Baseball headlines have been sparse over the past week (with the exception of Andy Pettitte calling it quits). Here in early February, many teams have turned their focus away from offseason roster fidgeting and toward spring training preparations.
There are, however, a few intriguing names still available on the free-agent market. This group of players -- overlooked for various reasons and typically willing to sign for a reduced price -- could be referred to as the bargain bin.
Signings at this stage of the offseason typically don't generate much excitement, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to find a player who can help out. Jonny Gomes, Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome are all examples of players who signed in February last year and went on to make meaningful contributions for playoff teams.
So let's sort through the bargain bin and see which of baseball's remaining free agents might be able to make a difference on the cheap for clubs with postseason aspirations.
Vladimir Guerrero: He earned plenty of accolades last year -- All-Star, Silver Slugger, even a few MVP votes -- but the market has been bone dry for Guerrero this winter, to the point that the Orioles appear to be bidding against themselves on a one-year deal. Teams are no doubt scared of his age, his balky knees and his second-half drop-off in 2010. Yeah, Vlad has his flaws, but he can still hit. I'm surprised there's not more interest.
Russell Branyan: The lefty can really only do one thing: hit home runs. His career BA is .234, he strikes out a ton, he's not good in the field and supposedly not very pleasant in the clubhouse. But boy, can he hit home runs. Sixty-eight over the last three years, in limited playing time, with a .515 slugging percentage. You'd think someone would sign him for that reason alone.
David Eckstein: He's lurking. Like a gremlin in the shadows ready to pounce forth in a flurry of grit. Which fan base will become his unsuspecting victim?
Jose Guillen: He was acquired by offense-hungry San Francisco in an August trade, and went on to post a sub-.700 OPS over 42 games. He was left off the postseason roster and forced to watch his team win a World Series from home, and now he remains unemployed in February. It's been a rough few months for Guillen. He can really crank it when he gets in the zone, but his flaws are evident.
Kevin Millwood: There's some value in a veteran who's likely to give you close to 200 average innings, and that's what Millwood is. He's nothing flashy but he's made at least 29 starts in each of the past six seasons and registered a decent enough 4.37 ERA during that span. For a rotation short on depth, he could prove to be a wise one-year investment.
Jermaine Dye: In 2008, he was one of the key figures in Chicago's dramatic run to the postseason. In 2009, he bashed 27 homers and drove in 81 runs. He sat out last year, but at 37 Dye still might have something to offer teams in need of a right-handed bat.
Jarrod Washburn: A 36-year-old junkballer who's 16 months removed from big-league action, Washburn isn't the most appealing commodity in the world but he was a solid innings-eater up until his disappearance. Prior to sitting out the 2010 campaign, he'd strung together nine straight seasons with at least 149 innings pitched and an ERA never exceeding 4.69. He'd probably take a minor-league deal.