The business of signing MLB free agents comes down to several important factors, not the least of which is clutch play.
A player who shows the ability to step it up in the heat of a pennant race or in the postseason is invaluable to his team. One recent example is Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis.
Lewis suffered through a spate of injuries and went to Japan to work on his game. Signed by the Texas Rangers in 2010, Lewis showed a marked improvement during the regular season, posting a 4.06 ERA between 2010 and 2011.
However, during the postseason, Lewis stepped up his game, posting a stellar 4-1 record and 2.34 ERA in eight starts during those two seasons.
The ability to shine in the postseason is a major plus for any player, particularly if they happen to be in the final year of their contract.
Here are 13 MLB players whose play in the month of October could earn them a big payday this coming offseason.
It's already assumed that soon-to-be free agent Michael Bourn will earn himself a nice fat contract this offseason.
However, how much more could he make if he elevates his play in the month of October?
Barring a repeat of last year's performance in the month of September, the Atlanta Braves appear to be headed to the postseason. They currently hold a 5.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and a host of other teams with 18 games to play (as of Thursday afternoon).
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien believes that Bourn will be looking for a five- or six-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million annually.
What does that figure become if Bourn hits .350 and provides a major spark that moves the Braves further into the playoffs?
With injuries to Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been forced to juggle his lineup to come up with replacements in his outfield.
One player Showalter has turned to is 30-year-old Nate McLouth, released by the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this season after hitting only .140 in 34 games.
For the O's, however, McLouth has been a breath of fresh air, hitting .279 with two homers and 13 RBI, delivering the game-winning hit on Wednesday night in a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. This keeps the Orioles tied with the New York Yankees at the top of the AL East.
McLouth is a free agent at the end of the season. If the Orioles make their first postseason appearance since 1997, McLouth could well have the opportunity to earn himself a considerable raise over his $1.75 million salary in 2012.
Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy has put together a nice bounce-back season, posting a 3.27 ERA in 28 starts with a tidy 1.121 WHIP.
Peavy's contract will expire at the end of the season, unless the White Sox pick up his 2013 option for $22 million.
That would almost seem improbable at this point.
A strong October from Peavy, however, could entice the White Sox, or possibly another team, to make Peavy a solid two- or three-year contract offer that would keep him flush with money.
Will he get anything close to an annual value of a Cole Hamels or Matt Cain? No, but if Peavy leads the White Sox deep into the playoffs in October, a three-year, $39-$42 million deal wouldn't be out of the question.
Peavy has shown durability this season and recent starts don't show any pattern of regression. At 31 years of age, there appears to be life left in what was once a Cy Young arm.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos really shouldn't be on this list, considering he isn't eligible for free agency until 2016.
However, a nice payday could certainly be in the cards for Latos this offseason if he continues delivering in October the way he has in the second half of the season.
After a shaky start, Latos has posted a 5-2 record and 3.14 ERA since the All-Star break; a full run better than the first half. Together with the Johnny Cueto, the two form a more-than-solid one-two punch for the upcoming playoffs. In any short series, that's a major plus.
Latos has never participated in postseason play, so he's an unknown commodity in October. However, he could earn a nice paycheck if he comes up big.
At 37 years of age, Torii Hunter appears to be turning back the clock.
The Los Angeles Angels right fielder is on his way to posting the highest batting average of his career—a .309 mark heading into weekend play—and could eclipse the 20 HR, 90 RBI plateau by season's end.
Not bad for a guy on the back end of a career.
If the Angels can secure a postseason berth, Hunter will have another opportunity to pad a playoff resume that's already pretty good.
Hunter has a .305 lifetime average in October baseball, a full .029 points higher than his regular-season mark. For the Angels, Hunter has hit .314 in three postseason series' with one homer and 10 RBI in 13 games.
Hunter is in the final season of a five-year, $90 million contract. A huge deal won't be coming his way regardless of his performance in October, if the Angels make it that far.
However, it's not inconceivable that Hunter could earn a contract that could take him through to retirement with inspired play in October.
Since his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers from the Philadelphia Phillies in late July, Shane Victorino has lived a relatively quiet existence.
