The season is over for the majority of MLB teams, and all the clubs that did not make the playoffs will be looking to add a big bat to ensure that they are playing baseball instead of watching it at this time next year.
Inserting a potent hitter in the middle of a club’s lineup can be the spark it needs to lead the team to the postseason.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Carlos Beltran, as well as the Detroit Tigers and Prince Fielder, are evidence of this.
Here are the hitters that will make the most wave in this year’s free agency market.
Josh Hamilton, CF, Texas Rangers
No hitter will attract as much attention from both the press and other teams during the offseason.
Hamilton is one of the most naturally gifted hitters in baseball, and is coming off a season in which he hit a career-best 43 home runs. He is 31-years-old and will likely come with a hefty price tag, but few players offer the same production at the plate.
With a résumé that includes five All-Star appearances, an MVP award and a career batting average of .304, he would certainly improve any lineup.
But teams will have to make a decision on whether he is worth the massive contract he will likely receive before the start of next season.
Lance Berkman, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
At 38-years-old, Berkman may be limited to signing with only AL teams and playing as a DH, but he can still be a productive hitter if he remains healthy.
He appeared in just 32 games this year because of injury, but is also just a season removed from a year in which he hit 31 home runs and batted .301.
Berkman’s ability to hit the ball is not in doubt, but his ability to stay on the field certainly is. Whichever team looks at Berkman as an option will be taking a risk.
But with risk comes reward, and if Berkman is healthy next season, whichever team he plays for will be extremely pleased with their decision to sign him.
B.J. Upton, CF, Tampa Bay Rays
Which free agent hitter will offer the most value next season?
Upton is a fantastic talent who has never quite lived up to expectations.
He has flashed brilliance at times in his career, hitting .300 and cracking 24 home runs in 2007, but has not put together a string of consistent seasons.
This will be a serious concern for club’s offering the 27-year-old a long-term deal, but his 28 home runs, in addition to his potential, will certainly land him a hefty pay day before next season.
The team that signs him will not be entirely sure what they are getting across several seasons, but when Upton is at his best, he is certainly a potent bat that will vastly improve the lineup he is in.