MLB Free Agency 2013: 20 Best Hitters Set to Hit the Market Next Winter

Pete Schauer@@Pete_SchauerCorrespondent IMay 4, 2012

MLB Free Agency 2013: 20 Best Hitters Set to Hit the Market Next Winter

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    The 2013 free-agency class is a lot deeper than that of 2012, with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Robinson Cano, David Wright and many more set to hit the open market this winter.

    Of course, contracts can be negotiated during the season and a handful of these sluggers come equipped with club options and team buyouts, meaning some of these guys won't be available by the offseason.

    Nonetheless, these 20 hitters are not signed past 2012 and could all bolster any MLB lineup.

    Let's meet the candidates: 

    *Free agents and contract information provided by

Honorable Mentions

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    James Loney (29)

    Brad Hawpe (34)

    Ichiro Suzuki (39)

    Michael Bourn (30)

    Melky Cabrera (28) 

    Shane Victorino (32)

    Jim Thome (42)

Lance Berkman, 36

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .348, 0 HR, 2 RBI (7 games—injury)


    Though we've barely seen Lance Berkman on the field in 2012, our memories of his 2011 regular season and playoff campaign are sufficient.

    After a down year in 2010 with the Astros and New York Yankees, Berkman resurfaced with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, hitting .301 and posting 31 home runs and 94 RBI.

    Berkman proved to critics that he still has plenty left in the tank, and now with a World Series ring, his clubhouse value is sky high.

    Whether or not he stays in St. Louis in 2013 is unknown, but what we do know is that Berkman will be sought after if he continues to produce in 2012.

Robinson Cano, 30

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    Status: Free Agent with a $15 million club option with a $2 million buyout 

    2012 Stats: .255, 1 HR, 4 RBI 


    Robinson Cano—arguably the best second baseman in the MLB—is off to a slow start in 2012, but as Yankee fans know, he gets hot with the weather.

    Cano was the only second baseman to drive in more than 100 runs in 2011—he had 118—which further cements his status as a top second baseman.

    He now has three straight seasons with a .300-plus average and at least 25 HR, and is one of the smoothest fielders in all of baseball. He's a second baseman with a shortstop's arm and makes the most difficult defensive plays look easy.

    Derek Jeter is ready to pass the torch to Cano, so there's no way the Yankees don't re-sign the three-time Silver Slugger this offseason. Plus, Yankees' President Randy Levine has stated that New York plans to keep Cano in pinstripes. 

Andre Ethier, 31

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .287, 6 HR, 27 RBI


    The duo of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier is working out quite well for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early going of 2012.

    In six complete seasons with L.A., Ethier boasts a career .291 average with 115 HR and 473 RBI. Although he's only had one season of at least 100 RBI, Ethier has remained a consistent contributor to the Dodgers offense.

    Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that Ethier is willing to negotiate during the season, and under the new ownership in Los Angeles, Ethier may be awarded a contract extension around six years, $90 million.

    Los Angeles would be wise to ink the right fielder before he gets snatched up in free agency. 

Curtis Granderson, 32

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    Status: Free Agent with a $13 million club option with a $2 million buyout

    2012 Stats: .274, 9 HR, 17 RBI


    Like Cano, Curtis Granderson will likely remain a Yankee far beyond the 2013 season, as backed by Randy Levine.

    "The Grandy Man" broke out in 2011, slugging his way to 41 homers and 119 RBI, almost forcing New York to re-sign the eight-year veteran.

    Granderson possesses one of the best speed and power combinations in the MLB, as well as a concrete glove in center field.

    Hopefully Levine and the rest of the Yankee brass follow up on their statement to re-sign Cano and Granderson. After Jeter, they're becoming the new cornerstones in the Bronx. 

Travis Hafner, 36

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    Status: Free Agent with a $13 million club option with a $2.75 million buyout 

    2012 Stats: .290, 3 HR, 12 RBI


    He's an aging player who relies primarily on the AL for the DH position, but Travis Hafner can still hack; it's just a matter of if he can stay healthy.

    Regardless, there's no doubt in my mind that Hafner will get an opportunity with a club in 2013 if the Cleveland Indians don't offer him an extension or new deal.

    While he was healthy and playing complete seasons between 2004-2007, Hafner posted four consecutive seasons of at least 24 HR and 100 RBI, highlighted by his 2006 campaign that saw him launch 42 bombs and drive in 117 runs.

    He's stayed healthy so far this season and hopefully can continue so he can cash in during the winter.

Josh Hamilton, 32

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .395, 9 HR, 25 RBI


    If it weren't for Matt Kemp, I'd say that Josh Hamilton is off to the best start in baseball, as he's off to the most torrid start in the American League.

    He's a career .312 hitter and has totaled more than 125 homers and 450 RBI in just five complete seasons.

    Hamilton's teammate Ian Kinsler told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, "If we win the World Series, it’s going to be really hard not to bring him back.”

