MLB Free Agency 2012-13: Predicting Where Top 50 Players Will Sign
With just six weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers report, the current MLB offseason has seen the bulk of available free agents sign on the dotted line. While Prince Fielder, Roy Oswalt, Hiroki Kuroda and others are still available, their fates will no doubt be decided before long.
While this year’s free-agent class featured some substantial top-tier talent, the free-agent class of 2012-2013 offers a veritable plethora of younger pitchers mixed in with some solid bats. While none of them carry the cache of an Albert Pujols, and none of them will command anything close to Pujols money, there is nonetheless a package of prized talent that will have many MLB owners and general managers salivating.
Bleacher Report will take a look at the top 50 players who will be available after next season, and we will include players with team options for 2013 as well.
Note: We threw in an extra bonus, so the list is actually 51...
Aubrey Huff: San Francisco Giants
Ah, the curious case of one Aubrey Huff.
In 2010, Huff was an integral part of the San Francisco Giants offense, contributing with 26 HR and 86 RBI with a .290 average in the regular season, and following up with a .294 average and one home run in his first World Series appearance, helping lift the Giants to their first World Series Championship in 56 years.
However, 2011 was quite another story, as Huff’s offensive numbers were literally cut in half, ending up with just 12 HR and 59 RBI with a .246 average.
Unless Huff shows a remarkable turnaround in 2012 at the age of 35, the Giants will buy out his $10 million option for 2013, and he will be looking at a drastic decrease in salary, possibly relegated to a part-time DH role on an AL team.
Will Huff Be Back with the Giants in 2013?
Not for $10 million he won't.
A.J. Pierzynski: Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is entering the 2012 season with much optimism, and in the final year of a contract that will pay him $6 million. At 35 years of age, Pierzynski has logged close to 1,500 games behind the plate in his career, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down next season.
However, Pierzynski’s production has dropped in the past two seasons, and the constant wear and tear on his body that comes with the position seems to finally be taking its toll. Pierzysnki has made it clear he wants to remain with Chicago, but that will no doubt be up to GM Kenny Williams at the end of next season.
Will Pierzynski Be Back with the White Sox in 2013?
Yes, our guess is that Pierzynski will sign a one- or two-year deal and end his career in Chicago.
Joakim Soria: Kansas City Royals
Since his MLB debut in 2007, Joakim Soria has been a very effective closer for the Kansas City Royals, racking up 160 saves in five seasons with a 2.40 ERA.
The Royals smartly locked Soria up with a four-year, $14.75 million contract following the 2008 season, with two additional team options for 2013 and 2014 for an additional $16.75 million.
Will Soria Be Back with the Royals in 2013?
Yes, the Royals will pick up Soria’s option for 2013, and could even sign him to an extension before that. It may appear to go against what the Royals have done in past seasons, but at $8 million for 2013, Soria represents a fairly reasonable investment at the closer’s position.
Jake Peavy: Chicago White Sox
It would certainly be more than fair to say that the Chicago White Sox have not received back the value tied to the contract of starting pitcher Jake Peavy.
Peavy, who was paid a combined $31 million by the White Sox over the past two seasons, has a combined 14 victories in 35 starts, which would essentially look good for one season, but hardly for two.
Owed $17 million in 2012, one would be hard pressed to think that the White Sox would pick up Peavy’s $22 million option for the following, even if Peavy’s rested shoulder responds next season.
Will Peavy Be Back with the White Sox in 2013?
No, our guess is Peavy will be back in San Diego. Peavy’s 2013 option will no doubt be bought out by the White Sox, clearing the way for Peavy to return to where he has his fondest memories.
Brandon McCarthy: Oakland Athletics
After missing the entire 2010 season with a stress fracture in his shoulder, Oakland A’s starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy rebounded in 2011 with a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, including five complete games. Durability is still somewhat of an issue, as McCarthy was again on the DL for over a month with lingering shoulder issues.
