Predicting 20 MLB Free Agents in the Playoffs Who'll Have the Most Suitors

Greg Pinto@@Greg_PintoCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2012

Predicting 20 MLB Free Agents in the Playoffs Who'll Have the Most Suitors

0 of 20

    Here's a rising trend for you: One thing that MLB owners and front office executives have shown in recent seasons is that they will pay for performance when it matters the most—in the postseason. 

    Sure, talent is talent. You don't necessarily have to perform well in the playoffs to have a couple of suitors in the following offseason, but if you perform well when the season is on the line, the suitors line up around the block. 

    With the 2012 postseason set to be bigger than ever, there will be no shortage of intriguing free agents or potential suitors this winter. 

    We'll see some of the most interesting free agent cases of all-time, a few locks, a few surprises and everything in between, but one thing that you could bet your bottom dollar on is that there will plenty of suitors for free agents this winter. 

    Here are some players in the postseason who will have plenty of suitors this offseason to keep an eye on. 

20. Jose Valverde

1 of 20

    The Line: 69 IP, 3.78 ERA (3.62 FIP), 35 SV, 1.78 K/BB

    Jose Valverde didn't have the best year of his career in 2012, but he's spent the three seasons closing for one of baseball's perennial contenders in the Detroit Tigers and that should have the suitors lining up. 

    His numbers aren't indicative of a dominant closer but that shouldn't stop the interest. At the very least, Valverde is a good set-up man who has experience pitching the ninth inning, so that should drive the interest up. 

    Of course, he didn't blow a single save in 2011 either, so there's that. 

    Stats through 10/2/12.

19. Adam LaRoche

2 of 20

    The Line: .269 / .341 / .502, 32 HR

    I'm not sure that any free agent on the market this winter has made more of a turnaround from the end of 2011 to the end of 2012 than Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche. 

    LaRoche didn't play much in 2011 thanks to a shoulder injury that would eventually require surgery, but even in the time that he was on the field, he just wasn't very good. You can chalk that up to the injury, if that's what floats your boat. 

    LaRoche's boat will undoubtedly be floating on the fact that he can officially put the 2011 season behind him as an aberration and look forward. 

    The Nationals hold a $10 million mutual option on the first baseman for next season, but it may end up being LaRoche who turns it down. There aren't many impact first basemen available this winter and I see no reason that he can't guarantee himself a multi-year deal. 

18. Mike Napoli

3 of 20

    The Line: .232 / .349 / .478, 24 HR

    Is Mike Napoli a catcher or a first baseman moving forward? That question could determine just how many suitors he has this offseason when he hits the free agent market. 

    Teams that consider Napoli to be a catcher would obviously love to have his offensive numbers from that position. He would provide plus-power and good on-base skills from a normally weak offensive position. But he's not the most graceful catcher to play the game, and doesn't get much better at first base. 

    If you do consider him to be a first baseman, however, he is one of the most attractive offensive options available at the position this winter. 

    Either way, plenty of teams will be in contact with the slugger this offseason. 

    Stats through 10/1/12.

17. Mike Gonzalez

4 of 20

    The Line: 34.2 IP, 3.12 ERA (2.95 FIP), 2.53 K/BB

    Quality left-handed relievers are always in high demand and Mike Gonzalez is one of the best available (and pitching in the postseason) this season. 

    Gonzalez never really lived up to the hype with the Baltimore Orioles, who had originally acquired him to be their closer, but has had a renaissance of sorts with the Washington Nationals. 

    Even if clubs don't want to count on him late in ball games, they'll be interested in his services as a left-handed specialist, and that's at the low end of the spectrum.

    Stats through 10/2/12.

16. Grant Balfour

5 of 20

    The Line: 73.2 IP, 2.57 ERA (3.06 FIP), 24 SV, 2.54 K/BB

    Quality relievers are hard to come by and Grant Balfour is among the best available this winter. 

    Teams that come calling are going to value his experience. This upcoming postseason as a member of the Oakland Athletics will be the fourth of Balfour's career and mark the third different club he's been in the playoffs with.

    Balfour has experience pitching in several different bullpen roles, including as a closer and set-up man. He shouldn't have a problem hooking on with a contender.

    Stats through 10/2/12.

15. Joe Saunders

6 of 20

    The Line: 9-13, 4.07 ERA (4.08 FIP), 2.87 K/BB

    I think that teams like Joe Saunders because you know what you're going to get. He helps stabilize a starting rotation. 

    That's what the Arizona Diamondbacks thought last offseason when the released (a formality) and eventually re-signed Saunders to a one-year deal. When they fell out of contention, trading him was a simple decision. 

    The Baltimore Orioles were probably interested in acquiring him in August for the same reason. He gives them a veteran arm with postseason experience and should help a young rotation getting their first glimpse of it. 

    Saunders should be quite valuable this winter. He's not going to command an exorbitant amount of money and should slip right into the back of a contender's rotation. 

    Stats through 10/2/12.

