.  He had shoulder problems and was probably never healthy last season; a blessing in disguise for potential suitors of his services.  Big Brad is a classic high risk/high reward free agent pitcher.  He would probably be better off staying in the National League with a 1 year deal, but could venture into the American League if anyone is willing to offer him a longer deal.  Watch for the losers of the A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe sweepstakes to make a run at Penny.

Garret Anderson LF/DH:  Anderson is heading towards the end of his career and seems highly unlikely that a return to the crowded Anaheim outfield is an option.  He has been fairly consistent over the last 3 seasons, but by no means spectacular.  He is still a productive left handed hitter that could be a good fit for a team short on lefties (i.e. Toronto).  At this point in his career he is best suited as a DH.

Carl Pavano RHP:  I can’t believe I just wrote that.  Seriously though, Pavano could be the biggest bargain of the lot.  He obviously couldn’t get it together in the media mecca of New York, but Pavano could provide an experienced arm to a city that would allow him to fly under the radar.  If he can stay healthy, he’ll have to earn his money; no way he gets another long term deal with millions attached.

Orlando Hudson 2B:   Where Hudson goes, Cy Youngs are won.  He was personal vacuum cleaner for Roy Halladay in 2003 and Brandon Webb in 2006.  He is coming off of back-to-back injury shortened seasons, but averages .282BA 13HR 70RBI per 162 games and shows an ability to get on base.  Possibly the best defensive 2B in all of baseball.

-SL