Robinson Cano and One Player All 30 MLB Teams Should Extend ASAP
MLB free agency may be in full swing, but we still have yet to see some of the biggest names sign contracts as they feel out the market to maximize their return.
A number of players have already signed long-term extensions with their teams while other teams have filled their needs via trade.
With all the work teams are putting into this offseason and the transactions come along with it, they're also planning ahead for future needs, as players are always working their way into the open market.
Here are some players that teams may not allow to reach that point, opting to lock them in before they're open to the highest bidders.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Willie Bloomquist
With the Arizona Diamondbacks getting active this offseason in trading one of the top pitching prospects in the game, some are probably wondering what type of rebuilding the team could undergo, as they look to contend in the rapidly improving NL West.
Willie Bloomquist has been with the D-Backs for two seasons, posting a .283 batting average while notching 42 extra base hits and swiping 27 bags.
He hasn't been the healthiest of players, with less than 100 games played in each season, but he still represents a viable option at multiple positions if he can stay on the field.
Atlanta Braves: Brian McCann
Finding a true power-hitting catcher in this league isn't the easiest of tasks, but the Atlanta Braves have a great slugger on their hands with Brian McCann.
He saw his batting average dip well below his career numbers in 2012, but with eight years under his belt in a Braves uniform he could be a candidate to re-sign with Atlanta after his contract is up at the end of the 2013 season.
Baltimore Orioles: Nick Markakis
The Baltimore Orioles emerged in a big way in 2012, contending all the way through the season before ultimately being eliminated in the postseason.
They'll no doubt hope to keep building, something that could mean making a decision on Nick Markakis.
He won't be a free agent until after the 2014 season, but should he continue to perform at a high level it may be worthwhile to add years onto his contract before the cost gets out of hand.
Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury
In all reality, Jacoby Ellsbury could find himself going a couple of different ways with regards to the Boston Red Sox.
He's played MVP-caliber seasons at Fenway but has also been a trade candidate and may not fit long-term with the rebuilding team.
Ellsbury struggled to stay on the field last season, playing in less than 80 games, but at just 29 years old there's no reason to think he won't rebound with a strong performance in his final year before entering free agency.
Chicago Cubs: Nobody
When you look at the Chicago Cubs roster, there really aren't a whole lot of players soon to enter free agency that will be focal points of the team moving forward.
Matt Garza is the type of pitcher that can certainly anchor a starting rotation and will be a free agent after the upcoming season. With the steady stream of trade talk involving Garza, it seems unlikely that he'll fit in long-term.
Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko
Having worn a White Sox jersey since 1999, it's hard to picture Paul Konerko playing for any other team as he winds down his career.
He's been about as consistent as any player in the league over the past handful of seasons. While he won't command another massive deal when he enters free agency after the upcoming season, he's definitely the type of player that you want to have in your clubhouse.
Cincinnati Reds: Shin-Soo Choo
The Cincinnati Reds made out big in the trade they pulled off this week, bringing in All-Star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians.
Choo has batted .291 over the past five seasons while going deep 16 times per season and driving in nearly 70 runs.
He'll be a free agent after this season, and the Reds probably aren't merely looking to rent a player for the season and let him walk. It would make sense that they make sure he's in Cincinnati for years to come.
Cleveland Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez
Much like Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston, the Cleveland Indians could find themselves going either direction with Ubaldo Jimenez.
When they traded for Jimenez during the 2011 season, they expected they would immediately be contending for playoff positioning. As Jimenez and other players haven't lived up to expectations, they seem to be resetting themselves.
They could opt to trade Jimenez and fully commit to rebuilding, but with Trevor Bauer ready for major league action the Indians could very well develop a top-tier 1-2 punch if Ubaldo can return to his old ways.
Colorado Rockies: Dexter Fowler
With the massive number of top-tier center fielders entering the free-agent market this offseason, many teams are shoring up their outfielders with players like B.J. Upton, Denard Span and eventually Michael Bourn.
Dexter Fowler is on a trajectory that could very well find himself in the same situation when he enters free agency after the 2015 season.
The Colorado Rockies will likely wait a while to see how things pan out with Fowler, but locking him in to a long-term contract before he nears the open market could save them valuable dollars down the road.