This upcoming season is McCarthy’s final year in arbitration, and if he can continue to show he’s completely over an injury history that plagued his first six seasons, he will be an attractive free-agent option.
Will McCarthy Be Back with the A's in 2013?
Not likely. With a 200-inning, 15-win performance in 2012, McCarthy can pretty much pick his own landing spot.
Scott Feldman: Texas Rangers
Texas Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman started his career with the Rangers as a reliever, was converted to the starting rotation, and now, in 2012, will likely be relegated to the bullpen once again.
With a possible rotation of Colby Lewis, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Alexi Oguando and Neftali Feliz, the Rangers have depth with both Feldman and Matt Harrison waiting in the wings. Feldman, who was on the DL in 2011 until late July after microfracture surgery on his knee, was highly effective for the Rangers out of the bullpen during the postseason, and manager Ron Washington will once again have the luxury of using Feldman in middle and long relief and as insurance for the rotation should the need arise.
Will Feldman Be Back with the Rangers in 2013?
The Rangers hold a $9.25 million for the 2013 season, and if Feldman is operating out of middle relief for most of 2012, it's doubtful the Rangers would exercise that option. Feldman will be an attractive starting candidate for several teams in 2013.
Howie Kendrick: Los Angeles Angels
The 2011 season was a breakout year of sorts for Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick. Kendrick set career highs in home runs (18), slugging percentage (.464) and OPS (.802). Kendrick also showed off his versatility, subbing in left field for 23 games while Vernon Wells was on the DL.
According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Angels GM Jerry DiPoto has initiated preliminary talks about a contract extension for Kendrick, hoping to lock up his services before he enters free agency in 2013.
Will Kendrick Be Back with the Angels in 2013?
Yes, DiPoto will get this deal done. The guess is a four-year deal worth $33-36 million. With Albert Pujols in the lineup, Kendrick will see better pitches with better protection; expect his power numbers to continue climbing.
Travis Hafner: Cleveland Indians
When the Cleveland Indians signed designated hitter Travis Hafner to a six-year, $66.1 million contract following the 2006 season, he was the heart and soul of the Indians offense, coming off a career year during which he hit 42 HR with 117 RBI, leading the American League in both slugging percentage and OPS.
However, since signing that deal, Hafner has produced only one season in which he played in over 120 games, playing in fewer than 100 games three times.
There's no question that Hafner can still produce when healthy, however, the "when healthy" part is the major variable.
Will Hafner Be Back with the Indians in 2013?
Hafner is owed $13 million, and the team holds a $13 million option for 2013. No way they pick up that option, and if the Indians falter early, Hafner will absolutely be made available by the trade deadline.
Marlon Byrd: Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd is entering the final year of his contract which calls for a salary of $6.5 million, certainly not an outrageous number given his numbers.
Byrd's 2011 season was interrupted by an Alfredo Aceves fastball that fractured several bones in his face, causing him to miss about two months.
Will Byrd Be Back with the Cubs in 2013?
Given what the Cubs have done thus far, and their wish to unload salaries, Byrd may not even survive this offseason. Highly doubtful.
Jhonny Peralta: Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta enjoyed a solid campaign in 2011, hitting .299 with 21 HR and 86 RBI, his best offensive output since 2008. With a heart of the lineup that includes Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila and Peralta, there is no question that beef is not an issue.
Peralta will be entering the final season of a two-year, $11.25 million contract, with the Tigers holding the option for $6 million in 2013.
Will Peralta Be Back with the Tigers in 2013?
Yes. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see a contract extension sometime within the next few months. Peralta will be an option at third base for the Tigers in the near future as well.
Delmon Young: Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young is slated to be the starting left fielder to start the 2012 season, however whether or not Young continues in that role will be up to Young himself.
Young struggled offensively in the first half of 2011, but following the trade that saw him move from Minnesota to Detroit, Young improved dramatically, driving in 32 runners over 40 games and adding three home runs during the ALDS win over the New York Yankees.
