Top 5 Sleeper Free Agents

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Friday, November 15th, 2013
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Scott Kazmir

The MLB off-season is in full force and we even have a free agent on MLB Trade Rumors top 50 list off the board as Marlon Byrd agreed to sign with the Philadelphia PhilliesHere are who the top 5 sleeper free agents are in my mind, who could have a great impact on the teams that they end up signing with:

5. Jesse Crain– RP

Jesse Crain had by far the best season of his career. Jesse Crain was selected to be on the AL all-star team in New York this season due to his 0.74 ERA, 19 holds, and 46 K’s in 38 games. Crain’s season unfortunately ended early due to a shoulder injury and even though he was injured, the Tampa Bay Rays still decided to trade for him with the Chicago White Sox due to the amazing season he was having. Crain never ended up making an appearance for the Rays and is now on the free agent market. Crain has been a set up man for almost his entire career but was good enough to be the closer on Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Crain has had a great career as evidenced by his 3.05 ERA and 125 career holds. Whatever team signs Crain would reap the rewards and have an oustanding set up man. He would make a good closer on some teams too but could be an integral piece to playoff bound teams.

4. Carlos Ruiz– C

Carlos Ruiz caught some dominant Philadelphia Phillies pitching staffs and has won a World Series with the Phillies. He is a good defensive catcher and can chip in nicely offensively as he owns a career .274 batting average. He has decent power for a catcher as well. However, although difficult to measure, he seems to handle pitching staffs beautifully and pitchers love having Ruiz call a game for them. Ruiz’s 2013 season was not a typical Ruiz season, as he missed the first part of the season due to suspension for using Adderall. However, that aside, he is going to be 35 years old so any team who signs Ruiz will be getting an aging catcher, but a good one. Ruiz already has a few offers and one from a mystery team. No matter where he goes, the impact Carlos Ruiz brings to a team is a good one.

3. Kendrys Morales– 1B

Kendrys Morales was one of the best acquisitions made by any team last season as the acquisition went under the radar as the Seattle Mariners got him via trade. Morales used to be the biggest source of power for the Los Angeles Angels in 2009 where he clubbed 34 home runs and 108 RBI. A freak injury at a home plate celebration after hitting a walkoff home run at the beginning of 2010 cut his season short and was well on his way to another 30/100 season. He missed 2011 as well and when he came back to the Angels in 2012, they had future hall of famer Albert Pujols at first and Mark Trumbo as the primary DH. The Mariners pounced on the expendable Morales and in cavernous Safeco Field, he still hit 23 home runs and 80 RBI. Any team looking for a good 30 home run source of power at 1st base or DH should definitely pounce on Morales.

2. Josh Johnson– SP

Josh Johnson came to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 in the mega trade with the Miami Marlins. The Blue Jays and their fans thought they had an ace calibre pitcher, which is what he was in Miami. He was nowhere close to as advertised for the Blue Jays as he limped to an injury plagued season which saw him finish 2-6 with a 6.20 ERA. However, the potential Josh Johnson brings to any club is endless. He could bounce back to his old self and whichever team signs him to which will 100% be a 1 year deal, which is what Josh wants, would reap the rewards. The Kansas City Royals seem to be a likely suitor and would be hopeful their gamble on Ervin Santana last season would be the same as Josh Johnson. Johnson has ace like potential and on a 1 year deal for about $10 million would be laughing. Teams should be willing to take the risk on Johnson.

1. Scott Kazmir– SP

Scott Kazmir has finally made it back to the MLB and had a good season for the Cleveland Indians. Kazmir’s second half of the season was a lot like the former staff ace of the Tampa Bay Rays as Kazmir was finally truly healthy again and was able to contribute like he used to. There has already been a ton of interest in the veteran and understandably so. It is likely Kazmir would be on a cheap, 1 year deal and if he pitches anywhere like he did in the second half of the season in Cleveland, the value of Kazmir would soar. He can easily assert himself as a 3rd guy in the rotation when healthy and pitching to his tantalizing capabilities. Any team taking a flier on Scott Kazmir would be in the same mindset as Josh Johnson, taking a risk but a risk that can pay off with huge dividends.

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Vice-President, Customer Service at North Aware. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors

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