The GM's Office: Koji Uehara

Five undervalued free agents

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
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A'sEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesStephen Drew (left) got his groove back after being traded to Oakland last season.

The Toronto Blue Jays might have signed the most undervalued free agent position player from this year’s class when they inked outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million deal. Melky was in line for a four-year deal in the $50 million range before he failed a PED test over the summer, but could still prove to be a great signing if he shows that his performance over the last two seasons was not a PED mirage.

Likewise, the Chicago Cubs’ signing of right-hander Scott Baker to a one-year, $5.5 million deal might be the most undervalued starting pitching signing of the offseason so far. Baker was undervalued because he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery. However, he should be able to give the Cubs some solid innings and, perhaps more importantly, a trade chip come next July.

Here are five other potential undervalued free agents who are still available on the open market:

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1. Stephen Drew | SS | AGE: 29

Why he’s undervalued: Drew is the best shortstop on the free agent market. Period. He has the offensive capability for a .330 OBP with 30 doubles and 15 home runs annually. Defensively, he possesses above-average range to both sides with a strong arm. But he’s had to overcome numerous injuries in his career, the worst being a severely broken ankle back in July 2011 that took more than a year to heal. Drew didn’t come back from injury as quick as the Diamondbacks hoped and was sent to Oakland at midseason, where he played an integral part in helping the A’s leapfrog the Texas Rangers for the AL West title. Drew’s offense and defense looked like it was all coming back by late September, and a big 2013 could be in store. Drew is quiet and thus seen by many as aloof and selfish. But watch him play day in and day out, and it’s easy to see why he’s one of the most underrated shortstops in the majors.
Best fits: Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox


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2. Joakim Soria | RHR | AGE: 28

Why he’s undervalued: He missed all of the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The Royals declined his $8 million club option for 2013, making Soria a free agent. Soria was one of the AL’s best closers from 2008-11, when he averaged close to 36 saves per season. Soria has a career 2.40 ERA and 1.043 WHIP, and he’s saved 40 games and had an ERA under 1.80 twice in his career, all with the Royals. His rehabilitation is going well, and there is a good chance that by July or August he could be back being a dominant closer and difference maker in a pennant race.
Best fits: Los Angeles Angels, Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and Red Sox


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3. Delmon Young | DH |AGE: 27

Why he’s undervalued: Young has two strikes against him: He is a very poor defender, and he has had some off-field problems. Young pleaded guilty earlier this month to aggravated harassment for yelling an anti-Semitic slur and wrestling a man to the ground outside of the New York Hilton last spring. He handled this incident as well as he could, sincerely apologizing to all parties involved, and he will perform some community service and attend a tolerance seminar as part of his punishment.

The Tigers moved him to full-time DH during the season, which seemed to help his bat, and I think he could have value as a full-time DH. The market isn't big for that kind of player, so he'll probably come cheap, but his impressive postseason success the past four years -- including winning the ALCS MVP award last month -- will be enough for someone to take a chance on him.
Best fits: Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros


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4. Koji Uehara |RHR | AGE: 37

Why he’s undervalued: Uehara was so bad down the stretch in 2011 that the Rangers left him off their postseason roster. And his subpar performance left a bad taste with many scouts who had a hard time adjusting to his incredible turnaround this past year. Uehara’s 43 strikeouts and three walks for Texas gave him an incredible 14.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 88-89 mph fastball with command and control and unhittable splitter were so impressive that anyone who evaluated him in 2012 had to just completely forget about 2011. Uehara should be a lockdown setup man for someone in 2013.
Best fits: Philadelphia Phillies, Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.


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5. Jason Grilli |RHR | AGE: 36

Why he’s undervalued: Grilli’s age and inconsistent career make some wonder if his 2012 season was a fluke. While Grilli has had longevity in the major leagues -- pitching 10 years with an ERA of 4.34 – he’s also had an unimpressive 1.413 career WHIP. So what’s there to undervalue?

Grilli has been dominant out of the bullpen in each of the past two years for the Pirates. His success started in 2011 when he finished with a 2.48 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19 in 28 games after not even pitching in the major leagues in 2010. There weren’t any clubs buying his success as he signed a $1.1 million deal to go back to Pittsburgh. This season he not only proved 2011 was no fluke but also showed he could take his arm to an even higher level. In 2012 he pitched 58 2/3 innings and punched out a whopping 90 hitters. His 92-94 mph fastball and nasty slider are good enough to help any team’s bullpen.
Best fits: Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Brewers, Rangers, Miami Marlins, New York Mets

O's Uehara traded to the Rangers 

July, 30, 2011
7/30/11
9:23
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The Texas Rangers have finally bolstered their bullpen in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The Rangers acquired right-handed reliever Koji Uehara and $2 million in cash from the Orioles in exchange for first baseman/third baseman Chris Davis and right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter. The Rangers were able to make the deal without giving up any of their top pitching prospects that they’ve been holding back for a possible Heath Bell trade.

Uehara, 36, has had an impressive year for the Orioles, starting with a 1.76 ERA in 43 games. He’s pitched 47 innings and given up only 25 hits while striking out 62 with an impressive WHIP of .702. His deceptive delivery and ability to the hide ball does not allow hitters to get good looks at him or make good contact. This is a huge acquisition for the Rangers to improve what they get in the seventh and eighth innings before getting to Neftali Feliz.

The Orioles receive Davis and Hunter in the deal. Davis, 25, has good power and is an above-average defensive player. He is hitting .250/.299/.403 this year. He has a lot of holes at the plate and can be pitched to easily at the major league level. However, he is a good backup because he provides power off the bench. Hunter, 24, was 13-4 last year with the Rangers with a 3.73 ERA with a WHIP of 1.109. He has dealt with injuries and been shuttled back and forth to the minor leagues over the last few years. His record last year had mostly to do with run support, defense and a solid bullpen. He lost his job in the Rangers’ rotation because of the rapid development of Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland this year. Hunter is still a solid fifth starter without upside.

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