However, Young was linked in trade talks earlier this offseason, and while GM Dave Dombrowski touts Young's ability as a hitter, they clearly seem to be looking for an upgrade.
Will Young Be Back with the Tigers in 2013?
Unlikely. Young will probably command somewhere around $6 million in his final year of arbitration, and unless he suddenly develops better plate discipline and more consistent offensive numbers throughout the entire year, the Tigers will pass the following year.
Yadier Molina: St. Louis Cardinals
Entering the final season of a five-year, $21.75 million contract, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yolina Molina has been a rock behind the plate, with four consecutive Gold Glove awards and a batting average hovering close to .300 for the past four seasons as well.
There have been no talks regarding an extension for Molina as of yet, however, local fans are certainly clamoring for the Cards to get it done now.
Will Molina Be Back with the Cardinals in 2013?
Yes. The Cards will look to not repeat past mistakes (re: Pujols) by letting Molina play the 2012 season and letting another team swoop in with a large contract offer. If they did, GM John Mozeliak would be out of a job.
Brandon League: Seattle Mariners
With 37 saves in 42 opportunities in his first year as closer for the Seattle Mariners, Brandon League was certainly a pleasant surprise on a team bereft of positive developments during the 2011 season.
League earned $2.5 million last season and will likely get a significance raise for 2012, his final arbitration-eligible year. However, trade rumors surfaced a few weeks ago, but no teams have appeared to show more than casual interest thus far.
Will League Be Back with the Mariners in 2013?
Doubtful, especially considering he'll be a free agent. If League puts up similar numbers this season, he could be trade bait come late July.
Gavin Floyd: Chicago White Sox
In looking at the numbers for Chicago White Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd over the past eight seasons, they are eerily similar to that of current free-agent pitcher Edwin Jackson. Floyd is 58-55 with a 4.50 lifetime ERA, Jackson is 60-60 with a 4.46 ERA over almost the exact same time frame.
If current reports are to be believed, Jackson is apparently seeking a salary somewhere in the $15-17 million range annually. What will that make Floyd worth next season?
Will Floyd Be Back with the White Sox in 2013?
Floyd will make $7 million in 2012, with the White Sox holding a $9.5 million option the following year. That would make him a bargain compared to Jackson. Hard to say if Floyd will be with the Chicago, with GM Kenny Williams first rebuilding, then not rebuilding, and manager Robin Ventura referring to Sox deals as "retooling." At this point, who knows?
Torii Hunter: Los Angeles Angels
A nine-time Gold Glove award winner and four-time All-Star, Los Angeles Angels right fielder is entering the final season of a five-year, $90 million contract that will pay him $18 million in 2012.
Rebounding from a slow start, Hunter hit 23 HR with 82 RBI in 2011; he is still one of the best fielding outfielders in the American League, and likely will be until the day he retires.
Will Hunter Be Back with the Angels in 2013?
Hunter has only played for the Twins and Angels during his career, and he likely knows he already signed his best contract. Hunter and manager Mike Scioscia enjoy a close relationship, so Hunter could be back at a much-reduced rate.
Nick Swisher: New York Yankees
New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher has been remarkably consistent during his eight-year career with the Oakland A's, Chicago White Sox and Yankees. In addition, his quirky personality and gregarious nature fits in perfectly with the Bronx Bombers.
However, Swisher, who will earn $10.25 million in 2012, was the subject of trade rumors earlier this offseason, and while the Yankees have been strangely quiet thus far, don't expect them to move Swisher unless they have a suitable replacement in hand.
Will Swisher Be Back with the Yankees in 2013?
I say yes. Swisher is a perfect fit, and GM Brian Cashman regards Swisher as one of the better right fielders in the game. If they can make the numbers work, Swisher could absolutely return.