    Even if the Rangers fail to win the World Series in 2012, it's mind-blowing to think about Texas letting Hamilton walk via free agency. He's consistently produced and would be an asset to any team, despite his past off-field troubles.


Adam LaRoche, 33

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    Status: Free Agent with a $10 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout 

    2012 Stats: .311, 4 RBI, 17 RBI


    If the Washington Nationals don't re-sign Adam LaRoche, he'll definitely impact another club in 2013.

    Though he missed practically the entire 2011 season, LaRoche was great for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, slugging 25 HR and collecting 100 RBI for the first time in his career.

    The eight-year vet has hit at least 20 homers in six seasons and would instantly add power to any lineup.

    He probably strikes out more than a normal hitter, but the good outweighs the bad with LaRoche.

    The Nationals have a good thing going and they'd be wise to re-sign the first baseman before he hits the open market. 

Carlos Lee, 37

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .267, 2 HR, 13 RBI


    Although he's getting up there in age, it's hard to think that a club wouldn't take a chance on an aging slugger.

    "El Caballo" has compiled a stellar career, totaling more than 350 homers, 1,300 RBI and a career .286 batting average. Notably, he's never driven in less than 80 runs in a season, which is a token to his durability.

    He drove in 94 runs for the Astros in 2011, showing that even as he ages, he can still be productive at the plate. 

    Ideally, Lee would most likely look toward an AL team as a DH, and with the Houston Astros moving to the AL West in 2013, it's possible he could remain with the Astros.

Brian McCann, 29

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    Status: Free Agent with a $12 million club option with a $500,000 buyout 

    2012 Stats: .241, 5 HR, 14 RBI


    Even though he missed 32 games in 2011, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann still finished in the top seven for home runs and RBI by an MLB catcher.

    McCann has provided the Braves with a power bat in the middle of the lineup for eight seasons now and would likely be heavily sought after on the open market.

    Per MLB Trade Rumors, Braves GM John Schuerholz says that the team hopes to retain McCann after the season, but that there are no guarantees.

    The Braves would be wise to lock up the five-time Silver Slugger. He's a career .285 hitter with a .357 OBP in seven complete seasons.

Miguel Montero, 29

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    Status: Free Agent

    2012 Stats: .280, 2 HR, 14 RBI


    According to MLB Trade Rumors, there haven't been any recent discussions between catcher Miguel Montero and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Montero is reportedly seeking a four-year, $52 million deal, which might be a lot for the Diamondbacks to take on.

    Prior to last season, Montero had never hit more than 16 HR or driven in more than 59 runs—he jacked 18 homers and totaled 86 RBI in 2011.

    Montero is still young, but has just one season of solid numbers to his credit. I'm not sure if $52 million is warranted, but either way, someone will be employing the services of Montero in 2013. 

Mike Napoli, 31

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .240, 7 HR, 15 RBI

    Mike Napoli is known as one of the best power-hitting catchers in the game, and for good reason.

    In his first season as a Texas Ranger in 2011, Napoli hit 30 home runs and drove in 75 RBI. Napoli's 30 bombs led all MLB catchers last season.

    Having played for both the Los Angeles Angels and the Rangers, Napoli possesses the postseason experience clubhouses are constantly seeking.

    The Rangers would be crazy not to lock Napoli up for at least another three years, but if they don't, Napoli is going to be paid well to play for another club.

David Ortiz, 38

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    Status: Free Agent

    2012 Stats: .391, 6 HR, 21 RBI


    The slimmed-down Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will be 38 by the time next season rolls around, but given his impressive resume, he'll undoubtedly fill the role of DH for any willing AL squad.

    Ortiz recently stated that he has no immediate plans of retirement, making a two-year deal an option for the seven-time All-Star.

    He's had five seasons of at least 31 homers and and 101 RBI, highlighted by four consecutive years of this feat from 2003-2007.

    Ortiz was a staple in both of Boston's World Series championships during the 2000s, as he hit .400 and .370 during both postseasons when the Sox won it all.

    There's been no reports if Boston plans on retaining No. 34, but regardless, he'll be slugging away for one AL team come 2013. 

Carlos Pena, 35

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    Status: Free Agent

    2012 Stats: .261, 4 HR, 13 RBI


    Tampa Bay Rays slugger Carlos Pena started out hot in 2012, launching two home runs and driving in seven runs against the New York Yankees in his return to Tampa Bay during the Rays' Opening Day series.

    At 35, Pena is showing that he can still hit for power and still possesses the same talent that he had from 2007-2009 with the Rays, when he hit at least 31 homers and 100 RBI a season.

    It's still too early to tell if the Rays will take Pena back in 2013, but given his 262 career dingers and the way he's playing for Tampa Bay in his second stint, he'll undoubtedly have a home next season. 

Carlos Quentin, 30

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    Status: Free Agent

    2012 Stats: None


    On April 23, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal discussed Carlos Quentin's situation. Quentin has yet to see the field in 2012 due to knee surgery.

