Every free-agent class features overlooked players who turn out to be significant bargains. Melky Cabrera, for example: Last winter he occupied the final spot on the Reiter 50—SI.com's annual ranking of baseball's top 50 free agents, online now—but after signing a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Royals, Cabrera became one of five players in the majors this season with 200 hits. Here are five free agents who will appeal to bargain-hunting teams this off-season.
Josh Willingham (Reiter 50 rank: 15th)
Willingham has had an .800+ OPS in six straight seasons despite being marooned in pitchers' parks, this year in Oakland. A move to a hitters' haven—like Colorado, where the Rockies could play him in left and at first base—would unleash his true potential.
Edwin Jackson (20th)
He has been traded six times, but Jackson is still only 28, throws a fastball that averages nearly 95 mph and probably hasn't yet peaked. The righthander's career apex could come with the Mariners and their pitcher-friendly home ballpark.
Erik Bedard (29th)
Bedard was better than his 5--9 record—he struck out nearly a batter per inning this season and had a WHIP of 1.284. The 32-year-old lefty retains enormous upside and could be this year's Cabrera for the Royals, in need of more proven arms to complement a young, dangerous lineup.
Wilson Betemit (30th)
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wants a hitter, and while the Dodgers are in no position to pay for a star, they can afford Betemit—a perfectly productive, versatile player who stands out in an extremely thin third baseman market.
Bruce Chen (45th)