Russell Martin: New York Yankees
When the New York Yankees pulled catcher Russell Martin off the scrap heap last season, signing him to a one-year deal for $4 million, no one knew exactly how Martin would fare, given the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers had essentially given up on a man they once considered one of the cornerstones of the franchise.
The Yankees certainly got their money's worth, as Martin started 125 games, hitting 18 HR with 65 RBI and representing the Yankees at the All-Star Game. Martin is arbitration-eligible, and will likely garner a significant raise.
Will Martin Be Back with the Yankees in 2013?
GM Brian Cashman has gone on record saying that he is more than comfortable with Martin as his starting backstop, and Martin could very well sign this offseason for longer than one season. Yes, he's with the Yankees in 2013.
Anibal Sanchez: Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins have been very successful in signing young pitchers to long-term, team-friendly deals (Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco) that took them through their first years in free agency. Now, they are faced with the decision of what to do with 27-year-old starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez has been one of the bright spots in the Marlins rotation over the past two seasons, making all 64 of his scheduled starts and posting an ERA of 3.61 during that time. Sanchez also improved his K/9 rate in 2011 to a career-high 9.3 along with a career-low 2.9 BB/9 walk rate.
Fans and pundits alike have been calling for the Marlins to extend Sanchez. However, while a three-year deal may have seemed fitting a year ago, given Sanchez's success over the past two seasons, that may not be unlikely.
Will Sanchez Be Back with the Marlins in 2013?
Yes. Sanchez has clearly been a bright spot in the Marlins rotation, and an extension seems likely.
Colby Lewis: Texas Rangers
After shoulder injuries, command issues and a two-year stint in Japan, Texas Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis is now in a comfortable place—at the top of the Rangers rotation.
Lewis has been the model of consistency over the past two seasons, making all 64 of his scheduled starts, logging over 200 innings each season and posting a stellar 4-1 record and 2.34 ERA during the postseason.
Lewis, who will make $3.25 million in 2012, has absolutely delivered top value thus far.
Will Lewis Be Back with the Rangers in 2013?
Yes. There doesn't appear to be any reason that GM Jon Daniels wouldn't be interested in re-signing Lewis at this point.
Mike Adams: Texas Rangers
Texas Rangers reliever Mike Adams has easily been one of the best bullpen arms in the majors over the past four seasons, and that continued in 2011, with Adams posting a minuscule 1.47 ERA between the San Diego Padres and Rangers.
Adams underwent surgery to repair a hernia on Wednesday, but according to GM Jon Daniels, Adams should be 100 percent come Opening Day.
Will Adams Be Back with the Rangers in 2013?
Adams was tendered a contract by the Rangers for 2012 as an arbitration-eligible player, and will likely see a raise over the $2.535 million paid to him in 2011. Daniels could try to negotiate a two- or three-year deal to keep Adams in Texas.
Grady Sizemore: Cleveland Indians
In many ways, 2012 will be a make-or-break year for the career of Cleveland Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore.
Missing significant chunks of time due to several knee surgeries over the past three seasons, Sizemore signed a one-year, $5 million contract that will increase to $9 million if he meets requirements for plate appearances. While Sizemore's base-stealing days appear to be over, he can still be a presence with the bat.
Will Sizemore Be Back with the Indians in 2013?
That will likely depend on his health. If Sizemore can manage to stay healthy and put up offensive numbers similar to 2007-2008, he very well could be back.
Huston Street: San Diego Padres
When the San Diego Padres acquired closer Huston Street from the Colorado Rockies, they got a replacement for the departed Heath Bell at relatively the same price, and gave up just a middling minor leaguer in return. In addition, the Rockies kicked in $1 million to cover the buyout for Street's 2013 option year on his contract.
A great deal for the Padres, but certainly one that almost certainly looks like a one-year rental.
Will Street Be Back with the Padres in 2013?
No. Enough said.
Ryan Dempster: Chicago Cubs
With a 4.80 ERA and 1.448 WHIP in 2011, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster certainly did not have a good year by his standards or any others.
