We often focus on free agents who are lined up for monster contracts — indeed, MLBTR’s most recent power rankings were just released today — but there are plenty of players who can command strong salaries even if they won’t likely receive four or more years worth of guaranteed money. Here are ten somewhat under-the-radar big leaguers who seem primed to hit the open market on a high note:
Steve Pearce, IF/OF, Orioles: Pearce hasn’t quite matched his top-end output since moving from the Rays to the O’s, and he has missed time due to injury, but Pearce is still delivering a strong .256/.341/.513 batting line for Baltimore. He’s running out a 144 OPS+ on the year, which qualifies Pearce as a highly intriguing, multi-position on the market to come.
Sean Rodriguez, IF/OF, Pirates: Always a versatile player, Rodriguez has upped his game this year with a career-best .250/.339/.482 batting line over 252 plate appearances. The 31-year-old doesn’t have the track record or slugging upside of Pearce, but he has enhanced his position quite a bit.
Martin Prado, 3B, Marlins: Though he has had a few poor stretches and no longer hits quite as many home runs as he used to, Prado has somewhat quietly hit rather well ever since he was dealt to the Yankees in the middle of 2014. This year, he’s swinging a .319/.371/.432 stick with typically solid glovework, making a three-year deal possible.
Angel Pagan, OF, Giants: Expectations were rather low heading into the year, as the 35-year-old Pagan has dealt with injuries and was coming off of a brutal 2015. But he has responded with a .293/.346/.437 slash and remains a quality baserunner and fielder. Age will be a major limitation, but Pagan should draw plenty of interest.
Matt Joyce, OF, Pirates: Few players have had as dramatic a turnaround as has Joyce, who just turned 32. He owns a rather remarkable .263/.404/.522 batting line with a dozen long balls in 230 plate appearances. Even if the vast bulk of that damage has come against right-handed pitching, he has been good against lefties in limited action and looks to be quite an appealing platoon candidate.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: Speaking of platoon candidates, the righty-swinging Gutierrez has followed up on a stunning 2015 comeback campaign with a sturdy effort this year. He has been more good than great, and has only really been useful against southpaws, but it’s still a nice place to be for a player who had seemed unlikely to be playing at all not long ago.
Doug Fister, SP, Astros: In retrospect, Fister’s 2015 campaign looks more like an injury-plagued down year than the beginning of the end. The peripherals don’t quite support the 3.60 ERA he carries over 157 1/3 innings this year with Houston, but the towering right-hander is in a strong position with few quality starters available this winter.
Joe Blanton, RP, Dodgers: Sure, Blanton’s reinvention as a reliever came about last year, but was anyone sure if it would last? He has now tallied 69 2/3 frames with the Dodgers in 2016, posting a 2.58 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9, and looks like a high-quality relief target entering his age-36 campaign.
Travis Wood, RP, Cubs: Wood’s days as a pure starter may be over, but his swingman potential adds to the value. A 3.35 ERA over 53 2/3 innings is obviously appealing, even if it comes with rather drastic platoon splits (.937 OPS vs. righties, .500 vs. lefties).
Boone Logan, RP, Rockies: We have already talked Logan up a bit as a trade candidate who was (somewhat oddly) not traded. The 3.15 ERA is nice, but the real star is his 16.1% swinging-strike rate — which is accompanied by a robust 51.6% groundball percentage. Logan has finally translated the whiffs into good results after his two prior seasons were wrecked in part by a sky-high BABIP-against.