2013 MLB Free Agents: 7 Signees Most Likely to Make the 2013 All-Star Game

Ben StepanskyCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2013

2013 MLB Free Agents: 7 Signees Most Likely to Make the 2013 All-Star Game

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    What should we, as baseball fans, make of all the offseason free agent signings?

    We've been putting together new rosters, rearranging lineup cards and predicting the finished order of each division.

    But what about pure individual performances, specifically those former free agents who will want to make a quick start out of the gate in 2013?

    Some players like Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton are hoping for dominant performances from April onward. After all, they only get one chance to make a good first impression.

    Others, like David Ortiz or Mariano Rivera, would like to prove to their longtime clubs that the lucrative contracts they signed were worthwhile expenditures.

    Here are seven players with new contracts who will be on their respective league's All-Star team come next July.

Notable Players Who Missed the List

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    B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves

    Surprisingly, Upton has never been to an All-Star game. If he can raise his batting average while maintaining his power stroke, Upton has a solid chance of making the All-Star team during his first season in the National League. Still, there are too many "ifs" surrounding his swing, however, to land him a spot on the list.

    Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

    Madson, too, has never been to an All-Star game, and he missed the entire 2012 season thanks to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The closer has nasty stuff, and if he can make a strong return, he'll have a practical chance of making the All-Star team for the first time in his career.

7. A.J. Pierzynski, C, Texas Rangers

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    Love him or hate him, A.J. Pierzynski has been one of the most consistently productive catchers in the majors over the past decade.

    Whether it's managing his pitchers from behind the plate or producing with his bat at the plate, Pierzynski knows how to get the job done. 

    After eight season with the Chicago White Sox, the two-time All-Star is getting a fresh start in Texas, where he'll be working with young pitchers such as Derek Holland, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison.

    Pierzynski is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he hit 16 home runs and batted .285 over the first half of the season, but was snubbed from the All-Star game in favor of Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters.

    The 15-year veteran will be batting in the meat of the Rangers lineup and will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. Plus, his rough-and-tough attitude will earn him respect in Arlington and make Rangers' fans forget all about Mike Napoli.

    Lock A.J. in for the backup catcher spot on the A.L. team—behind Joe Mauer, of course. 

6. Fernando Rodney, RP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Tampa Bay Rays decided to exercise their team option on Fernando Rodney for $2.5 million in 2013, and for the sake of this list, he is being considered a free agent signee.

    It was a no-brainer decision for the Rays to retain Rodney, who gave one of the most dominant relief pitching seasons in the history of the game last season. 

    The 35-year-old saved 48 games with a 0.60 ERA and struck out 76 batters in 74.2 innings. His ERA was the lowest of all time for a pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched.

    Rodney made his first All-Star game last year and will easily make his second in 2013. The true test will be whether he can maintain his command and improve upon his unbelievable 2012 season.

5. Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees

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    Mariano Rivera finally showed some signs of aging when he tore the ACL in his right knee early on in the 2012 season.

    He was adamant about his return, stating, ""I'm coming back. Write it down in big letters. I'm not going down like this." (via MLB.com

    And just like that, the MLB all-time saves leader is back for the 2013 season, slated to return to the closer role for the New York Yankees. The 12-time All-Star signed a one-year contract worth $10 million in guaranteed money. 

    Rivera's career 2.21 ERA is accurately reflective of his lights-out pitching, relying predominately on his hard cutter to get batters out.

    It will be no different in 2013, as the 43-year-old returns for one last hurrah and likely his final All-Star game.

4. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets

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    David Wright is officially the face of the New York Mets' franchise.

    The team picked up his $16 million option for 2013 and proceeded to extend his contract for an additional seven years worth approximately $122 million. The contract extension is the richest in Mets history.

    Other than his 2011 season, Wright has been a model of consistency at third base. He regularly hits around the .300 mark, clobbers double-digit home run numbers and flirts with a 100 RBI season.

    Wright has been an All-Star in seven of his eight full major league seasons, with the aforementioned 2011 season being his only absence.

    With the confidence of his new contract and a slew of young players following his leadership, Wright will have another great year at third base.

3. Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    What's amazing is that the receiver of the most lucrative pitching contract in MLB history, Zack Greinke, has only been to one All-Star game in his nine-year career.

    In 2009, the same year he won the American League Cy Young Award, Greinke made his only All-Star appearance. Now, with expectations high and with a monster offensive lineup to help him out, Greinke will finally put up the numbers to earn himself a second All-Star appearance.

    Part of the reason for Greinke's All-Star absence may be due to his first-half vs. second-half career splits. The 29-year-old has been a better second-half pitcher, posting a .588 winning percentage over the second half of the season compared with a .496 winning percentage during the first half.

    Greinke is set up for success in Los Angeles. However, he must overcome the pressure that pitching on a big stage can bring. Respected pitching coach Rick Honeycutt will be the guiding force to his strong start in L.A.

    A high strikeout rate and low ERA will be key.

2. David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox

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    David Ortiz agreed upon a two-year contract worth $26 million to remain with the Boston Red Sox, potentially signing the final contract of his career.

    Ortiz's offensive production truly blossomed when he joined the Red Sox squad in 2003. The now-exclusive designated hitter (apart from interleague play) has become a comfortable All-Star staple, appearing in eight of the last nine All-Star games.

    That shouldn't change in 2013. Ortiz continues to disprove the aging process last season by hitting .318 with 23 home runs as a 36-year-old.

    Big Papi and the Red Sox enter the 2013 season with many question marks surrounding the makeup of the team. One certainty that remains, though, is that Ortiz will be in the heart of the lineup with his devastating and powerful stroke.

    A ninth All-Star appearance shimmers in the near future.

1. Josh Hamilton, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    If there is one shoe-in for the 2013 All-Star game at Citi Field, it's Josh Hamilton.

    Some people think he's overrated. Some believe that the Angels overpaid him. Well, guess what? None of that matters when it comes to All-Star voting.

    It's all about first-half stats and name recognition, both of which Hamilton will have. 

    The former Texas Ranger has been to the past five All-Star games.

    He will hit at least 15 home runs and bat .300 or better during the first half of the season.

    We can all remember his hot start to last season before cooling off shortly before the All-Star break—if you need a refresher, Hamilton was hitting .368 and crushed 21 home runs by the end of May.

    Now with added protection in a potent Angels' lineup, Hamilton will flourish. 

    Call me crazy, but I'd bet my season tickets on it.