By: Joey Schneider, KCOU Sports
Following Thanksgving night, millions of consumers will wait in lines trying to score the best deals on prominent products. But Major League Baseball General Managers can give a new meaning to Black Friday, as many try to offer reasonable contracts to under-the-radar players before December’s Winter Meetings.
Several free agents are overlooked every offseason, either because they struggled with their previous team or couldn’t come to a financial agreement. A change of scenery could benefit many of these athletes, but there are ten in particular who spark interest and could be cost-efficient fixtures for a roster.
- Ryan Ludwick: The outfielder has developed into a consistent power threat, hitting double digit home runs in six consecutive seasons (2007-2012) between the Cardinals, Padres and Reds. His offensive numbers may be on the decline and his defense isn’t much to brag about, but he could provide single-year stability as a fourth outfielder or designated hitter on a fairly young team. Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 1 year deal, $3 million
- Rickie Weeks: As one of few former All-Star infielders on free agency, Weeks may worry many teams because of his lackluster defensive abilities. However, his error total has decreased every year since 2011 and he proved his ability to deliver off the bench with 14 pinch-hits for Milwaukee last year. His best chance of getting signed will likely come from a team that faces uncertainty or injuries up the middle. Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 year deal, $9 million
- Jason Grilli: Had it not been for the former closer’s brief stint in Pittsburgh, his career could be in jeopardy. Grilli showed improved control in his first three years (2011-2013) with the Bucs, posting a WHIP below 1.20 and an ERA below 3.00 each season. His strikeout total may be decreasing with age, but the 38 year old boasts am effective fastball and slider that could help bullpens shore up late inning options. Prediction: New York Yankees, 1 year deal, $3 million
- Colby Rasmus: The 28 year old outfielder was once considered a centerpiece in a 2011 Cardinals blockbuster trade, but Toronto has lost patience with the emergence of other outfielders. Rasmus could improve his plate discipline, as he’s struck out over 100 times each season besides his rookie campaign. But the lefty possesses a rare combination of power, speed and defense that will be hard for teams to pass on. Prediction: Tampa Bay Rays, 3 year deal, $15 million
- Michael McKenry: In a free agent market that’s limited with catchers, McKenry may be more valuable than most teams think. He has adjusted to a bench role his whole career and has better power and fielding stats than most backup catchers. He hit .315 with 8 HRs in just 57 games with Colorado last year and has caught over 400 innings in three of the past four seasons. Prediction: San Diego Padres, 1 year deal, $1.5 million
- Brandon McCarthy: Not all teams can afford a bonafide ace for $100 million, but McCarthy would make more financial sense for a team seeking a veteran pitcher. He eclipsed the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career last year and improved mechanics in a mid-season trade to the Yankees. Not to mention he’s a perennial strikeout pitcher and one of the most vocal players in all of baseball. Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 2 year deal, $10 million
- Gavin Floyd: Last year was cut short for the Braves pitcher, who suffered a right elbow fracture in June. Floyd has never had the prettiest statlines, but when healthy he logs innings and grinds out wins. In 11 years, he’s posted 1205.2 innings and 72 wins. He could fit in well as a spot starter or back-end rotation pitcher if a team gives him the opportunity to improve his mechanics. Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks, 2 year deal, $12 million
- Luke Gregerson: Regarded as one of baseball’s best set-up men since his debut in 2009, the righty has pocketed a strong resume in California. Gregerson has picked up 19 saves and 22 wins in his six seasons wit the San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s. Although a career WHIP just above 1.00 and 400+ career innings are impressive, Gregerson has never been able to settle as a full-time closer in crowded bullpens. Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 4 year deal, $16 million
- Mark Reynolds: The corner infielder has several fundamental flaws in his game between striking out more frequently than any other ballplayer and often showing sloppiness at third base. However, playing a backup role in recent years has helped the veteran gradually improve these issues. He provides immediate pop for a lackluster bench and also shows great athleticism and speed on the field. Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 1 year deal, $2.5 million
- Michael Morse: In ten major league seasons, the outfielder-first base specialist has built a reputation for surprising opponents. He generally rides a hot offensive streak into the season, but has been sidelined near the end of seasons with platoon roles and nagging injuries. Despite these setbacks, Morse has mustered double-digit home runs every year since 2010 and owns a career .275 batting average with RISP. Prediction: Texas Rangers, 1 year deal, $7 million
Of course, the deals don’t stop here. But keep note that many successful teams have the uncanny ability to sign under-the-radar players to reasonable contracts.