Detroit Tigers: Omar Infante
After making a huge signing last offseason in bringing Prince Fielder over from Milwaukee, the Detroit Tigers set their sights firmly on the World Series.
They would ultimately reach the Fall Classic but fell flat against the San Francisco Giants.
With Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante both entering free agency after the upcoming season, the Tigers will likely need to decide on one or the other when it comes to their infield situation moving forward.
Houson Astros: Nobody
In full rebuilding mode, the Houston Astros won't have to make tough decisions on re-signing free agents for quite some time, as Jed Lowrie is the only player on the roster who will be entering free agency in the near future.
Even in that instance, Lowrie won't be a free agent until 2015 and may very well not even be with the organization when that time comes.
Kansas City Royals: James Shields
In a bold move that surprised many in the baseball world, the Kansas City Royals traded away some top prospects, including Wil Myers, in an effort to shore up their starting rotation.
Adding James Shields as the team's ace will no doubt help their chances to contend in the AL Central that has some very beatable teams.
If they hope to sustain any success, however, they'll need to hand out plenty of money to Shields once he enters free agency after the 2014 season.
Los Angeles Angels: Nobody
The Los Angeles Angels have undergone some big changes over the past year, starting last winter when they stole the show in the offseason, signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to lucrative long-term deals.
They weren't done there, adding Zack Greinke to the starting rotation at the trade deadline, though the moves wouldn't ultimately lead to a playoff spot.4
There's plenty of competition for attention in Los Angeles with the Dodgers making move after move, but the Halos have a great nucleus and are in position to contend once again next season.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw
As mentioned, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been about as active as any team in baseball over the past six months with a new ownership group intent on sending the franchise in the right direction.
They've committed plenty of payroll to some stars but will have a decision to make when it comes to signing Clayton Kershaw to a long-term deal.
There's no doubt as to the team's ability to pay him what he might command, it's just a matter of understanding how high that ceiling will be.
Miami Marlins: Nobody
After unloading about every piece of talent that they brought in just a year ago, there really isn't much room for positivity in the Miami Marlins clubhouse these days.
If the team was to work to extend one player remaining on its roster, it would have to be Giancarlo Stanton. But given his displeasure with the team's recent transactions, the team's chances of keeping him around for the long-term are slim and none.
Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo
The Milwaukee Brewers' inability to hand out top dollars to some top talent has seen the team lose two of the best players in the game in Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder.
They have been able to keep Ryan Braun locked down for the foreseeable future, but with the prospect of Yovani Gallardo entering free agency the team's starting rotation could head in a direction they'd rather not visit.
He won't be a free agent until after the 2014 season, so there's plenty of time to work out a deal, but as they learned with Greinke waiting until the last minute doesn't always pay off.
Minnesota Twins: Nobody
Not many fans in Twins territory were too surprised when Denard Span was traded to the Washington Nationals, mostly because the heir apparent in center field was Ben Revere, and he seemed more than capable to take over.
It's that very reason so many were surprised when Revere was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for a couple of pitchers.
The Twins are going about their rebuilding the right way, as pitching was (and probably still is) their weakest aspect. In the meantime, upcoming free agents like Justin Morneau probably won't be re-signed when the time comes.
New York Mets: R.A. Dickey
Anytime you're talking about dealing the reigning Cy Young award-winner, expectations have to be at an extremely high level.
Despite offering contract figures to R.A. Dickey, the Mets appear to be just as willing to make a trade. While a deal wasn't made during the winter meetings, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see something happen before the end of the year.
We are, however, seeing pitchers start to find their way off the market as signings continue to take place, something that could lower the demand of a pitcher like Dickey. The Mets may be better suited to work out a deal that would keep him in New York.
New York Yankees: Robinson Cano
The New York Yankees are getting every ounce they possibly can out of Robinson Cano, as he hasn't played fewer than 159 games in seven seasons.
He's been an extremely consistent player in the pinstripes, batting .308 in his eight seasons with the Yankees while averaging nearly 25 home runs and 100 RBI along the way.
Cano is set to enter free agency after the upcoming season, and while he'll come at a steep price to the Yankees, there's been no evidence to prove he wouldn't be worth every penny.