With $14 million owed to him for the 2012 season, the Cubs would love to get him out of town, especially after being successful unloading...er, trading Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins.
Will Dempster Be Back with the Cubs in 2013?
No, Dempster may not even be there for 2012, let alone 2013.
Scott Rolen: Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds paid third baseman Scott Rolen $8.1 million last season, and Rolen responded by playing in just 65 games with five HR and a .242 average. Rolen last played on July 20 and underwent shoulder surgery in August.
Rolen should be ready by spring training, however, he will be 37 years of age to start the season, and it's highly doubtful Rolen can recapture the offense he was known for in the past.
Will Rolen Be Back with the Reds in 2013?
Mark Reynolds: Baltimore Orioles
After a really slow start, Baltimore Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds cranked things up in the second half of 2011, ending the season with 37 HR. While the .221 average and league-leading 196 strikeouts were of concern, Reynolds provides the power that the O's need.
Reynolds, who will make $7.5 million in 2012, will likely play first base full-time as well, as his 26 errors in 114 games at the hot corner just doesn't make him a viable option there.
Will Reynolds Be Back with the Orioles in 2013?
Not likely. Reynolds will be owed $11 million if the O's pick up his option, an awful lot of money for a Dave Kingman-like hitter with no glove.
Jonathan Sanchez: Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals traded for San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to both bolster and anchor their rotation.
Sanchez, who is arbitration-eligible in 2012, has been near the top of standings for fewest hits per nine innings, however his walk rate per nine innings was a career-high 5.9 last season.
Will Sanchez Be Back with the Royals in 2013?
Yes. It sounds like GM Dayton Moore intends to lock Sanchez up for longer than a year.
Adam LaRoche: Washington Nationals
The 2011 season was pretty much a forgotten season for Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose season ended after just 43 games with a torn labrum and rotator cuff, requiring surgery in June.
While LaRoche will be ready for spring training, rumors about the Nationals hotly pursuing Prince Fielder won't go away, and LaRoche himself is unsure of what the future holds.
"All I can tell you is, I don't hold any grudges either way," LaRoche told MLB.com.
"If [Fielder doesn't sign with the Nationals] and I'm the guy, I'll be out there every day and [will] do everything I possibly can. If it does [happen] and I need to move on -- hey, it's a business move. They are trying to put the best possible team on the field. I think they feel like their time is now to get to the top of the division. Hopefully, I'll be a part of it. If not, that's life."
Will LaRoche Be Back with the Nationals in 2013?
LaRoche may not even survive the next few weeks.
Brian McCann: Atlanta Braves
When the Atlanta Braves locked catcher Brian McCann into a long-term contract following a terrific 2006 season, they included his first year of free-agent eligibility, with an option year for 2013 as well.
All McCann has done is get selected to six straight All-Star teams and win five Silver Slugger awards in the past six years as well.
Will McCann Be Back with the Braves in 2013?
Yes. Of any player on this list, it might be the biggest no-brainer.
Brandon Phillips: Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips enjoyed one of his finest overall seasons in 2011—a career-high .300 batting average, 18 HR, .810 OPS, 82 RBI and 94 runs scored, capturing his third Gold Glove award and the Silver Slugger award for the first time.
Since his move to Cincinnati from the Cleveland Indians prior to the start of the 2006 season, Phillips has easily been one of the most consistent second basemen in the National League, both with the bat and the glove.
Will Phillips Be Back with the Reds in 2013?
Reds GM Walt Jocketty has already picked up Phillips' $12 million for 2012, and while ongoing contract extension talks have been tabled until later this month, it doesn't appear likely that Phillips is going anywhere else.
Tim Hudson: Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson has been the model of durability over the past two seasons, making 67 starts in total, winning 33 games and posting an ERA of just 3.02.
Hudson is owed $9 million for the 2012 season, with the Braves holding a $9 million option for 2013.
Will Hudson Be Back with the Braves in 2013?