14. Stephen Drew

7 of 20

    The Line: .222 / .308 / .351, 7 HR

    Before suffering an ankle injury that would cost him big chunks of both the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Stephen Drew was easily one of the most dynamic offensive shortstops in the game. 

    But he has since fallen out of favor with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who sent him to the Oakland Athletics as part of a waiver deal last August. 

    While he has made improvements as a member of the A's, Drew is still struggling at the plate. Of course, he missed nearly an entire year thanks to that ankle injury and you could still conceivably chalk his numbers up to the infamous "rust." 

    Both the A's and Drew hold a $10 million mutual option for the 2013 season, but I expect the A's to decline their end. Even if Drew only winds up with a one-year deal, there will still be plenty of interest. He's a great "high reward" option.

    Stats through 10/1/12.

13. Russell Martin

8 of 20

    The Line: .210 / .309 / .402, 21 HR

    Catching is always at a premium on the free agent market and Russell Martin is one of the best catchers available this winter, despite the unimpressive slash line he accumulated as a member of the New York Yankees this season. 

    Martin played an acceptable defensive backstop and was able to stay relatively healthy this year. Teams will value his experience above all else and he'll be a valuable commodity to both teams in need of a starting catcher and clubs that believe they can talk him into playing a lesser role. 

    The biggest concern is whether or not he can make those big power numbers stick. Martin played his home games in the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium this season and his splits show that—13 home runs at home, eight on the road. 

    Stats through 10/1/12.

12. Josh Hamilton

9 of 20

    The Line: .286 / .356 / .580, 43 HR

    Josh Hamilton is poised to have one of the most interesting offseasons of all-time, but that's just my opinion. If you're looking for fact—his free agency will certainly kick up a fair share of debate. 

    Most of the topics will center around this central theme: How do you weight the risk against the reward? 

    Hamilton's history is well documented. While his drug addiction is a thing of the past, his battles with alcoholism are much more recent and he has relapsed as recently as 2012. While he seems to have a good handle on the situation, it's volatile. Things can change in a hurry. 

    How can you justify spending what will likely be more than $100 million on a player like Hamilton? He'd be worth every penny if you look at the numbers alone, but outside of the numbers, an entirely different story exists. 

    I think that the debate will draw in a number of suitors for Hamilton. If the price falls far enough among large market teams that teams with mid-level payrolls can jump in, he'll have no shortage of suitors. 

    This is a game changing bat.

    Stats through 10/1/12.

11. Marco Scutaro

10 of 20

    The Line: .305 / .347 / .403, 7 HR

    Marco Scutaro seems to be stuck under the radar, but that won't stop more than a handful of teams from vying for his services this winter. 

    Scutaro, who signed a one-year deal with the Colorado Rockies before the season, was traded to the San Francisco Giants relatively early in the year as they attempted to settle their infield depth issues. 

    He has played second base, third base and shortstop this season and Scutaro's offensive numbers have taken off since he joined the Giants. He could realistically be valuable to teams in need of a middle infielder or a quality utility man. 

    Stats through 10/1/12.

10. Edwin Jackson

11 of 20

    The Line: 9-11, 4.13 ERA (3.93 FIP), 2.84 K/BB

    There are a few quality starting pitchers available this winter, but not many of them will be on display in the postseason. One guy to keep an eye on is Washington Nationals' pitcher Edwin Jackson. 

    Jackson seems to be one of those pitchers that is constantly underrated. He couldn't find a multiyear deal suitable to his (or agent Scott Boras') liking last winter and signed a one-year deal with the Nats instead. 

    Now he'll have another opportunity to prove that he can handle the stress of pitching in a big-game situation yet again. 

    Boras will likely think otherwise, but if his demands are in line with being one of the best "mid-tier" starting pitchers available, Jackson will have plenty of suitors. 

9. Jonathan Broxton

12 of 20

    The Line: 57.2 IP, 2.34 ERA (3.06 FIP), 27 SV, 2.59 K/BB

    Jonathan Broxton is an interesting name to keep an eye on. 

    Injured for most of the 2011 season, Broxton came into this season looking to prove that he can still be a dominant reliever in the back end of a bullpen and largely succeeded. The Kansas City Royals traded him to the contending Cincinnati Reds and he's been excellent since. 

    Broxton spent some time in the closer's role in the absence of Aroldis Chapman and has pitched well as one of the club's set-up men. 

    He should have plenty of suitors this winter. 

    Stats through 10/2/12.

8. Kyle Lohse

13 of 20

    The Line: 16-3, 2.86 ERA (3.51 FIP), 3.76 K/BB

    Kyle Lohse is going to be one of this offseason's most interesting free agent cases. 

    If you're only looking at the traditional statistics like wins, losses and ERA, Lohse has easily been one of the best starting pitchers in the game this season and he'll want to be paid like one. 

    The SABRmetrics tell a completely different story. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is nearly a full run higher than his ERA and his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABip) is just .262, which suggests that his success was aided by a considerable amount of luck. 

