MLB Free Agents 2013: Ranking the Top 10 Impact Players to Grab This Offseason
This year's upcoming free-agent class is headlined by a pair of superstars in Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, but there are a number of other high-impact players who could be changing teams this winter.
The class is deep on outfield talent and starting pitching, and while there is not quite as much star power as last year's free-agent class, it is a solid group nonetheless.
Here is a look at the top 10 impact free agents on the market, the guys who have the potential to make the biggest difference for the teams who sign them in the months ahead.
10. RP Mike Adams
61 G, 5-3, 3.27 ERA, 45 Ks, 52.1 IP
There may be no better setup man in baseball right now than Adams, and since the start of the 2008 season he's appeared in 297 games (59 per season) and posted a sterling 1.98 ERA and a 9.5 K/9 mark.
He earned just $4.4 million this past season in his final year of arbitration, and he could be looking at something comparable to the three-year, $35 million deal that Rafael Soriano signed with the Yankees prior to the 2011 season.
There are a handful of mid-level closers on the market, but the top reliever and one of the biggest impact pitchers on the market this season happens to be a setup man.
9. CF B.J. Upton
.246/.298/.454, 28 HR, 78 RBI, 79 R, 31 SB
As for pure tools and what he's gotten out of them, one can't help but call Upton a disappointment of sorts through the first eight years of his career.
However, he remains a consistent 20/20 threat who is more than capable of a 30/30 season, though he is still chasing the numbers he put up as a 22-year-old in 2007 when he had a stat line of .300 BA, 24 HR, 82 RBI and 22 SB.
On sheer potential alone, Upton has the ability to make a bigger impact than most guys on the market this season. A change of scenery and the fact that he is still in the peak of his career at the age of 28 points to the potential for a big impact wherever he ends up in 2013.
8. SP Kyle Lohse
33 GS, 16-3, 2.86 ERA, 143 Ks, 211 IP
When the Cardinals lost Chris Carpenter before the season even started, and with Adam Wainwright coming off Tommy John surgery, it was Lohse who assumed the role of staff ace in St. Louis.
He responded to the added pressures with the best season of his career, and in the final year of a four-year, $41 million deal, he stands to land one last big-money contract at the age of 34.
Chances seem remote that he'll be as great as he was this past season, but he has proved to be a reliable arm throughout his career and will be a welcome addition at or near the top of the rotation for whichever team signs him.
7. 1B Adam LaRoche
.271/.343/.510, 33 HR, 100 RBI, 76 R
After playing in just 43 games in 2011, LaRoche bounced back with a terrific year as he reached the 100-RBI mark for the second time in his career and set a new personal best with 33 home runs.
He has a $10 million mutual option for 2013, and while the Nationals will no doubt pick up their end of things, it seems like a safe bet that LaRoche will decline his and search for a multi-year deal coming off such good numbers.
It's a weak class for power hitters, and LaRoche may be the best option beyond Josh Hamilton once he hits the market. He's 32 years old, but should be able to fetch a contract in the neighborhood of a three-year, $40 million deal to hit in the middle of someone's order.
6. RF Nick Swisher
.272/.364/.473, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 75 R
He fell out of favor with Yankees fans with a dismal postseason showing, but Swisher has been a consistent performer in the middle of the Yankees lineup for the past four seasons.
With an average line of .268 BA, 26 HR and 87 RBI during his time in New York, Swisher is a reliable producer and one that figures to have at least a handful more similar seasons in him at just 31 years old.
The impact that Swisher makes for a team stretches beyond his production on the field though, as he is as positive of a clubhouse influence as there is in the game, and whoever signs him will be improving his team in more ways than one.
5. SP Brandon McCarthy
18 GS, 8-6, 3.24 ERA, 73 Ks, 111 IP
McCarthy has struggled with injuries throughout his career, and last season was no different as he was limited to just 18 starts.
When healthy, he's proved to be ace-caliber over the past two seasons with the A's, going 17-15 with a 3.29 ERA in 43 starts.
Based on the injury risk that accompanies him, he likely won't get a huge contract, though a multi-year deal seems likely. There may be safer options on the market, but in terms of potential impact, McCarthy is capable of making a big one if he stays healthy next season.
4. CF Michael Bourn
.274/.348/.391, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 96 R, 42 SB
Bourn has emerged as perhaps the best leadoff hitter in the game in recent years, and he is headed for a big payday as a result.
The Braves will make an effort to re-sign him, but they aren't likely to overpay for him, and with table-setting catalysts always in demand there will likely be at least a team or two willing to pay top dollar to add Bourn to their lineup.
A Gold Glove fielder with blazing speed and a healthy track record, don't be surprised if Bourn gets something in the neighborhood of a five-year, $60 million deal from a team desperate to upgrade its outfield.
3. SP Jake Peavy
32 GS, 11-12, 3.37 ERA, 194 Ks, 219 IP
The White Sox hold a team option on Peavy for 2013, but even with his resurgent season they'll likely opt to pay his $4 million buyout rather than picking up his $22 million contract for this coming season.
The former Cy Young winner is still only 31 years old, and with an injury-free season under his belt, he can once again be viewed as a solid, top-of-the-rotation starter who's capable of leading a staff when he's at his best.
He won't get as long or as lucrative of a deal as Zack Greinke, but he has to be viewed as the second-best starter on the market, and he'll be a major addition for whoever signs him this winter.
2. SP Zack Greinke
34 GS, 15-5, 3.48 ERA, 200 Ks, 212.1 IP
Greinke was acquired by the Angels at the deadline, as they shipped three of their top prospects to the Brewers to acquire the right-hander. He went 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts in Los Angeles and the Angels could make a run at re-signing him.
The 29-year-old is the only true ace-caliber pitcher on the market, and after turning down a $100 million-plus deal from the Brewers during the season (h/t Jon Heyman), he'll no doubt be looking to cash in this offseason.
Anxiety issues will likely keep him away from the largest market teams, but he'll still get paid, and whichever team adds him will be bolstering its rotation in a way no other team can this offseason.
1. LF Josh Hamilton
.285/.354/.577, 43 HR, 128 RBI, 103 R
Hamilton has been a beast in the middle of the Rangers lineup since joining the team prior to the 2008 season, hitting .305 with 142 home runs and 506 RBI over that span. He's been an All-Star each season, and he won AL MVP honors in 2010.
He's proved to be a bit injury-prone, likely as a result of the damage he did to his body early on in his career while he battled drug and alcohol problems, but he should still fetch a contract north of $100 million.
A long-term deal for Hamilton is a risky proposition, but as far as making an impact for the 2013 season, there is no more impactful player on the market this winter.
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