Potential free-agent bargains

These slick fielders will be some of the winter's best bargains

Updated: October 6, 2013, 3:05 PM ET
By Ben Jedlovec | ESPN Insider

James Loney, Dustin PedroiaAP Photo/Chris O'MearaJames Loney is one of the best in baseball at picking throws out of the dirt.

Many of last offseason's big free-agent hitters, including Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Adam LaRoche, proved to be major disappointments these season. Many of the more defensive-minded signings, however, such as Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino and Russell Martin, played major roles in helping their respective teams to the playoffs.

Additionally, offense across the league dropped again in 2013, down to 4.17 runs per game. Since 2006, this represents a nearly 15 percent drop. With so little offense to go around, teams are looking even harder at defensive-minded options around the diamond. Now that 30-homer shortstops are essentially extinct, 2014's hot commodity may be a shortstop who can save you 30 runs with his glove.

Once this offseason's biggest free agents start to fall into place, expect teams to start locking up defensive options to fill their remaining voids. Here are five free agents who won't command top dollar, but whose defense makes them valuable assets for 2014.


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James Loney, 1B
21 defensive runs saved from 2011
through 2013

Loney joined the Rays as one of the more unheralded acquisitions of the past offseason, but he's been pleasantly productive on both sides of the ball. After a disappointing 2012 season in which the usually consistent Loney saw his on-base percentage dip below .300 for the first time in his career, he bounced back above his career averages in most offensive categories.

Loney's glove, however, never took a break. He's been above average as a first baseman every season of his career according to DRS. Since his first full season in 2008, Loney has recorded more good fielding plays -- as defined by Baseball Info Solutions -- than every other first baseman except Mark Teixeira (400 versus 398).