There's an interesting crop of free agents this winter, much like every year.
What makes this group unique is the number of established stars without championships. These are players who have little else to prove individually. They have MVPs, All-Star selections and Cy Youngs, but are missing that piece of jewelry that every ballplayer strives for.
Here are the top eight players from this year's market who need a title for their legacies. I left out a few players (David Wright, Tim Hudson, Curtis Granderson, etc.) who have team options for next year and are not unrestricted free agents yet.
Dan Haren has quietly been a very solid, very reliable starter for a decade now. He's made three All-Star appearances while winning 119 games, striking out over 1,500 batters and posting a career 3.66 ERA for four different teams in both the AL and NL.
The shame is that some of Haren’s best seasons came in years his team didn’t make the playoffs, thus leaving him without a ring. The 32-year-old will likely sign his last contract this offseason and will be a valuable arm in the rotation for a club looking to compete for a championship.
Jose Valverde has emerged as one of the top closers in the game. Since 2007, he has saved at least 35 games four times and led the league twice.
Papa Grande’s best season came in 2011 when he converted all 49 save opportunities.
The 34-year-old looks to help the Tigers capture the title this year after losing in the ALCS last season. The final three outs are the toughest to get, and a World Series ring would help cement Valverde’s excellence in that area.
Zack Greinke is the top pitcher on the market this offseason and will have a deservedly high asking price.
He won the AL Cy in 2009, which is still his best season to date. Traded to the Angels at the deadline this year, Greinke pitched very well down the stretch.
The numbers are all there for the 28-year-old. Although he hasn’t pitched particularly well in the postseason yet, the team that signs him this winter will look to give him some more chances.
Jake Peavy was one of the game’s best pitchers for the Padres from 2004-2008. His best season was 2007, when he won the Cy Young and the National League’s Triple Crown for pitching.
Unfortunately, injuries became a common theme after he was traded to the White Sox in 2009. Still, as it stands, Peavy has won 120 games, struck out over 1,700 batters and posted a career 3.46 ERA in 11 seasons. A world championship would be a nice cherry on top to a fine career.
He had a strong 2012 (32 starts, 200-plus innings, 3.37 ERA), and at 31 years of age, he may still have some good years left if a contender decides to sign him.
Carlos Lee has been an under-the-radar player despite signing a six-year, $100 million contract with Houston in 2006.
It hasn’t helped that he has played for some bad teams. He experienced the postseason once in 2000 with the White Sox.
Still, the numbers add up to a very solid big league career. Lee is a lifetime .285 hitter with over 2,000 hits, 1,300 RBI and is approaching 400 home runs.
The 36-year-old hits free agency as a part-time player or full-time DH at best. He may add to his career stats a little, but what would look good is a championship next to his name.
In his prime, Torii Hunter was the best center fielder in baseball and a terrific bat in the lineup.
He left the smaller market Twins in 2008 for the sunny skies of California. Despite individual and team success with the Angels, Hunter has yet to suit up during the Fall Classic.
The 38-year-old had a strong second half in 2012, proving he still has a little left in the tank. If he doesn’t re-sign in Los Angeles, he will definitely find another home with a contender to make a push for that elusive championship.
Ichiro Suzuki burst on to the American League scene in 2001, winning the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards and never looking back.
During his 12-year career, the 10-time All Star has won 10 Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, two AL batting championships and set the single-season hits record in 2004 with 262 hits.
In 11 seasons in Seattle, Ichiro tasted playoff baseball once in 2001, when the Mariners tied a major league record with 116 wins before losing in the ALCS to New York.
There is little else individually the 38-year-old can accomplish. The only thing he's missing is a World Series ring, and there's a good chance he wins one this year with the Yankees. If not, he'll have an opportunity in the offseason to sign with a team that does.
Josh Hamilton is the free-agent prize this offseason. The 31-year-old is one of the most talented players to ever wear a baseball uniform.
Despite his well-documented troubles, Hamilton has still managed to live up to the expectations that made him the first overall pick in 1999. He has five All-Star appearances, American League and ALCS MVPs, two Silver Sluggers, a batting title, an RBI title and other awards still to come after this season.
There is really only one glaring omission from that list: a world championship. Hamilton has had two cracks at it already, but his teams fell short. There is an outside chance he wins one this year as well.
A player like Hamilton just seems like he was born to play on baseball’s biggest stage, so it’ll be tough to see him call it a career without a ring.