    Rosenthal believes that if Quentin returns and plays well, he'll be a valuable trade chip to the San Diego Padres in July. 

    He goes on to write

    But if he does not perform as expected, his trade value will drop and the Padres will be even less inclined to extend him a one-year qualifying offer for draft-pick compensation. The amount of that offer - predetermined by a formula and the same for all potential free agents - is expected to be around $12 million.

    If Quentin does perform at a high level, he could see a contract of two years, $18-20 million offered by the Padres, but the two-time All-Star might be looking for a better deal if he had a good first half.

    He shows a lifetime average of .252 and 121 home runs in six seasons, but has only played more than 115 games in three of those seasons.

Mark Reynolds, 29

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    Status: Free Agent with a $11 million club option with a $500,000 buyout 

    2012 Stats: .136, 0 HR, 3 RBI


    Mark Reynolds isn't going to hit for average and he's going to strike out a ton, but one thing Reynolds is going to do is hit home runs.

    Reynolds hit the most HR (37) out of any third baseman in the MLB least season, but also led all third basemen in strikeouts (196). 

    Since his rookie season in 2007 that saw him hit 17 homers, Reynolds has hit 28, 44, 32 and 37 home runs for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles.

    On April 20, Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors reported that scouts of the Orioles say the club will do anything to trade Reynolds and reliever Kevin Gregg.

    Reynolds' career .235 average isn't helping his cause, but at 29, Reynolds still has some upside and good years of playing time left.


Cody Ross, 32

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .268, 5 HR, 18 RBI


    Cody Ross lit it up for the San Francisco Giants on their way to a World Series championship in 2010 and has found himself a nice home in Boston so far this season.

    He's in a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox, and if he continues to play well, there's no reason not to offer the eight-year veteran a new deal, given the fact that he doesn't come at a high price.

    Ross will never be a superstar or a guy you fear in the lineup, but he's a serviceable outfielder with a solid bat who knows what it takes to win.

    The 2010 NLCS MVP would be a great addition to any team next season if the Red Sox choose to let Ross walk.

Nick Swisher, 32

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .284, 6 HR, 23 RBI


    Yankees energetic right fielder Nick Swisher will probably be bringing his energetic personality to a different clubhouse come 2013.

    MLB Trade Rumors, who received the information from ESPN's Jim Bowden but Insider Access is required, writes that the Atlanta Braves will make Swisher their prized possession next offseason.

    Swisher has been the target of many New York trade talks and it's not because of his play.

    Since 2008, Swisher has brought energy and power to the lower half of the Yankees lineup, launching 29, 29 and 23 homers in his first three seasons.

    He's off to a great start here in 2012, something that will only make it harder for the Yankees and their fans to let him go.


B.J. Upton, 28

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    Status: Free Agent 

    2012 Stats: .333, 1 HR, 8 RBI (11 games—injury)


    B.J. Upton probably gains more publicity and credit than he's worth, but he's still a good hitter in the MLB when he wants to be.

    At 28, Upton still has a lot of upside, but he's similar to Mark Reynolds in the respect that he hits for a low average and strikes out a ton.

    Upton's best season came in 2007—his third—when he hit 24 HR, drove in 82 RBI and hit an even .300. Rays fans probably thought this was the beginning of something special, only to bet let down ever since by Upton's consistent sub-.250 average and high strikeout totals.

    Regardless, we've all seen the potential that Upton has both at the plate and in the field, making him a viable outfield option this winter if the Rays choose to not bring the 27-year-old center fielder back to Tampa.

David Wright, 30

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    Status: Free Agent with a $16 million club option with a $1 million buyout 

    2012 Stats: .392, 3 HR, 14 RBI


    New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson has said outright that the team plans to retain third baseman David Wright. Still, baseball fans know that things can always change.

    Wright embodies everything a professional baseball player should be—hard-nosed, a team leader and excellent in both the field and at the plate—and would undoubtedly be an asset to any MLB team.

    He hit .300 or better and drove in at least 100 runs in the same season four consecutive times from 2005-2008.

    Though he battled injury in 2011, forcing him to miss 60 games, Wright has come back with vengeance in 2012, amping up his stock if the Mets are looking to unload the five-time All-Star. 

Kevin Youkilis, 34

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    Status: Free Agent with a $13 million club option with a $1 million buyout 

    2012 Stats: .219, 2 HR, 9 RBI


    According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Bobby V has acknowledged that he shouldn't have publicly criticized Kevin Youkilis, and Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and the rest of the organization know of Youk's hard-nosed effort.

    Still, any blind eye can see Youkilis' struggles at the plate this season, and it makes you wonder how long Boston is going to stick with the eight-year veteran.

    With 23-year-old prospect Will Middlebrooks waiting in the wings, the Red Sox relationship with Youkilis could be coming to a close very soon.

    Youkilis is a career .288 hitter and plays the game the right way. If he can return from injury and get back to his old ways, he'll be able to earn himself a new contract—whether it's with Boston or a new club.