2013 MLB Free Agency: Predicting Winter's Highest-Paid FA at Each Position

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent ISeptember 9, 2012

2013 MLB Free Agency: Predicting Winter's Highest-Paid FA at Each Position

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    As teams look to fill their needs during the 2013 MLB free-agency period, they will have a number of top players to choose from. With stars like Josh Hamilton on the open market, ball clubs will be opening up their checkbooks to try to sign him and the other top players.

    There are some players who have earned themselves millions of dollars as a result of their 2012 season, while others, such as Melky Cabrera, have cost themselves an incredible amount of money.

    For the most part, there is at least one player that stands out at every position, and these top players will be in for a huge payday during the 2013 MLB offseason.

Catcher: Mike Napoli

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    This offseason will be a good one for teams that are looking for catchers. A.J. Pierzynski, Chris Iannetta and Mike Napoli will all be free agents this winter. Napoli is likely the best option out of the group.

    While Napoli is in the middle of a down year, he showed during the 2010 and 2011 seasons that he can be a big bat in the middle of the lineup. Over the past three seasons (including 2012) Napoli has slugged 73 home runs.

    Projected Contract: Three years, $30 million

First Base: Adam LaRoche

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    Adam LaRoche has made the Washington Nationals' decision easy when it comes to their half of his $10 million mutual option. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the team will almost certainly pick it up.

    Based on his numbers this year, LaRoche has earned a lot more money than that. A number of teams will be going after LaRoche this summer, but the Nationals will try their best to retain him.

    Projected Contract: Four years, $55 million

Second Base: Kelly Johnson

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    The 2013 free-agent-second-base class is fairly weak. There is no player that really stands out who is a game-changer.

    It is possible that Kelly Johnson gets the biggest deal out of any free-agent second baseman on the market this year. He may end up looking for a one-year deal.

    Projected Contract: Two years, $8.5 million

Shortstop: Marco Scutaro

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    Just like the second-base class, there are not many free-agent shortstops who stand out for 2013. There are a few players that teams may take a risk on, but there is no star available at the position this winter.

    Marco Scutaro has primarily been a second baseman this season, but over the past four years, he has played 411 games at shortstop. While Scutaro isn't going to get a huge deal, he will likely get more in base salary than whatever incentive-laden deal Stephen Drew signs.

    Projected Contract: Two years, $11 million

Third Base: Kevin Youkilis

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    Both Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds have team options for the 2013 season. The Chicago White Sox are not likely to pick up Kevin Youkilis' option, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, and it is still uncertain what the Baltimore Orioles will do with Reynolds. If Reynolds does become a free agent, he could secure a bigger deal than Youkilis.

    A down season has certainly cost Youkilis some cash this winter, but there will be at least one team out there that is willing to give him around $10 million a year for his services. The question is how many years teams will be willing to sign him for.

    Projected Contract: Two years, $19 million

Left Field: Josh Hamilton

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    Josh Hamilton is certainly the crown jewel of this winter's free-agent class. Hamilton has been an All-Star for the past five seasons, and he picked up an American League MVP award in 2010. He may win another one this season, as it looks like he could lead the American League in both home runs and RBI.

    While Hamilton's age (he turns 32 early next season) and durability may be a concern, he does have less wear and tear on his body than other players because of the years that he spent out of baseball. Hamilton will likely end up with the biggest contract of the winter.

    Projected Contract: Six years, $156 million

Center Field: B.J. Upton

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    A player with the ability to put up a 20-20 season is always a valuable commodity. B.J. Upton has already done that three times in his career, including the 2012 campaign. 

    Upton is just be beginning to enter his prime, and he has the potential to become one of the better center fielders in baseball. Teams such as the Boston Red Sox or the Philadelphia Phillies could look at him this winter.

    He will get a slightly larger deal than fellow free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn because of his ability to be a run-producer.

    Projected Contract: Six years, $80 million

Right Field: Nick Swisher

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    Since he reached the major leagues, Nick Swisher has been incredibly consistent when it comes to driving in runs. He has hit at least 20 homers in each of the last eight seasons and knocked in at least 70 runs in seven of the last eight.

    Productivity like that means there is a big payday that will be awaiting Swisher this winter. Whichever team signs him will know what to expect from Swisher in the middle of its lineup.

    According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Swisher wants to get Jayson Werth money, but it is hard to see that happening.

    Projected Contract: Four years, $60 million

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz

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    While David Ortiz may be a free agent this winter, it is highly unlikely that he leaves Boston. Ortiz and the Red Sox are going to work together to make sure that they can get a fair deal done.

    Expect Ortiz to re-up for another two years with the Red Sox. He will also likely get a slight raise from last year.

    Projected Contract: Two years, $30 million

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke

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    It is quite possible that Zack Greinke cost himself some money—and possibly a few suitors—after his struggles since moving to the Los Angeles Angels and the American League.

    Even so, Greinke is the best starting pitcher available on the free-agent market this winter. The former Cy Young winner has a huge deal in his future.

    Projected Contract: Five years, $90 million

Relief Pitcher: Jose Valverde

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    There will be two elite closers on the free-agent market this year. One of them, Mariano Rivera, will likely only sign a one-year deal with the New York Yankees if he decides that he wants to pitch again.

    That makes Jose Valverde the most coveted reliever who will actually be on the market. Valverde has racked up 103 saves since joining the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2010 season. If Heath Bell was able to get a three-year, $27 million deal last offseason, then there is no reason why Valverde can't get the same deal.

    Projected Contract: Three years, $27 million