Stat Lines Top 2013 MLB Free Agents Must Produce to Live Up to New Contracts
MLB free agents revel in joy upon signing their lucrative, guaranteed contracts. Soon, their elation will turn to anxiety, though, as they feel pressured to live up to high expectations.
Team success is paramount, but these 30 players will be answering tough questions if they don't produce sufficient individual statistics in certain categories.
Veteran starting pitchers like Ryan Dempster and Hiroki Kuroda, for example, must total plenty of innings to stabilize their respective rotations. New teammates Mike Napoli and David Ortiz are only worth their money if they provide power. Atop the free-agent class, Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton should worry about all-around excellence and staying healthy.
Failing to meet or exceed the following numbers will ensure that they settle for less on future deals.
Brandon League and Jake Peavy agreed to extensions with their 2012 teams during the exclusive negotiating period following the World Series. They were never available to other teams, so you won't find them on the following list.
Stephen Drew (Boston Red Sox)
New contract: one year, $9.5 million.
Stephen Drew is just a stopgap as shortstop prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jose Iglesias sharpen their skills in the minors for one more summer.
The Boston Red Sox like his defense. However, to stay in their everyday lineup, Drew must make contact more frequently than he has over the past two seasons.
Manager John Farrell is a proponent of aggressive baserunning. Even if Drew doesn't attempt many steals, he'll be expected to finish with a high success rate.
Stats he must produce: .268/.335/.415, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 12 SB in 555 PA.
Lance Berkman (Texas Rangers)
New contract: one year, $11 million.
The Texas Rangers needed to overpay Lance Berkman to persuade him to continue his MLB career.
That's exactly what they did—an eight-figure salary for a designated hitter with knee problems. His motivation is also questionable after winning a championship two years ago.
With 550 plate appearances, Berkman gets $13 million guaranteed for 2014.
This contract could be considered a success even if the former All-Star falls short of that total.
Stats he must produce: .275/.380/.480, 22 HR, 80 RBI in 525 PA.
Cody Ross (Arizona Diamondbacks)
New contract: three years, $26 million.
Cody Ross will replace Justin Upton in right field, and the Arizona Diamondbacks expect similar production.
He obviously isn't a comparable defender or base-stealing threat. Arizona might also decide to bench him against dominant right-handers considering his lifetime platoon splits.
Though Ross is deficient in a few areas, he can compensate with career-best power numbers.
Stats he must produce (per year): .280/.350/.480, 25 HR, 72 RBI, 5 SB in 540 PA.
Jonathan Broxton (Cincinnati Reds)
New contract: three years, $21 million.
There aren't any saves expectations for Jonathan Broxton or other relievers on this list. They can be valuable by consistently pitching well in high-leverage situations, regardless of how many performances conform with the invented statistic.
The Cincinnati Reds will rely on Broxton for a few extra appearances in 2013 as they monitor Aroldis Chapman's workload. Limiting his innings means more work for the bullpen.
A high strikeout rate is always important, but the Reds will encourage their closer to take advantage of the sure-handed infield behind him.
Stats he must produce (per year): 2.70 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 75 SO in 70.0 IP.
Ryan Dempster (Boston Red Sox)
New contract: two years, $26.5 million.
Signing Ryan Dempster is a big risk for the Boston Red Sox considering his lifetime and recent struggles in the American League.
Management hopes players will respond well to his MLB experience and personality.
On the mound, the right-hander is supposed to maintain a low walk rate and eat innings.
Stats he must produce (per year): 14 W, 4.05 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 170 SO in 198.0 IP.
Mike Napoli (Boston Red Sox)
New contract: one year, $5 million.
Mike Napoli's incentive-laden deal is worth $13 million if he stays on the active roster throughout the season.
The Boston Red Sox would actually be embarrassed if they only owed him the guaranteed money. That would mean he was healthy for fewer than 30 days. Such a small contribution from your primary first baseman usually correlates to a poor team record.
Assuming Napoli plays enough to make this an eight-figure contract, he'll be counted on for major offensive contributions. Specifically, continuing his streak of 20-home run seasons and drawing lots of walks.
Stats he must produce: .265/.362/.522, 25 HR, 68 RBI in 495 PA.
Jeremy Guthrie (Kansas City Royals)
New contract: three years, $25 million.
There's consensus around the baseball industry that the Kansas City Royals over-committed to Jeremy Guthrie.
Under the terms of this agreement, the right-hander earns slightly more annually than he did in 2012. K.C. has confidence that he'll maintain his current level of performance through age 36.
