Carlos Ruiz and 25 Players Each Making a Case for a New Contract

Cody Swartz@cbswartz5Senior Writer IJune 6, 2012

Carlos Ruiz and 25 Players Each Making a Case for a New Contract

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    The 2012 Major League Baseball season is one-third of the way over.

    That means it’s a good time to look at the top players who are projected to be free agents after the season that are making strong cases for new contracts. The majority of these players are in the final year of their deals, although some do have options for 2013.

Josh Hamilton

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    Josh Hamilton is pounding the cover off the ball like I haven’t seen since Barry Bonds. Hamilton is hitting .348 with a .709 slugging percentage, a league-leading 21 home runs and an incredible 58 runs batted in. He has a legitimate chance at winning the AL Triple Crown, he should win his second league MVP award in three seasons and he can play all three outfield positions.

    Hamilton is 31 years old but he’s played just six seasons in the major leagues, and he can probably give the Texas Rangers six or seven more years. There is also risk in the fact that he is a former alcoholic and drug addict and has had multiple relapses, so the Rangers will have to see if they think he is a safe bet.

    Projected Contract: Seven Years, $160 Million

David Wright

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    David Wright is tearing it up in his walk year, torching opposing pitchers for a .362 batting average, .465 on-base percentage and .585 slugging percentage. Wright has always been a dangerous hitter, but he’s picked it up a notch this year, and he’s leading the league with seven intentional walks.

    Factor in that Wright is still just 29 years old and a terrific defender at the hot corner, and the Mets would be wise to lock him up for the future, especially since the team is a legitimate contender in the NL East this season.

    Projected Contract: Six Years, $110 Million

Cole Hamels

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    With every win he gets, Cole Hamels can start adding onto his projected record-breaking contract. CC Sabathia holds the major league record for pitchers by having earned a $161 million contract from the New York Yankees, and Hamels will probably break that mark.

    He is 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 11 starts, and he has 80 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched against just 16 walks. Hamels is young, he’s stayed relatively injury-free during his major league career, and he’s a left-handed pitcher with a World Series MVP award.

    That should get him big bucks.

    Projected Contract: Eight Years, $180 Million

Robinson Cano

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    Robinson Cano doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2013 season, but he is making a strong case that the New York Yankees should extend him now. Cano finishes up a five-year, $44 million deal this season with a $15 million option for the following year.

    Cano is arguably the American League’s best second baseman—in fact, he might be the best in the business.

    Cano is batting .290 this season with a .854 OPS that is 11 points above his career average, and he’s leading the league with 20 doubles. Cano is still just 29 years old on a Yankees team full of aging veterans like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Re-signing Cano now before his asking price becomes too high next year would be a good move.

    Projected Contract: Seven Years, $120 Million

Melky Cabrera

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    To say Melky Cabrera has been a pleasant surprise for the San Francisco Giants this season is an understatement. Cabrera is leading the National League with a .365 batting average, and his 84 hits and seven triples are also figures that lead the league.

    Cabrera was the National League Player of the Month for May, as he collected a franchise-record 51 hits during that span.

    It went largely unnoticed that Cabrera collected 201 hits for the Kansas City Royals last year, hitting .305 with 18 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 706 plate appearances. He is only on a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Giants, but he’s going to require a big deal in free agency this offseason.

    Projected Contract: Four Years, $48 Million

Curtis Granderson

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    The New York Yankees got Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers, swapping young prospect Austin Jackson for Granderson, and the Yankees have to be pleased with Granderson’s performance so far. He hit 41 home runs and led the league with 136 runs and 119 RBIs last season, and his power is at an all-time high for 2012.

    Granderson has 17 long balls in 54 games, a pace that puts him on track for roughly 50 home runs this season. Granderson is 31 years old, so he won’t get an outrageous deal, but he should be pushing for $100 million in free agency.

    Projected Contract: Six Years, $95 Million

Carlos Ruiz

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    Carlos Ruiz went from a .219 hitter the year the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series to their cleanup hitter this season.

    Ruiz is batting .358 with a .585 slugging percentage, and his .992 OPS is nearly 150 points higher than any other season of his career. He’s nearly matched his career-high with eight home runs already, and he is playing flawless defense behind the plate (1.000 fielding percentage).

    Ruiz is 33 years old and will be 34 by the time next season starts, so he won’t get too many years in free agency. However, his deal expires after this season and includes just an option for 2013. Ruiz should get an extension any day now.

    Projected Contract: Three Years, $35 Million

Jake Peavy

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    I didn’t think Jake Peavy had much left in his arm, but he’s tearing it up for the Chicago White Sox this year.