Oakland Athletics: Grant Balfour
The Oakland Athletics proved once again last season that it doesn't take a massive payroll to make waves in this league, reaching the postseason with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
As they move towards 2013, they'll have much of the same pieces in play but may opt to work out contracts with some important players in an effort to recreate their past success.
Philadelphia Phillies: Michael Young
The Philadelphia Phillies may not have signed a big-name center fielder as was expected by many this offseason, though their acquisition of Ben Revere does give the team a solid leadoff bat with above-average range in the field.
They also brought in a big name in trading for former Rangers third baseman Michael Young, a player that will no doubt help the team get back to the level they're used to playing at.
He'll be a free agent after this season, and while he's getting up there in age, they probably shouldn't hedge their bet on a one-year play with Young.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Nobody
It's no secret that A.J. Burnett has struggled with his control on the mound throughout his career—something that was only amplified when playing in Yankee Stadium.
He was a 16-game winner in 2012 with the Pirates. As the only player currently on the roster set to enter free agency after next season, he could be a target for an extension.
Burnett does, however, have history working against him, and with the Pirates not working with limitless budgets like some other teams they may opt to make a smarter, younger signing.
San Diego Padres: Chase Headley
A name that came into play during the deadline was Chase Headley, who emerged in trade talks concerning the New York Yankees, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
They may not have been interested enough to make a deal at the time, something that could be just the fate the Padres needed to retain a budding star.
Headley is under team control until 2015, and his solid offense (.286 BA, .376 OBP) will certainly help the Padres moving forward.
San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum
The 2012 season wasn't overly kind to Tim Lincecum, who posted career-highs in losses (15) and ERA (5.18).
He's dynamic enough to overcome struggles at any moment, and while it's worth giving him a shot at important innings, he'll remain a liability on the mound until he proves otherwise.
Signing Lincecum to a contract extension will prove costly in virtually any case, but if the Giants take a long-term chance on him while he's down, they could save some money as opposed to signing him when he's having another Cy Young-worthy year.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
As the cornerstone of a franchise that's struggled in recent seasons, Felix Hernandez is a player that the Mariners simply can't afford to lose.
He won't be a free agent for another two seasons, but at just 26 years old it's never too soon to think about the future. Putting the constant trade talk to bed with a contract extension would help the fanbase in Seattle gain confidence in the direction of the franchise.
St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Beltran
With Albert Pujols setting sail for Los Angeles after the 2011 season, signing another offensive threat was a top priority for the St. Louis Cardinals.
They achieved that goal in bringing Carlos Beltran on board, as he put up a solid .269 average with 32 home runs and 97 RBI.
He'll only be 36 years old when he enters free agency after next season, and since he probably won't command the same $13 million annually he's making right now, keeping him around could make sense for the Cards.
Tampa Bay Rays: Nobody
Two weeks ago I would have said James Shields would be a top candidate for the Tampa Bay Rays to ink a long-term contract extension.
Time changes everything, with Shields now a member of the Kansas City Royals, the Rays have a solid haul of prospects that should no doubt keep the franchise competitive in the tough AL East.
Texas Rangers: Nelson Cruz
With Michael Young headed to Philadelphia and the Josh Hamilton potentially leaving the Texas Rangers for a new organization, offensive output from remaining players is of the utmost importance.
Nelson Cruz is one of those players that will make all the difference in 2013, as he's averaged nearly 30 home runs per season over the past four years and has driven in 83 RBI per year along the way.
He'll be a free agent after next season, and there's a possibility Cruz will test the open market. The Rangers could help themselves out greatly in signing him to an extension before that time comes.
Toronto Blue Jays: Josh Johnson
In pulling off one of the biggest trades of the offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays instantly vaulted themselves into contention in the AL East, adding Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to their starting rotation as well as Jose Reyes in the infield.
Johnson will be a free agent after the season, and with Reyes and Buehrle around longer, you'd have to think the Blue Jays will commit to ensuring that the nucleus they're building sticks together for as long as possible.
Washington Nationals: Nobody
Part of what makes the Washington Nationals such a dangerous team in the NL East is the fact that they have so many young players who will be under team control for the foreseeable future.
Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Zimmerman are all signed through at least 2016, and Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper won't be free agents for another five-plus years.
They have the makings of a team that will be contenders for years to come, and it's scary to think that as these players continue to mature, they'll get even better.
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