At $9 million, Hudson is a relative bargain. Yes, he'll be back.
Fausto Carmona: Cleveland Indians
To start the 2012 season, the Cleveland Indians will have a core group of starting pitchers that includes Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona. Of the four, only Masterson had what would be considered a good 2011 season.
For the Indians to have any shot at all in the AL Central, they need Lowe, Jimenez and Carmona all to bounce back from sub-par years. Carmona, who will be paid $7 million in 2012, was 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA last year.
Will Carmona Be Back with the Indians in 2013?
Highly doubtful. The Indians hold two option years for Carmona for $21 million overall. If Carmona reverts to 2011 form, he may be gone before the trade deadline.
Dan Haren: Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Dan Haren was a key contributor to a staff that led the American League in pitching with a league-low 3.57 ERA.
Haren was 16-10 with a 3.17 ERA, registering the highest K/BB ratio in the league at 5.9.
Will Haren Be Back with the Angels in 2013?
Haren, who is owed $12.75 next season, has a $15.5 million for 2013, which is likely to be picked up by the Angels. No way the Angels give up on a rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Haren and Ervin Santana.
Shaun Marcum: Milwaukee Brewers
Despite a change in teams and leagues in 2011, Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Shawn Marcum put up numbers very similar to his 2010 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays, with a 13-7 record, 3.54 ERA and 1.156 WHIP in just over 200 innings.
Will Marcum Be Back with the Brewers in 2013?
Marcum is entering his final year of arbitration in 2012, and will likely command a raise over his $3.9 million salary in 2011. GM Doug Melvin has expressed interest in an extension; no reason to think the two sides can't get it done.
J.J. Putz: Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz made the most of the opportunity presented to him by the D-Backs, offering him the closer's role and a two-year, $10 million contract prior to the 2011 season.
Putz collected 45 saves on the way to anchoring a stellar bullpen for the D-Backs, with a 2.17 ERA and 0.914 WHIP.
Will Putz Be Back with the Diamondbacks in 2013?
Yes. Putz is owed $4.5 million in 2012, with the D-Backs holding an option for $6.5 million in 2013. No reason to think that the D-Backs wouldn't exercise the option if Putz puts up similar numbers.
Shane Victorino: Philadelphia Phillies
The Flyin' Hawaiian, Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino, had another solid season in 2011, with 17 HR, 61 RBI, a league-leading 16 triples and his second All-Star selection.
Victorino is owed $9.5 million in 2012, the final season of his three-year contract.
Will Victorino Be Back with the Phillies in 2013?
Yes. Victorino provides a solid overall package, one of the best outfield defenders in baseball and has been a spark plug for the Phillies for the past four seasons.
Mike Napoli: Texas Rangers
In 2011, Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli posted career highs in just about every single offensive category—30 HR, 75 RBI, .320 batting average, .631 slugging percentage, 1.046 OPS and .414 on-base percentage.
Napoli did all this in just 113 games.
Will Napoli Be Back with the Rangers in 2013?
Recent long-term talks between Napoli and Rangers GM Jon Daniels broke down, and the two sides are now focusing on a one-year deal to cover Napoli's last arbitration-eligible year. The two sides will no doubt work to restart negotiations on a longer-term contract at some point soon.
Carlos Quentin: San Diego Padres
Right fielder Carlos Quentin was already home in San Diego when he got the news that he had been traded by the Chicago White Sox to the Padres.
Quentin, who is entering his final arbitration year in 2012, hit 24 HR and 77 RBI last season in Chicago, and will be expected to provide punch for an anemic Padres lineup that scored just 593 runs last year, second-to-last in the National League.
Will Quentin Be Back with the Padres in 2013?
In listening to Padres GM Josh Byrnes, it certainly seems like the Padres want Quentin long-term.
"We acquired Carlos with the thought that we could extend him," Byrnes told Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune.