Guthrie's pitch-to-contact approach puts pressure on Royals fielders to make athletic plays behind him.
Stats he must produce (per year): 11 W, 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 118 SO in 185.0 IP.
Kevin Youkilis (New York Yankees)
New contract: one year, $12 million.
The scarcity of available third basemen forced the New York Yankees to overspend on Kevin Youkilis.
He posted a career-worst .235/.336/.409 batting line last summer. Improvement in those categories is certainly important, but the Yankees would be especially content if he avoids the disabled list.
Unfortunately, that might be an unrealistic expectation. Youkilis has averaged only 120 games played per year since 2009.
Stats he must produce: .258/.370/.428, 21 HR, 88 RBI in 570 PA.
Russell Martin (Pittsburgh Pirates)
New contract: two years, $17 million.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had very low standards for their catchers in 2012, particularly defensively. Their Rod Barajas/Michael McKenry duo split the playing time, but neither could deter opposing baserunners from stealing.
Russell Martin can make his new club appreciative by just being himself behind the plate. As well, though, he ought to avoid the lengthy batting slumps that limited his value in recent campaigns.
Stats he must produce (per year): .238/.330/.428, 17 HR, 60 RBI, 6 SB in 480 PA.
A.J. Pierzynski (Texas Rangers)
New contract: one year, $7.5 million.
Talent evaluators agree that A.J. Pierzynski's 2012 power surge was pretty fluky. Otherwise, the veteran catcher would have received a multi-year deal from somebody this offseason.
He still possesses above-average offensive skills for his position, though. Regardless of how frequently he leaves the yard, the 36-year-old puts balls in play.
This target stat line accounts for the fact that Texas' dry climate will amplify his numbers.
Stats he must produce: .289/.339/.460, 15 HR, 64 RBI in 510 PA.
Hyun-jin Ryu (Los Angeles Dodgers)
New contract: six years, $36 million.
Though Hyun-jin Ryu only earns the annual salary of a back-end starter, the Los Angeles Dodgers have higher expectations.
That's because they paid $25.7 million just for the rights to negotiate the above contract. All in all, L.A. has committed more than $10 million per season for the prime of his baseball career.
Ryu was relatively durable during his career in Korea, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in high school. The length of this deal suggests that the Dodgers aren't concerned about his past elbow injury.
Stats he must produce (per year): 12 W, 4.22 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 155 SO in 190.0 IP.
Andy Pettitte (New York Yankees)
New contract: one year, $12 million.
Andy Pettitte was pretty much in the same situation entering the 2010 season.
Just like back then, he made a quick decision to continue pitching. That deal called for a much lower base salary, but ultimately paid $11.75 million thanks to roster and performance bonuses.
At his age, it's doubtful that Pettitte can make every scheduled start. The New York Yankees prefer quality over quantity.
Stats he must produce: 13 W, 3.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 140 SO in 177.0 IP.
Melky Cabrera (Toronto Blue Jays)
New contract: two years, $16 million.
The performance-enhanced Melky Cabrera, who spent four months of this past season in NL MVP contention, would be disappointed in this deal.
All things considered, he's fortunate to have guaranteed dollars through 2014.
To make up for pedestrian defensive play, the Toronto Blue Jays envision a lot of production at the plate.
Stats he must produce (per year): .285/.333/.450, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 14 SB in 620 PA.
Brandon McCarthy (Arizona Diamondbacks)
New contract: two years, $15.5 million.
Brandon McCarthy hasn't pitched in the majors since being drilled in the head.
The Arizona Diamondbacks evidently believe he'll be just fine. And he was cleared to resume baseball activities several months ago.
The right-hander annually suffers some sort of injury to his throwing arm, so the D-Backs aren't assured to get 200-plus innings from him each season. Attacking the strike zone early and often is integral to his success.
Stats he must produce (per year): 11 W, 3.44 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 125 SO in 165 IP.
Marco Scutaro (San Francisco Giants)
New contract: three years, $20 million.
Contact hitters have become exceedingly rare in this age of inflated strikeout totals. True positional versatility—above-average fielding at several spots—can be invaluable too.
Marco Scutaro certainly excelled for the San Francisco Giants down the stretch. You can't ignore his Colorado Rockies tenure, however, where the veteran performed below replacement level.
Validating this payday requires Scutaro to maintain his current level of play at a stage when most athletes decline.
Stats he must produce (per year): .290/.338/.410, 6 HR, 45 RBI, 5 SB in 550 PA.
