Hidden Gems

by Warren Menzer

<!-- Article Starts Here --!> Even before the 1999 season ended, we heard all about the mythical "2000 Free Agent Class", which at that time included Chipper Jones, Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey, Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Roger Clemens, Barry Larkin, in addition to Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Mike Mussina and Mike Hampton. Now the 2000 Hot Stove League is upon us, and while many of the big names were signed to long-term contracts last offseason, this is still the most attractive free agent season in years. But past the big names, who is available? Let's take a look at five players who aren't really being talked about, but could be valuable and a great deal for any team.

Rich Becker
Becker has bounced around - six teams over the past three years. He's certainly not an outstanding center field, but he can play the position, as well as the other outfield spots. His strength is getting on base - he doesn't have power, but he has had on-base percentages of .395 and .384 the past two seasons. He would make a very strong fourth outfielder, and is probably good enough to start on a few teams.

Mike Stanley
He doesn't hit well for a first baseman/DH, but a guy who can catch in an emergency is always valuable - it prevents the manager from carrying a third catcher on his postseason roster, as often happens - <cough>Bobby Cox</cough>! He might command too much money being a "proven veteran", but if teams don't appear to be interested in him, he could go for a decent price.

Armando Reynoso
Handle with care. With extreme care. But if you do, Reynoso is a very solid starter. He's coming off a pretty poor year, which means this would be a great opportunity to grab him cheap. If he goes to a team with a manager with a very quick hook, like Jimy Williams, he could be very effective.

Ismael Valdes
Another player coming off a poor season. Many people weren't surprised with his struggles as a Cub, as he's never pitched particularly well away from Dodger Stadium. On the other hand, he didn't pitch well after he returned to the Dodgers, either. Certainly his recent injury troubles make him a risk, but he was an effective pitcher every single of his career until this year. The poor season and injury could make him a relatively cheap pickup.

Dave Magadan
It seems like forever, since he was a Met, but he's still doing what he did best back then: get on base. In his 15 year career, he's never had an on-base percentage below .360. Sure, he only has 41 career homers, but he'd make a wonderful pitch hitter, and could play third base against lefties. If a team could grab Magadan and Rich Becker, that's great hitting ability for two bench players who won't be paid much. <!-- Article Ends Here --!>

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