James Shields: Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields turned a crap year in 2010 into a stellar season in 2011, with a stunning turnaround.
Shields—who led the American League in hits allowed, earned runs allowed and home runs given up in 2010—led the AL in complete games and shutouts in 2011, finishing third in Cy Young award balloting.
Will Shields Be Back with the Rays in 2013?
Shields is owed $7 million next season, and the Rays hold a $9 million option for 2013 and an $11 million option for 2014. While Tampa Bay may not be the bastion of free spending, it would be hard to believe that they would not at least pick up the 2013 option.
However, rumors continue to persist about a possible trade involving Shields, however the asking price is nowhere near palatable. I say Shields is back for 2013.
Kevin Youkilis: Boston Red Sox
The last two seasons for Boston Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not gone swimmingly—a spate of injuries have plagued Youkilis, who missed the last two weeks of the 2011 season and was forced to watch his Red Sox blow a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays to miss the playoffs.
Much of the blame for Youkilis' injuries can be attributed to his move to third base, as his reckless style of play has caught up to him at the hot corner.
Will Youkilis Be Back with the Red Sox in 2013?
Youkilis is entering the final season of a four-year, $41.1 million contract that pays him $12 million next season, with the Red Sox holding a $13 million option for the 2013 season.
With recent rumors swirling about the possibility of the Sox dealing Youkilis, along with the fact that prospect Will Middlebrooks is waiting in the wings, it's a safe bet that Youkilis could be gone by 2013.
Curtis Granderson: New York Yankees
New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson enjoyed a career year in 2011, with 41 HR, a league-leading 119 RBI and 136 runs scored, and a fourth-place finish in MVP voting.
Will Granderson Be Back with the Yankees in 2013?
Granderson is owed $10 million, and the Yankees hold an option for $13 million for 2013, which will escalate to $15 million if Granderson makes the All-Star team again in 2012. If Grandy Man continues producing, he'll be back.
Andre Ethier: Los Angeles Dodgers
In our very first slide in this article, we talked about the curious case of Aubrey Huff. The same could almost be said of Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier.
I wrote about the recent rumors surrounding the possibility of an Ethier trade last week, and while Dodgers GM Ned Colletti seems to be committed to signing Ethier to an extension, the rumors are still there.
Will Ethier Be Back with the Dodgers in 2013?
With the Dodgers' current ownership debacle and bidding war, anything is possible. My belief is that Ethier will be signed to an extension.
David Wright: New York Mets
The MLB rumor mill seems to have quieted in recent weeks regarding New York Mets third baseman David Wright, however, one would be hard pressed to find many people that believe Wright will be with the Mets much longer.
With owner Fred Wilpon in financial disarray and the Mets needing another loan just to fund day-to-day operations, there doesn't appear to be any way possible that Wright is in a Mets uniform come 2013.
Will Wright Be Back with the Mets in 2013?
Not as long as the Mets are still bleeding cash.
Ian Kinsler: Texas Rangers
Over the course of his six-year career thus far, second baseman Ian Kinsler has been an integral part of the Texas Rangers offense, hitting a career-high 32 HR with 30 stolen bases, the second 30/30 season of his career.
Kinsler is entering the final season of a five-year, $22 million contract, owed $7 million for the upcoming season.
Will Kinsler Be Back with the Rangers in 2013?
The Rangers hold a $10 million for Kinsler in 2013 as well, however it seems much more likely that a contract extension will be taken care before then. Yes, Kinsler will be back.
Robinson Cano: New York Yankees
Coming up to the end of his five-year, $44 million contract, New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano has won two straight Silver Slugger awards, an All-Star Home Run Derby and has become of the heart and soul of the New York Yankees lineup, hitting 28 HR with 118 RBI in 2011.
Will Cano Be Back with the Yankees in 2013?
Aside from Brian McCann, this may be the second-biggest no-brainer on this list. Yes, Cano will be back; he will likely finish his career in pinstripes.