Hitting just .245 in 38 games, the Flyin' Hawaiian has not provided the type of spark hoped for by the Dodgers when they acquired him.
Victorino is in the final season of a three-year, $22 million contract and has stated he would be open to staying in L.A.
If the Dodgers qualify for the postseason, they'll have Victorino's extensive playoff experience to rely on during his years in Philly. Victorino has posted a lifetime .269 postseason average.
However, what becomes of Victorino's value if he reverses course and comes alive in the playoffs?
With Carl Crawford on the books, it's unlikely that he gets a long-term deal with the Dodgers, but there will definitely be other suitors out there ready to pounce if Victorino comes up big this October.
Los Angeles Dodgers closer Brandon League has taken over closing duties for manager Don Mattingly while Kenley Jansen is sidelined with an irregular heartbeat.
League has responded, not allowing a run in 12 appearances since Aug. 17.
League is a free agent at the end of the season, and will likely move back to a set-up role when Jansen returns later this month. However, a nice contract for the future isn't out of the question if League continues to pitch inspired baseball into the month of October—if the Dodgers indeed make it that far.
This season has seen many inconsistent performances from closers. If he comes up big in October, League would be an attractive option for any team looking to solidify the back end of their bullpen.
At the end of postseason play this year, New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher will be looking for a new contract.
Reaching the end of his six-year, $36 million deal, it's being reported that Swisher could be seeking a deal similar to the one given to right fielder Jayson Werth by the Washington Nationals.
Swisher could play himself into a nice contract if he can somehow find a way to reverse an alarming trend—a lifetime .169 average in postseason play.
Swisher has yet to show he can be a man to be counted on in the playoffs. If he really wants a deal similar to Werth's, Swisher is going to need to show he is indeed worth that money when it comes to crunch time.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates can somehow bounce back over the final two-plus weeks and become eligible for the postseason, reliever Jason Grilli will have an opportunity to pick up some extra change in his next contract.
Grilli has reinvented himself as a reliever since joining the Pirates in July 2011, posting a 2.74 ERA since that time entering play this weekend.
Grilli is making $1.1 million this season. That number could jump exponentially if he comes up big in October.
In the final season of a four-year, $41 million contract, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse is doing his best to show he's worthy of another nice payday.
At 14-3 with a 2.81 ERA, Lohse has been outstanding, especially in the absence of veteran Chris Carpenter.
However, if Lohse wants to maximize his worth this offseason, he will absolutely need to improve on a career 5.54 ERA in the postseason. If the Cardinals make it that far, that is.
If Lohse can reverse past history, he could very well expect to continue bringing home plenty of bacon.
For the past five seasons, Mike Adams has been one of the best and most consistent right-handed relievers in all of baseball.
Adams and closer Joe Nathan have been terrific for the Texas Rangers in the back end of the bullpen.
When the Rangers conclude their season, presumably some time in October, Adams will likely earn a nice multi-year deal; if not from the Rangers, then surely from someone else who will pay handsomely for his services.
Adams got his first taste of postseason action last year for the Rangers, posting a 3.24 ERA in 11 October appearances.
If Adams can better that mark this October, he will indeed command a nice payday on the open market this offseason.
As the Texas Rangers look to secure a third straight berth in the postseason, reliever Mark Lowe just hopes to be healthy when the playoffs begin.
In his previous two seasons, Lowe was injured and not on the active postseason roster for the Rangers in the first two playoff series' each season.
His 37.80 ERA in World Series action in four appearances certainly isn't flattering, either. Lowe hopes to drastically change that when the Rangers start play in early October.
Lowe made $1.7 million this season, posting a 2.61 ERA in 34 appearances thus far. While he likely won't be looking at offers worth $5 million annually, a strong showing in the playoffs could still earn Lowe a nice payday.
The Washington Nationals signed starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to a one-year, $11 million contract this offseason to add an experienced arm to an otherwise young starting rotation.
Jackson has more than provided stability, posting a solid 3.85 ERA in 27 starts. He gives the Nationals an excellent four-man rotation heading into the postseason, even without superstar Stephen Strasburg.
If Jackson can produce this October, there's no reason to think he couldn't command a nice multi-year deal this offseason, provided he doesn't repeat his demands from last winter.