    Peavy is 6-1 with a 3.05 ERA in 11 starts, and he’s struck out 68 batters against just 15 walks this year. Peavy is leading the American League with a 0.926 WHIP, and he’s surrendering only 6.6 hits per nine innings.

    If the White Sox believe Peavy has turned the corner and isn’t just putting up a last hurrah, they should ink him to a new deal. Peavy’s current contract has him making $22 million if the team renews his option for next year, and that’s an outrageous amount.

    Projected Contract: Four Years, $60 Million

B.J. Upton

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    B.J. Upton still hasn’t hit his official free agency mark yet, but he will after this year. Upton isn’t quite the player he was projected to be when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected him second overall in the 2002 draft—or when he was rated the second-best prospect by Baseball America before the ’04 season—but he’s a good player nonetheless.

    Upton is hitting .275—his highest mark since 2007—and the rest of his numbers are on track with his consistent yearly totals. That’s not going to make Upton worth $150 million, but he’s a good defender with excellent speed. He can hit leadoff or No. 2 in the lineup and make something happen when he gets on base, which is a little over one-third of the time.

    Projected Contract: Five Years, $65 Million

Andre Ethier

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    After seven seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers that have included two All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and both Rookie of the Year and MVP votes, Andre Ethier will finally be hitting free agency. He’s making over $10 million in 2012 on a one-year deal, and his career year couldn’t come at a better time.

    Ethier is hitting .307 with a .536 slugging percentage, and his 46 RBIs lead the National League. He's a left-handed hitter but he still hits lefties well, as he is batting .313 with a .853 OPS against southpaws. He and Matt Kemp will cost the Dodgers a lot of money, but Ethier deserves a big deal.

    Projected Contract: Five Years, $80 Million

Michael Bourn

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    Michael Bourn is making $6.85 million in his third-year of arbitration eligibility, and he’s finally going to hit free agency after the season. Bourn is batting a career-high .298 with a .780 OPS, fabulous numbers for a leadoff hitter with little power.

    Bourn is leading the National League in both plate appearances (254) and at-bats (235), and he’s on pace for nearly 50 steals. Bourn plays good defense too, and he should get a solid deal in free agency.

    Projected Contract: Five Years, $65 Million

R.A. Dickey

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    R.A. Dickey will be 38 years old after the season, but he’s a knuckleballer with fewer than 1,000 major league innings to his resume. He is tearing it up this season for the New York Mets (8-1 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts), and he’s leading the National League in wins and winning percentage (.889).

    Dickey is striking out batters at a rate never seen before from him (8.6 K/9), and he has remarkable control for a pitcher who throws a knuckleball. Dickey has an option for 2013, but I think the Mets might give him a three-year extension sometime soon.

    Projected Contract: Three Years, $30 Million

Zach Greinke

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    Zach Greinke is in the final year of a four-year, $38 million contract he signed back when he was with the Kansas City Royals.

    He’s pitching well this year at 6-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 9.6 K/9, and he’s also only 28 years old, so Greinke could be in the market for a sizable deal this upcoming free agency. Matt Cain signed a six-year, $127.5 million deal with the San Francisco Giants that made him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history, but then again, he’s significantly better than Greinke.

    Projected Contract: Five Years, $80 Million

Kyle Lohse

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    Kyle Lohse was a great disappointment for the first two seasons of his four-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he had a strong 2011 and he’s pitching well again in 2012. Lohse is 5-1 with a 3.21 ERA and his 12 starts are tied for the National League lead.

    Lohse strikes out a ridiculously low amount of batters, but he is also leading the league in fewest walks issued per nine innings (1.2), and that gives him a career-best 4.20 strikeout to walk ratio. Lohse is a solid number three or four starter, and that should get him at least $8 million per year.

    Projected Contract: Three Years, $28 Million

A.J. Pierzynski

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    A.J. Pierzynski is 35 years old, so he won’t get too many years in free agency. Considering he has the highest OPS of his career, though, the Chicago White Sox will probably bring him back.

    Pierzynski is batting .297/.347/.531 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 190 plate appearances, and he’s been extremely durable throughout his major league career, having started at least 125 games for the last 10 seasons.

    Projected Contract: Two Years, $10 Million

David Ortiz

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    David Ortiz is 36 years old, but he really doesn’t seem to show any signs of declining. Ortiz is on just a one-year, $14.58 million deal, and he’s hitting .314/.391/.589 with 13 home runs and 37 RBIs in 235 plate appearances this season.

    Ortiz’s 161 adjusted OPS is the highest he’s registered in a season since 2007, and the beauty of his playing in Boston is that he doesn’t have to play the field. The Red Sox will likely trade Kevin Youkilis before the trade deadline which will clear up third base for Will Middlebrooks and keeps Adrian Gonzalez at first base, and there’s really no reason not to bring back Ortiz for 2013 and beyond.

