MLB Free Agency: 5 Hitters Who Will Be Impacted by Josh Hamilton's Contract

John AltamuraContributor IIDecember 3, 2012

MLB Free Agency: 5 Hitters Who Will Be Impacted by Josh Hamilton's Contract

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    Former Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton announced last month that he was looking to sign a new contract in the neighborhood of seven years, $175 million.

    The ramifications of a signing of this magnitude loom large for five players who will be ready to hit the free-agent market in the next couple of years.

    Players like the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano, Boston Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia and the Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen will demand similar terms when they hit the open market.

    Would you make a nine-figure investment in a player such as Cano? Or do you feel the current economic climate in baseball disallows you from making such a significant investment? These questions undoubtedly need to be addressed by any potential future suitors.

    Here are five players who will be impacted most by Hamilton's free-agent contract.

1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

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    Potential Free Agent: End of 2013 Season

     

    One of the biggest potential storylines developing for next offseason is whether or not the New York Yankees will break the bank and re-sign Robinson Cano to a lucrative multi-year deal.

    Many industry insiders, including Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, believe Hal Steinbrenner and company are committed to keeping team salary to $189 million. Marchand also believes that Scott Boras will be looking to land Cano a multi-year deal somewhere in the $20 million to $25 million range.

    The Yankees need to decide whether or not an aging Cano is worth a Hamilton-size contract. Cano will be 31 when he enters free agency at the end of next season. Although he had a very strong regular season in 2012, his inability to perform in the postseason (.075 in nine playoff games) must have been a concern for the Yankees.

    Still, besides Derek Jeter, Cano is the most recognizable homegrown Yankee on the roster. Letting him leave without an heir apparent could be a monumental mistake. The Yankees will have to determine whether or not that is a risk they would like to take.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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    Potential Free-Agent: End of 2015 season

     

    The Boston Red Sox will have to decide whether or not to offer Dustin Pedroia a new contract once he becomes available to hit the free-agent market at the end of the 2015 season.

    The 2008 AL MVP is expected to command Josh Hamilton-like numbers once he becomes available for free agency. Pedroia signed a six-year, $40.5 million contract extension after the 2008 season and has become the face of the Red Sox franchise.

    Alex Speier of WEEI.com believes that a cornerstone player such a Pedroia would be a wise investment for the Red Sox if he can keep himself healthy through the later stages of his career.

    Pedroia did miss 21 games last season and a significant amount of time in 2010 with a broken foot.

    With the emergence of Will Middlebrooks in 2012 and the likely arrival of shortstop phenom Xander Bogaerts on the scene in the next few years, Boston will have to choose to spend their money wisely.

    Eventually, these young players will need new, lucrative contracts of their own. Although those worries are nowhere close to being on the horizon, those concerns most definitely will be taken in consideration when the Red Sox commence contract negotiations with Pedroia.

    Boston is in a similar position as their rivals the New York Yankees in regards to having to decide whether or not to break the bank on a mid-career second baseman.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with both Pedroia and Cano. My guess is both of them stay put and retire with their respective clubs.

3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Potential Free Agent: End of 2018 season

     

    The Pittsburgh Pirates made a preemptive free-agent strike in 2012 when they signed star center fielder Andrew McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million contract. The pre-arbitration-eligible signing gave the Pirates the opportunity to lock in McCutchen's salary until the end of 2018.

    For the cost-conscious Pirates, to have a player of the caliber of McCutchen locked up during what could be some of his most productive years is a big deal. Especially for a club that has let players such as Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Doug Drabek walk in the prime of their careers due to budgetary concerns.

    How will a potential Josh Hamilton contract affect a future McCutchen deal?

    It all depends whether or not the Pirates are able to renegotiate another contract before its 2018 expiration date. It also depends whether or not McCutchen will decide to forgo a potential hometown discount in exchange for nine-figure dollar signs.

    McCutchen will be 31 at the culmination of the deal.

    My guess is that McCutchen will make his decision whether or not to stay in Pittsburgh past the 2018 season based on the team's success. The Pirates will undoubtedly need to break their 20-year postseason drought in order to have a better chance of retaining the star.

4. Justin Upton: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Potential Free-Agent: End of 2016 season

     

    One young star who could emerge in the next few seasons and command a Josh Hamilton-caliber contract is the Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton.

    The 24-year-old right fielder is considered by some to be one of the most promising stars in the NL. Those accolades are warranted as Upton has averaged a .278 batting average with 24 home runs and 80 RBI throughout his six-year career.

    There have been a lot of trade rumors this offseason involving Upton. Some writers, including Zack Stoloff of NESN.com, believe that trading for talented but inconsistent Upton could be a mistake.

    A trade and contract renegotiation could be risky proposition but it could also be a potential steal. Upton will be 27 years old when his contract comes to fruition at the end of the 2016 season. His performance between now and then will ultimately determine whether or not he gets a Hamilton-like contract.

5. Miguel Cabrera: Detroit Tigers

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    Potential Free-Agent: End of 2015 season

     

    Cabrera put together a storybook season in 2012 when he became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to capture the Triple Crown. If Cabrera continues to be one of the most dominant players in the majors, it is safe to say he will command Josh Hamilton dollars when he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2015 season.

    The real question is whether or not Cabrera will ever come close to replicating his Triple Crown season (.330 BA, 44 HR, 139 RBI) again. The only two players to accomplish that feat in MLB history were Ted Williams (1942, '47) and Rogers Hornsby (1922, '25). If he were on a walk year, it is safe to say he would command significantly more than what Hamilton will this offseason.

    The Tigers will ultimately have to decide whether or not to pursue a contract extension with the reigning AL MVP. The next few seasons will likely determine that.