12/9/2013 4:35 P.M. ET
Lower-profile signings can make difference
Shortstop Ryan to Yankees, slugger Morneau to Rox examples of value deals
By Bernie Pleskoff / MLB.com
It's not uncommon for a baseball executive to ask a scout to find someone "playing under the radar." The challenge: find a player not receiving much buzz or fanfare who can deliver sufficient rewards for little or low risk.
This offseason, there have been some free-agent player signings that caught my attention as low-profile, high-reward transactions. In those cases, I believe the player and the team will form the type of synergy that brings the best results for all involved.
Brendan Ryan and Justin Morneau are among players I believe will provide impact to their new clubs without extensive years of team commitment.
Ryan is not a household name that will rock the baseball world with excitement. But I believe the New York Yankees will be very grateful he's on their team.
Ryan has a lifetime batting average of .237 in seven seasons of outstanding infield play, mostly at shortstop. While he'll get his share of important hits, his primary role won't be to drive in runs. Rather, Ryan will offer value in his ability to keep runs from being scored.
Ryan has played for the St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners in his career. He finished last season playing 17 games for the New York Yankees.
This coming season, at age 32, Ryan will return to the Yankees after signing a two-year contract in mid-November. He will provide tremendous defensive support for the club.
The Yankees continue to hope Derek Jeter can return to form after continuing to experience soreness in his surgically-repaired ankle. But what if Jeter can't return to form? What if he can't go to his right or do his part on the double play? What if Jeter experiences pain so great that it impacts his overall game?
Enter Ryan, someone who makes playing shortstop look easy. He is smooth, sure-handed and accurate with a strong arm and accurate throws. Ryan's range and footwork are outstanding. He will provide the pitching staff with top-quality middle-infield play, primarily at shortstop.
Given the offensive impact of newly-acquired Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Brian McCann, the team can afford less-than-earth-shattering offense from Ryan. He will help his pitchers with his glove. That's a factor sometimes forgotten in the evaluation of a baseball team.
Speaking of "what if" ... What if Morneau can find his home run stroke? What if he's totally healthy and he gains even a little of the bat speed and loft on the ball that may have eluded him since a serious bout with post-concussion syndrome took him away from the game?
In 2010-11, Morneau was limited to 348 and 288 at-bats, respectively. Last season with the Twins, he hit 17 homers in 570 plate appearances before being traded to Pittsburgh. Morneau had no homers in his 92 times to the plate with the Pirates.
But last year is history. Morneau will be joining the Colorado Rockies to continue his career. While it hasn't been as prominent since the use of the humidor at Coors Field, a jet stream still exists in right-center field at the park. It adds a bit of importance and significance to Morneau's presence.
The jet stream helped Todd Helton. The jet stream can help Morneau, who will be going to the left-handed batter's box with a potentially impactful piece of lumber in his hand.
If the homers elude Morneau, the huge outfield gaps at Coors and in the other National League West parks await. Think San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A nice target also exists for him at Chase Field in Phoenix. Morneau certainly has Chase Field "pool power."
The business equation that brings Morneau to Colorado could include very little risk for very high reward. He is capable. He's got something to prove. And Morneau has a track record that includes three seasons when he hit 30 or more home runs. I like his chances for success.
Ryan and Morneau are both players who entered free agency with little fanfare. But both are capable of delivering very favorable rewards.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.