Michael Bourn: Atlanta Braves
When the Atlanta Braves acquired center fielder Michael Bourn at the trade deadline, they finally shored up a position that had been lacking for at least two seasons.
Bourn responded with a .272 average after the trade with 22 stolen bases, leading the National League in that category for the third straight season.
Will Bourn Be Back with the Braves in 2013?
While the Braves and Bourn's agent Scott Boras have yet to agree on a contract extension, and there is speculation that a long-term deal will be difficult, Bourn will ultimately sign one. Yes, he'll be back.
B.J. Upton: Tampa Bay Rays
There was a tremendous amount of trade talk surrounding Tampa Bay Rays center fielder B.J. Upton last season, but Upton seemingly ignored all of it, putting up his best offensive numbers since the 2007 season.
Upton, who is entering his final arbitration year in 2012, hit 23 HR and 81 RBI in 2011.
Will Upton Be Back with the Rays in 2013?
Highly doubtful. Upton could get a very nice payday when he hits free agency in 2013, and will only be 28 years old at the time. The Rays just won't have to financial leeway to afford Upton.
Ichiro Suzuki: Seattle Mariners
Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki had a down year by his standards, failing to reach the 200-hit mark for the first time in his 11-year career, hitting a full 54 points below his lifetime .326 batting average.
Suzuki is entering the final season of his five-year, $90 million contract, and will clearly be looking to bounce back. However, at 38 years of age, will he be able to?
Will Suzuki Be Back with the Mariners in 2013?
That may depend on whether or not Suzuki can bounce back from a disappointing 2011 campaign. If not, I see Suzuki retiring from MLB rather than going anywhere else.
Zack Greinke: Milwaukee Brewers
When the Milwaukee Brewers traded for starting pitcher Zack Greinke last offseason, they acquired him with the thought of Greinke anchoring the Brewers starting rotation long-term.
Greinke certainly did not disappoint in his first season in Milwaukee, posting a 16-6 record, 3.83 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 171.2 innings.
Will Greinke Be Back with the Brewers in 2013?
Yes. Greinke is entering his final year as an arbitration-eligible player, but GM Doug Melvin will no doubt be looking to lock Greinke up with a multi-year contract before spring training starts.
Matt Cain: San Francisco Giants
In Matt Cain's six full seasons in the National League, he has become one of the most feared right-handed pitchers in the league and one of the most durable.
Cain has never missed a start since 2006, routinely logging well over 200 innings, and posting an ERA south of 3.00 two times in the last three seasons.
And, his salary is about to double to $15 million in 2012.
Will Cain Be Back with the Giants in 2013?
GM Brian Sabean will absolutely do everything he can to lock up both Cain and Tim Lincecum, the latter of which is a free agent in 2014.
Cole Hamels: Philadelphia Phillies
Aside from Cliff Lee on his own team, you'd be hard pressed to find a more consistent left-handed option on the mound than Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels.
Hamels, who is owed $9.5 million in 2012, finished fifth in the NL Cy Young award balloting, just behind teammates Lee and Roy Halladay.
Will Hamels Be Back with the Phillies in 2013?
Absolutely. There is no reason to think that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. won't be working on an extension with Hamels, keeping his big starting three in Philadelphia.
Josh Hamilton: Texas Rangers
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has been an All-Star in each of his four seasons with the Rangers, has an MVP award in his trophy cabinet and is clearly the anchor of the Rangers offense.
However, Hamilton has been somewhat injury-prone during his time in Texas as well, missing chunks of games each season since 2009.
Will Hamilton Be Back with the Rangers in 2013?
There haven't been any recent talks regarding an extension, although there was news that the Rangers hired Hamilton's father-in-law as his "accountability coach."
Does that mean Hamilton will be back in 2013? Hardly—it just means the Rangers are protecting their investment. Hamilton will cash in once he hits free agency; whether or not it's with the Rangers will be up to Hamilton.
Doug Mead is a Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.