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#pounditTuesday, February 7, 2023

10 best bargains remaining in MLB free agency

Even in mid-January, it’s not too late to find a good bargain in Major League Baseball free agency. Plenty of players who have signed late and cheap have become hugely effective pieces of contenders, or turned into valuable trade bait for a non-contender come July. You just have to know where to look and what to look for.

Here are 10 players who could prove to be really good bargains, and are still available for all 30 teams to sign.

10) Mike Moustakas, 3B

Moustakas has a skillset that doesn’t really match the modern times — low average, low on-base percentage, and power. He may not be the poster child for this era, but there are plenty of teams who could use a power-hitting third baseman who plays a competent hot corner. Moustakas is a career .251 hitter who has hit at least 25 home runs in each of his last three seasons, and he has ample postseason experience as well. A team may be able to get nice value on him at this point. A few clubs of note are keeping tabs on him.

9) Brad Brach, RP

Brach walks too many players and doesn’t get enough strikeouts to be a truly elite reliever. He’s probably not even a guy you want to be relying on as your primary setup man. However, you could do worse as a swing option to pitch the 6th or 7th to set up the big guns in a bullpen. Brach holds a career 3.08 ERA and has a pretty solid record of success with Baltimore and Atlanta and can probably be reeled in for a decent value.

8) Jose Iglesias, SS

Iglesias isn’t much of a hitter, and a good season by his standards involves an OBP over .300. However, he’s an excellent defender at the shortstop position who would slot in well with a team looking to fortify its infield that can provide offense from elsewhere. Iglesias is known for his incredibly flashy plays as well. There’s a case to be made that he’s not worthy of a full-time role, but you can’t do much better for infield defense, and probably at a reasonable value.

7) Martin Maldonado, C

Like Iglesias, Maldonado isn’t known for his bat. However, he’s one of the best defensive catchers around. In 2018, he led the American League by throwing out 49 percent of would-be basestealers, and he was a Gold Glover winner in 2017 with the Angels. Maldonado is a career .220 hitter who won’t contribute to the offense much, but as a fantastic defensive catcher and pitch framer, his value isn’t represented statistically. Some team will be very happy with him as their catcher.

6) Asdrubal Cabrera, INF

Asdrubal Cabrera never really panned out as a trade acquisition by the Phillies last season, but his time with the Mets should entice suitors. In three seasons with the Mets, Cabrera batted .279 with an .803 OPS. Will he produce as well on another club? That is a question teams will be asking. One of the strong selling points about Cabrera is that he can play second, short or third, offering teams excellent versatility and value for a guy who made $8.5 million last season.

5) Josh Harrison, IF

Harrison is a two-time All-Star, including as recently as 2017 as the talented utility man for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His offensive numbers took a nosedive in 2018, but it remains to be seen if that’s the new norm or a blip that will see the career .277 hitter return to his norms. It’s probably worth taking a chance and hoping it’s the latter, as he’s a versatile player who was key to a lot of Pittsburgh’s success in recent years.

4) Gio Gonzalez, SP

Gonzalez always seems to pop up and show that he still has something left in the tank right when it looks like he might be starting to slide toward the tail-end of his career. Last season he seemed revitalized by a late season trade to Milwaukee, where he posted a 2.13 ERA in winning three of his five starts. Gonzalez can likely be nabbed on a short-term deal, and a contender or a team looking for innings could do far worse than putting him in the middle of their rotation.

3) Justin Wilson, RP

Left-handed relievers who are striking out 11 batters per nine are enough to intrigue every team, and Wilson is no different. He seemed to struggle after being traded to the Chicago Cubs, as he suddenly started issuing more walks than he ever had before. If he could get that under control, he profiles as a talented back-end reliever, and his 3.33 ERA shows that he’s done it before. He’s something of a reclamation project, but if he gets right, he could be a huge value.

2) Drew Pomeranz, SP

In 2017, Pomeranz won 17 games for the Boston Red Sox, posting a 3.32 ERA and striking out a batter an inning. As has often been the case with him, though, injuries have severely hindered his career and limited him to 74 poor innings in 2018. Pomeranz is still only 30 and has shown he can be an effective pitcher if healthy, but that last part will always be a major if. It will also keep his price down, so a team could potentially get him on a one-year deal that would be pretty rewarding if he can stay healthy through it.

1) Marwin Gonzalez, OF/IF

It’s somewhat amazing that Gonzalez is still unsigned given what the game current values and what he offered the Houston Astros during their current run of success. He can play seven positions, delivers 15 to 20 home runs a year, and actually picked up MVP votes in 2017. He also has been a postseason monster. The fact that he hit .300 that year looks like a fluke, but .260 with some pop and that sort of defensive versatility is extremely valuable. He may still get paid, but any team could find use for Gonzalez.


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