10 MLB Players Who Played Their Ways into Huge Contracts in 2012
Contracts and salaries in baseball have risen exponentially over the last 20 years. The issue has even been a major talking point in this postseason, as the Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez has struggled immensely, despite making almost $30 million this season.
To commit to paying a player that much money can be a risk. It can tie a team up and rob them of roster flexibility or it can pay off and secure a great player.
The 2013 free agent class isn't very strong, but there are still a few players who have played themselves into a good position heading into free agency this offseason.
Josh Hamilton, OF
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Josh Hamilton will be the ultimate prize in the free agent class of 2013. He finished second to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in home runs (43) and RBI (128) this season and hit above .300 for his career.
There are concerns, though, like his history of off-the-field issues, coupled with the fact that he has played 135 games in a season just twice (2008 and 2012).
That won't matter too much, though. There aren't many players in all of baseball who can hit 43 home runs and drive in 128, and only one of them is available this offseason.
Michael Bourn, OF
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Michael Bourn's 2012 season wasn't the best of his career. He failed to lead the National League in stolen bases for the first time since 2008, set a career-worst mark in strikeouts (155) and saw his average fall 20 points from last year.
However, he has still earned himself a decent payday this winter. He played in all but seven games this year, stole 42 bases and hit more home runs (9) than he had in the last three seasons combined.
He also walked a lifetime-best 70 times and continued to be impressive in center field. He won Gold Gloves in 2008 and 2009.
Jake Peavy, SP
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Jake Peavy had a remarkable season and for a long time was a legitimate Cy Young Award contender before falling away a little down the stretch.
The 2007 NL Cy winner had struggled to find form and stay on the field since he joined the Chicago White Sox but finally had a solid season.
He pitched 219 innings, had a 129 ERA+ and struck out 194. All were the highest he's managed since that 2007 campaign.
Brandon League, RHP
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Brandon League had a good year overall but it was his performance down the stretch after a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers that will have boosted his value.
The Dodgers failed to reach the playoffs despite a raft of midseason acquisitions, but League pitched very well.
In LA, he had a 2.30 ERA and 1.134 WHIP, striking out 8.9 batters per inning.
Nick Swisher, OF
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Nick Swisher can count himself lucky that he is hitting the free agent market this year. He'll be 32, it's not a particularly strong class, and he has proven he can perform at a high level on the big stage in his four years with the Yankees.
Swisher has played at least 148 games in each of the last seven seasons and with New York, and has averaged 27 home runs and 84 RBI over that stretch. With New York, he also improved his batting average, and has hit at a .274 clip over the last three years.
Kyle Lohse, SP
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For a team now just two games away from the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals are full of players who can count 2012 as a great season. None of them can think of the year like Kyle Lohse, though, who had a breakout performance.
His 16-3 record represented the league's best winning percentage, he had a 2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 3.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He's also pitched well in the postseason, further cementing his place as one of the most attractive pitching options available this winter.
BJ Upton, OF
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BJ Upton's batting average is not going to win any awards. After hitting .300 in 2007, he has had an average above .250 just once.
However, his defense is decent, he can steal 40 bases, and this season he also exhibited some power, setting a career-best with 28 long balls.
David Ortiz, DH
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There really isn't a market for David Ortiz any more. A career designated hitter, who will turn 37 this November and missed the last two months of this season with an Achilles injury should not be able to demand as much as he is.
Reportedly, Papi wants a two-year contract, probably in the region of the $14 million he made this season.
The Boston Red Sox are the only team who will even consider paying him that much but even they may be loath to do so. They know he likes being with the team, he's aging, recovering from injury, and the Sox are in rebuilding mode; all of these things diminish his value.
His numbers, though, might land him the deal he wants. Before his injury, Ortiz was on pace for around 35 home runs and 100 runs batted in. His slash line was .318/.415/.611...all the best he's posted since 2007.
Edwin Jackson, SP
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Edwin Jackson bounced around a lot before landing in Washington this year. He pitched reasonably well, despite a 10-11 record. But it's his continuing durability that will stand him in good stead in the market.
Jackson has pitched over 180 innings in each of the last five seasons and since he became a starter in 2007, he has made at least 31 starts every year.
Adam LaRoche, 1B
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The fact Adam LaRoche has played for five different teams since 2009 is more due to bad luck than his talent. He was traded to Boston in July 2009, then traded to Atlanta nine days later.
This season, with the Washington Nationals, he hit .271 while setting career-highs in home runs (33) and RBI (100).