5 MLB Teams That Will Be Active Buyers on the Free-Agent Market

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IIOctober 6, 2012

5 MLB Teams That Will Be Active Buyers on the Free-Agent Market

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    Technically, open season on MLB free agents does not begin until the sixth day after the World Series concludes.

    But you could forgive most fans for feeling like free agent season really began Friday night, with Josh Hamilton being booed off the field in his last two at-bats as the Texas Rangers bowed quietly to the Baltimore Orioles in the one-game playoff between the two American League wild cards.

    When Hamilton said it "doesn't matter if I play here or somewhere else," you figure he meant he'll be playing somewhere other than Texas in 2013.  

    He won't be the only one.

    Other prominent players looking for huge dollars (and possibly new uniforms) include Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Zack Greinke.

    These are just some of the players—who the likely active buyers this offseason—will be vying for.

Boston Red Sox

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    After the megadeal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers—getting the Red Sox off the hook for more than $250 million in salary—team management's message was one of conservatism.

    That's great. But they have no manager, two empty outfield positions, no first baseman and at least one gaping hole in the starting rotation. Boston could also use a shortstop.

    So while GM Ben Cherington would love to build slowly from within the organization, a 69-win season more than likely forces him to go right back into the free agent market—fists full of cash—looking to plug the gaps.

Texas Rangers

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    Assuming the aforementioned Hamilton will be leaving, the Texas Rangers will suddenly need to replace 43 home runs and 128 runs batted in—production that is easy to get used to and difficult to live without.

    Unfortunately for the Rangers, Hamilton is by far the most capable power hitter in this year's free agent class.

    With that said, Texas will probably need to pursue players the likes of Nick Swisher or Carlos Quentin until more impressive 2014 and 2015 free agents become available.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    The midseason trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence brought the Philadelphia Phillies modest returns in terms of prospects and bench depth at the major league level.

    But those trades saved the Phillies from committing another eight figure salary to Pence or re-signing Victorino for too many years and too much money.

    Make no mistake: the Phillies cannot spend recklessly this offseason.

    Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay are on the books for nearly $100 million in 2013. In addition, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Jonathan Papelbon will make just shy of $38 million more.

    Still, the Phillies' payroll was $174 million entering 2012. There should be room for at least one marquee signing.

    The Phillies need a center fielder, an upgrade in middle relief, an eighth-inning hurler and a third baseman.  

    Ruben Amaro Jr. will have his hands full trying to fill all of these positions, especially from this free agent crop.

Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals have two of the best young players in the game in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Their starting rotation is so deep and so young (Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann) that the Nationals controversially shelved Strasburg before the playoffs even started.

    The Nats won 98 games this season. For their National League opponents, the scary part is that they did so without the benefit of an impact free agent signing. 

    Jayson Werth made $13.5 million this season while only playing in half of his team's games (5 HR, 31 RBI and 42 runs scored while slugging only .440 is not "seven years, $126 million" production).

    With their newfound success will come new revenue streams, so the Nationals will have money to spend, especially since they came into 2012 20th out of 30 teams in player salaries.

    Nationals' fans will be full of excitement, imagining what one or two impact signings might do for a team that is already on a violent upswing.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    After taking on three of the Boston Red Sox's most expensive (and disappointing) players in what turned out to be a failed playoff bid, you might think that the Los Angeles Dodgers have buyer's remorse.

    If anything, though, the Dodgers' smoke signals indicate that money is no issue.

    Not when the revenue that the team's television rights might create could make the franchise effectively immune to expenses such as luxury tax.

    So the Dodgers—who are undoubtedly tired of staring at the back of the San Francisco Giants' jerseys as the Giants cross the finish line first—might be extremely aggressive in the offseason.