A new form of bargain hunting

Free agents like Fernando Rodney are about to start getting desperate to sign. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It used to be that those still looking for jobs in early February were either 4-A players -- those not quite good enough to establish themselves in the big leagues, but good enough for Triple-A -- or older veterans looking for one last shot.

But this is no longer the case. We’re in the last hours of January and there are more than a dozen veterans close to the prime of their careers still looking for employment for 2014.

As has been written many times before, draft-pick compensation has a lot to do with that in the cases of Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz. But another reason is that more teams have turned late-winter bottom-feeding into a strategy.

As one general manager explained to some agents in early December, his intention was to wait until just before spring training, when the prices were greatly depressed, before plucking somebody out of the ranks of the increasingly desperate.