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MLB Free Agency: 10 Players Who Are Irreplaceable After Playoff Performances

John AltamuraContributor IIOctober 23, 2012

MLB Free Agency: 10 Players Who Are Irreplaceable After Playoff Performances

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    The Detroit Tigers return to the World Series for the second time in the past decade on Wednesday night against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

    Detroit was led this postseason by a collection of pending free-agent talent including Anibal Sanchez, Jhonny Peralta and ALCS MVP Delmon Young. These players have all proved to be irreplaceable during the 2012 postseason. 

    Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski will have several key free-agent decisions to make after the conclusion of the World Series. The next week or so should answer a lot of questions regarding the fate of pending Tigers free agents and others. 

    Here are 10 players who have made themselves irreplaceable after their strong postseason performances.    

Marco Scutaro, 2B

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    What better place to start on a list like this than with the reigning NLCS MVP?

    Marco Scutaro is affectionately referred to as the "blockbuster" by his teammates due to his incredible impact as an under-the-radar midseason acquisition from the Colorado Rockies.

    Scutaro's 14 hits tied an NLCS record, and his toughness displayed after being the victim of a dirty slide by Matt Holliday clearly motivated his teammates and engineered a comeback.

    Scutaro's emergence is a great story—one that could end with a World Series ring on his finger.

Jhonny Peralta, SS

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    Jhonny Peralta has had a stellar postseason. So good, in fact, that you could say he should have been awarded the ALCS MVP instead of Delmon Young.

    Peralta had a fantastic series against the New York Yankees, posting a .389 batting average with two home runs, three RBI and a 1.119 OPS. His glove was almost as valuable as his bat, as he made several key defensive plays during the ALCS.

    Overall, he is batting .343 with two home runs and three RBI this postseason.

    With a thin free-agent shortstop crop, it will be interesting to see what happens to Peralta. The Tigers will definitely have a big decision to make, but a $6 million option to retain his services seems pretty reasonable.

David Ross, C

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    This year's postseason was a brief but memorable one for Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross.

    In the Wild Card elimination game, Ross played superbly, going 3-for-4 with one home run and two RBI. His efforts, however, came up short as the Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Ross could fill a role for the Braves until Brian McCann comes back from shoulder surgery. His familiarity with the Braves pitching staff and his veteran leadership could prove invaluable.

Ichiro Suzuki, OF

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    Ichiro Suzuki was one of the only Yankees who had a strong postseason. He posted good numbers (.275 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI, .710 OPS) and showed life both offensively and defensively.

    The Yankees acquired Suzuki in a pre-trade deadline deal in July. It seemed the change of scenery energized Suzuki, as he posted good numbers down the stretch. 

    With so many offseason questions to answer, Brian Cashman and company will have to decide whether or not to tender a contract to Suzuki, who has 2,606 career hits entering 2013.

Jeremy Affeldt, LHP

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    An unsung hero of the San Francisco Giants' bullpen, Jeremy Affeldt has been on an absolute tear through the postseason.

    The late-inning lefty shut down both the Cincinatti Reds and St. Louis Cardinals in eight games, allowing no runs through 8.1 innings while striking out six and walking only one. 

    Though San Francisco has two other strong southpaws in their bullpen in Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares, the job Affeldt has done in the postseason further bolsters an already impressive regular-season resume. 

Ryan Ludwick, OF

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    The Cincinnati Reds captured the NL Central crown in 2012 with a combination of strong starting pitching and capable bats the likes of Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.

    Another Reds player who had a strong regular season (.275 BA, 26 HR, 80 RBI) is the well-traveled Ryan Ludwick.

    The 10-year MLB veteran made his impact felt in the postseason, batting .333 with three home runs, four RBI and a whopping 1.288 OPS.

    Ludwick recently turned down the $5 million mutual option left on his contract with the Reds. Now, Cincinnati will need to decide whether or not Ludwick deserves a hefty raise despite his .263 career batting average.

Anibal Sanchez, RHP

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    Anibal Sanchez's regular-season stats were mediocre at best, as he posted a 4-6 record with a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts with the Tigers.

    He has come up big in the postseason, however, posting a 1-1 record with a 1.35 ERA through three games. His most impressive outing took place during Game 2 of the ALCS, where he pitched the Tigers to a 3-0 victory over the New York Yankees.

    It will be interesting to see whether or not Sanchez can continue this momentum into the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. One thing is for sure: If he continues to pitch well in October, the Tigers will be hard-pressed to let him go.

Hiroki Kuroda, SP

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    The New York Yankees made a couple of moves during the 2011-12 offseason to shore up their starting rotation. One move that paid off during both the regular and postseason was the free-agent signing of Hiroki Kuroda.

    The former Los Angeles Dodgers hurler came to the AL and had a very good freshman campaign, posting a 16-11 record with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts. His solid pitching carried over into the postseason, as he posted an 0-1 record with a 2.81 ERA.

    His best game came against the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS. Kuroda pitched admirably in the loss, tossing 7.2 innings of five-hit, three-run ball, striking out 11.

Joe Saunders, SP

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    Joe Saunders was one of the most reliable starters for the Baltimore Orioles during the pennant race and the 2012 postseason.

    Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a post-trade deadline deal, Saunders was key for the Orioles down the stretch (3-3 record, 3.63 ERA).

    He was selected by Orioles manager Buck Showalter to start the single-elimination Wild Card Game against the Texas Rangers and pitched 5.2 innings of one-run, six-hit ball.

    He finished the postseason with a 1-0 record and a 1.59 ERA.

Delmon Young, OF

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    The Detroit Tigers return to the World Series for the second time in the past decade, and one of the players responsible for their resurgence to the top of the AL is Delmon Young.

    The ALCS MVP terrorized the New York Yankees, posting a .353 batting average with two home runs and six RBI in the four-game sweep.

    Young is batting .294 with two home runs and eight RBI through nine postseason games. If he continues this torrid hitting, the Tigers will have no choice but to re-sign him once the free-agent period begins.  

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