No, the 2013 MLB free agency class can't compete with the 2012 version that included Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson, Jimmy Rollins and Jonathan Papelbon. That was a uniquely stacked class.
But just like you shouldn't compare your children and pick favorites, we will judge the 2013 class on its own merits. While it isn't quite as smart, good-looking or likely to succeed as the 2012 class, it still has quite a few gems and players worth breaking the bank to sign.
From a starting pitcher who has proven his status as a top-of-the-rotation stud to an outfielder who possesses one of the games most dangerous bats, the top end of the 2013 class is quite nice, indeed.
Even if it won't be the Homecoming King or Queen like the 2012 class.
Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Since leaving the Kansas City Royals, Greinke has solidified his status as an ace.
In 2011 for the Milwaukee Brewers, he finished 16-6 in 28 starts and 171.2 innings with a 3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 201 strikeouts. Split between the Brewers and Angels in 2012, he went 15-5 in 34 starts and 212.1 innings with a 3.48 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 200 strikeouts.
After initially struggling upon his arrival in L.A., he closed out the season on a torrid streak. In September, he went 3-0 in 42.2 innings with a 2.11 ERA, 38 strikeouts and allowed opposing batters to hit just .209 against him.
Greinke is the one true ace set to hit free agency. While I would expect the Angels would try to retain him, he'll certainly and deservedly earn himself some big bucks this winter.
Josh Hamilton, CF, Texas Rangers
If you were a general manager, would you overpay to sign Josh Hamilton?
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned if your team signs Hamilton. He's injury-prone. He's 31 years old. He's prone to slumps. He's going to cost a fortune to sign.
But he's also one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball when he's hot (a Triple Crown threat at his best), played 148 games this year (the most since 2008) and hit 43 home runs and 128 RBI despite basically slumping over the last two months of the season.
For teams that feel they are one big bat away from playoff contention, Hamilton is worth the risk.
Brandon McCarthy, SP, Oakland Athletics
Yes, Brandon McCarthy.
Though he'll never be a strikeout machine, McCarthy has been excellent over the past two years for the Athletics. Take a look at his numbers:
- 2011: 9-9 in 25 starts and 170.2 innings with a 3.32 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 123 strikeouts
- 2012: 8-6 in 18 starts and 111.0 innings with a 3.24 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 73 strikeouts
No, he's not an ace, but as a second or third starter he's an excellent addition, assuming his recovery from a September brain surgery after being struck by a line drive continues to progress positively.
In a free-agent class highlighted by the sexy names above, McCarthy is one of the next available options I would be most intrigued by as a general manager.
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