2012 MLB Predictions: How Free-Agent Signings Shake Up Postseason Picture

Justin KeithCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 14:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers and Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals stnad near first base during Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 14, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

In an offseason that saw some of the biggest names in baseball change teams, the playoff picture in both leagues has shifted.

Along with shuffling players in and out, teams will also have an extra playoff spot up for grabs in the Wild Card, leading to a one-game showdown to decide who advances in the playoffs.

New players will have a huge impact on how the playoff picture shapes up, making this season a must-watch.

Here are players that will have a big impact on how far their team goes this season.


Albert Pujols

Pujols was the clear prized free agent this offseason.

Arguably the best player in the game, Pujols decided against returning to the Cardinals and instead chose to take his talents to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Angels now have the impact bat in the middle of the lineup that they have so desperately needed the past couple of seasons. With the return of Kendrys Morales, they will have a solid middle of the order.

Although the Angels are in a tough division and league, they will find their way in the playoffs and make some noise with their awesome pitching rotation and a lineup that includes Albert "The Machine" Pujols.

Prince Fielder

If Pujols was the prized free agent of this offseason, Prince Fielder wasn't far behind.

Fielder left Milwaukee to join the talented Detroit Tigers roster. Detroit now boasts the best duo of hitters in the game in Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.

The Tigers' rotation is back with another year of experience and they are the clear favorite in an average AL Central.

The Tigers made a good run last season in the playoffs and with the addition of Fielder, they could get over the hump and perhaps make it back to the World Series.


Mark Buehrle

Although Buehrle was one the best free-agent pitchers on the market, his signing has been overshadowed by the huge signings of Pujols, Fielder and C.J. Wilson.

However, Buehrle helps the Miami Marlins immensely. Buehrle joins Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez in a potentially dominant Marlins pitching staff. Although the NL East will be competitive, Buehrle along with Jose Reyes add veteran talent to an already young and talented roster.


Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran is not Albert Pujols. Let's get that out there.

However, Beltran will be able to replace some of the production lost by the Cardinals with the departure of Pujols as well as help defensively in the outfield.

The key for Beltran is staying healthy. If Beltran plays most of the season, he could prove to be a huge addition to complement Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.

The Cardinals are the current favorite to win the NL Central and the addition of Beltran could prove to be the difference.