    Projected Contract: Two Years, $33 Million

Carlos Quentin

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    Carlos Quentin missed the first two months of the 2012 season after undergoing offseason knee injury, but in the six games since he has been active, he is tearing it up at a Ruthian pace.

    Quentin is batting .522 with five doubles and five home runs in six games, and he is slugging 1.348 with a 1.925 OPS. He’s obviously not going to keep up that pace, and it’s likely he will be traded before the All-Star break anyway to a team in search of a right-handed power bat.

    When Quentin does hit free agency, he should get a good deal considering that he’s only 29 years old.

    Projected Contract: Five Years, $65 Million

Cody Ross

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    Cody Ross became widely-known after his monstrous 2010 NLCS with the San Francisco Giants, when he batted .350 with three home runs and a .950 slugging percentage in six games against the Philadelphia Phillies. I thought he might get a mammoth contract then, but he signed just a modest one-year, $6.3 million deal with the Giants and then a one-year, $3 million deal to play for the Boston Red Sox this year.

    Ross has been playing regularly in the outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford injured, and his .534 slugging percentage and 134 adjusted OPS should get him a few years from a team looking for a right-handed bat.

    Projected Contract: Three Years, $21 Million

Anibal Sanchez

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    In today’s world, a solid right-handed starting pitcher like Anibal Sanchez can get a good deal in free agency. The 28-year-old Sanchez has thrown a no-hitter, posted a 3.66 career ERA for the Miami Marlins and strikes out a high percentage of batters.

    This year, Sanchez is 3-4 with a 3.19 ERA and he has an 8.8 strikeout rate and just a 2.2 walk rate. Those are pretty good numbers that should make Miami want him back.

    Projected Contract: Four Years, $50 Million

Shawn Marcum

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    Shawn Marcum is one of the more underrated players in baseball.

    He’s 30-18 with a 3.56 ERA since 2010, with a 3.21 strikeout to walk ratio. That puts him on par with a player like Chad Billingsley, who earned a three-year, $35 million contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers with a team option for the 2015 season.

    Projected Contract: Four Years, $46 Million

Brandon McCarthy

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    Brandon McCarthy is enjoying a fine season for the Oakland Athletics, at 4-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 10 starts.

    There are several aspects that will likely keep him from getting a huge deal in free agency though. He has never started more than 25 games in a season and has struggled mightily with injuries during his major league career. McCarthy also strikes out around six batters per nine innings, which is definitely a below-average total for a pitcher of his caliber.

    Projected Contract: Three Years, $33 Million

Angel Pagan

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    Angel Pagan is making $4.85 million in a one-year deal with the San Francisco Giants, and they’re certainly getting their money's worth, as he is hitting .321 with an .824 OPS through 53 games.

    Pagan is versatile defensively, as he can play all three outfield positions, and he’s an underrated runner who has stolen 30 bases in a season twice.

    Projected Contract: Three Years, $35 Million

Dan Haren

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    The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are paying Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson about $400 million combined, which makes re-signing Dan Haren more difficult—but with the way Haren is pitching, it should be a priority.

    Haren is just 3-6 through 12 starts but he has a 3.52 ERA, a 8.0 K/9 rate, and a 1.9 BB/9 rate, and he’s still just 31 years old. Haren is in the final season of a four-year, $44.75 million contract with a $15 million option for 2013, but if the Angels wait to sign Haren and he has a career year in ’13, he may command too much money.

    Projected Contract: Five Years, $75 Million

Derek Lowe

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    The Atlanta Braves sent Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians over the offseason, largely to free up money, as Lowe was set to make $15 million in 2012, the final season of a four-year, $60 million deal he signed prior to the 2009 season.

    Lowe is 7-3 with a 3.06 ERA for the Indians after going just 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA for the Braves in 2011, and Lowe is leading the American League in fewest home runs allowed (0.4) per nine innings.

    However, Lowe is at just 2.7 strikeouts per nine innings, by far the lowest of his career, and although he is a ground-ball sinker pitcher who pitches to contract, that is still a scarily low total.

    Projected Contract: Two Years, $18 Million

Edwin Encarnacion

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    Who ever could have projected this kind of a season from Edwin Encarnacion? He hits 15-20 home runs per season, and he's on pace for 50 this year as the designated hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    I would be very careful signing Encarnacion to any kind of a lengthy deal at all, considering he's going to be 30 years old by the start of next season and he's a .262 career hitter.

    Projected Contract: Three Years, $25 Million