    I'm sure that teams will certainly be interested in Lohse, especially as a middle of the rotation starter. However, you have to wonder how many front offices will be turned off by the distance between advanced and traditional statistics. 

    Stats through 10/2/12.

7.Hiroki Kuroda

14 of 20

    The Line: 15-11, 3.34 ERA (3.90 FIP), 3.33 K/BB

    Quality starting pitchers are hard to come by. Quality starting pitchers that aren't going to see a long-term deal are even more of a rarity, and that will certainly be a draw for Hiroki Kuroda this winter. 

    Kuroda, who wound up signing a one-year deal with the New York Yankees last offseason, has only preferred to play in certain geographical locations in the past, but that won't stop teams from calling. 

    Teams in need of starting pitching depth (and how many aren't?) will likely give Kuroda's agent a call. At 37 years old, he'll be more willing to accept a short-term deal and that's a big plus for a lot of clubs.

    Stats through 10/2/12.

6. Anibal Sanchez

15 of 20

    The Line: 9-13, 3.86 ERA (3.53 FIP), 3.48 K/BB

    Being traded to the Detroit Tigers was probably the best thing that could have happened to Anibal Sanchez this season. 

    Sanchez opened the season with the Miami Marlins, who wouldn't go on to have the best of years. Meanwhile, Sanchez would help the Tigers jump over the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central race and now, will have a chance to pitch in the postseason for the first time in his career. 

    A solid postseason could result in quite a payday for Sanchez, who has proven that he can be—at least—a quality middle of the rotation starter.

    Stats through 10/2/12.

5. Michael Bourn

16 of 20

    The Line: .276 / .349 / .394, 9 HR, 40 SB

    Michael Bourn is going to have an intriguing offseason. 

    On the one hand, you have plenty of teams that will be looking for an upgrade in center field, including a potential three teams from the National League East in the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. 

    Bourn is arguably the best center fielder available this winter and he'll garner plenty of interest. Without a doubt, someone will pay him handsomely. 

    The real question is whether or not that is a wise investment. Bourn's greatest skill is his speed, and that tends to deteriorate rapidly as players age. Bourn stole 41 bases this season, down from 61 in 2011. 

    He's not the ideal leadoff hitter either. While he does manage to find ways on base, Bourn's strikeout percentage was 21.9 this season and his batting average on balls in play was an unsustainable .351, suggesting that there was a considerable amount of luck embedded in his success. 

    There is plenty of risk involved in signing Bourn, but plenty of upside as well. 

    Stats through 10/1/12.

4. Angel Pagan

17 of 20

    The Line: .289 / .339 / .441, 8 HR, 15 3B, 29 SB

    Good center fielders always find a lot of suitors on the free agent market, but at a glance, Angel Pagan may be the most valuable. 

    Sure, guys like Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino are probably better players, but dollar for dollar, Pagan could be a bargain compared to some of the price tags likely associated with the first tier of center fielders. 

    Playing in AT&T Park with the San Francisco Giants may have boosted his numbers a bit, but Pagan is an above average defensive center fielder with good speed and a solid bat. He'll make some team happy. 

    Stats through 10/2/12.

3. Nick Swisher

18 of 20

    The Line: .270 / .361 / .472, 24 HR

    The free agent market for outfielders is flush with center fielders, but premium corner outfielders are hard to come by, and depending on how you categorize Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher may be the best one in the 2012 postseason. 

    The law of supply and demand states that when there isn't abundance of a coveted good available, said object's price increases substantially, and that could be the case for Swisher. 

    He'll have plenty of suits, but most of them will speculate on just how much power he really has. Swisher played his home games in Yankee Stadium this season, but actually hit more home runs on the road—a good sign. 

    Swisher is a solid defender in right field and could help a team in the middle of the order. Not a bad sign if you don't overpay for him, by any means. 

    Stats through 10/2/12.

2. Jeremy Affeldt

19 of 20

    The Line: 63.1 IP, 2.70 ERA (2.73 FIP), 2.48 K/BB

    The one thing that is more valuable that a quality, right-handed set-up man is a quality, left-handed set-up man, and Jeremy Affeldt has quietly been having one of the best years of his career. 

    Affeldt has spent the last four seasons pitching out of the San Francisco Giants' bullpen and that pedigree should help him quite a bit this offseason. 

    He could easily step right into the bullpen of most contenders and be a reliable set-up man.

    Stats through 10/2/12.

1. Mike Adams

20 of 20

    The Line: 52.1 IP, 3.27 ERA (3.52 FIP), 2.65 K/BB

    As far as premium set-up men go, Mike Adams is as good as it gets. 

    He made his name pitching for the San Diego Padres for most of his career, but the Texas Rangers acquired him at the trade deadline last season and he has been every bit as good. 

    If anything, suitors will only be more intrigued about getting him out of the hitter friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. 

    Most teams are always in the market for quality relievers and Adams is one of the most consistent guys available this offseason. 

    Stats through 10/2/12.