Torii Hunter (Detroit Tigers)
New contract: two years, $26 million.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Torii Hunter just post the highest single-season WAR of his career.
It's doubtful that he replicates those results once his BABIP normalizes.
Undisciplined hitters like Hunter generally don't age gracefully. The Detroit Tigers can only hope that he continues finding gaps in opposing defenses again.
Stats he must produce (per year): .292/.345/.460, 20 HR, 83 RBI, 8 SB in 600 PA.
Shane Victorino (Boston Red Sox)
New contract: three years, $39 million.
Shane Victorino quietly disappointed in his walk year, but that didn't seem to hurt his earning power.
After finishing last summer in a corner outfield spot, that would appear to be where the Boston Red Sox intend to use him.
The Flyin' Hawaiian will probably slide into the top third of the team's batting order. Emphasis will be on him to reach base.
Stats he must produce (per year): .271/.345/.425, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 29 SB in 580 PA.
Dan Haren (Washington Nationals)
New contract: one year, $13 million.
If Dan Haren's lingering back issue goes away entirely, he can make this a bargain for the Washington Nationals.
But remember what happened to Roy Oswalt. He battled through similar pain in 2011 and had a more miserable experience the following season. The stiffness lingered and led to other injuries, including elbow soreness.
Everybody should be satisfied in the nation's capital provided that Haren pitches at least 28 typical outings.
Stats he must produce: 14 W, 3.48 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 160 SO, 195.0 IP.
Mariano Rivera (New York Yankees)
New contract: one year, $10 million.
He's back and as terrific as ever.
Since Joe Girardi took over as New York Yankees manager, Mariano Rivera has made fewer multi-inning appearances. That will still be the case.
However, the future Hall of Famer should be very effective in limited action.
Rivera can earn an extra $2.5 million by winning certain postseason awards.
Stats me must produce: 1.94 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 59 SO, 65.0 IP.
Hiroki Kuroda (New York Yankees)
New contract: one year, $15 million.
Hiroki Kuroda greatly exceeded expectations in 2012.
He led the New York Yankees rotation with durability and a consistent approach. Maintaining his strikeout rate despite the transition from the NL West to AL East was impressive. Moreover, the Japanese right-hander pitched the fourth-most innings in the American League and still had plenty left in the tank come playoff time.
However, New York shouldn't be surprised if he regresses a bit at age 38. The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, for example, have made wholesale changes to their lineups since he defeated them to close out the regular season.
Still, Kuroda will be the second-highest-paid starter in the division and will be held to lofty standards.
Stats he must produce: 15 W, 3.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 160 SO in 205.0 IP.
Angel Pagan (San Francisco Giants)
New contract: four years, $40 million.
For now and the next couple seasons, Angel Pagan's skills suit AT&T Park. The San Francisco Giants will want him on the field as much as possible while he has the speed to take advantage of its vast dimensions.
The question is how quickly he could fade into a reserve player by the end of this deal.
Stats he must produce (per year): .275/.327/.407, 6 HR, 51 RBI, 27 SB in 575 PA.
Rafael Soriano (Washington Nationals)
New contract: two years, $28 million.
Rarely will you see a reliever receiving a salary in this neighborhood.
Rafael Soriano peaked in 2010 when he earned an All-Star selection and finished eighth in AL Cy Young voting. Unlikely as it may be, the Washington Nationals need consecutive seasons of him at that elite level to get their money's worth.
Stats he must produce (per year): 1.85 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 75 SO, 73.0 IP.
Edwin Jackson (Chicago Cubs)
New contract: four years, $52 million.
Edwin Jackson isn't ever going to be confused with aces like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. Despite great velocity, his fastball is too straight to miss bats.
With that said, there is an outside chance of this investment working out for both sides.
The 29-year-old annually improves his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Plus, he's getting into the habit of throwing more first pitches over the plate.
The most redeeming quality to Jackson, of course, is his durability.
Stats he must produce (per year): 13 W, 3.79 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 170 SO, 190.0 IP.
David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
New contract: two years, $26 million.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell doesn't have much flexibility to tweak his lineup with David Ortiz hogging the designated hitter spot.
Then again, that's not really a problem when Big Papi produces like he has been in recent campaigns.
More of the same from him bodes well for Boston's offense.
Stats he must produce (per year): .295/.380/.548, 28 HR, 89 RBI in 580 PA.
Adam LaRoche (Washington Nationals)
New contract: two years, $24 million.
Adam LaRoche could have found better pay had he not been tied to draft pick compensation.
At least he returns to a clubhouse where teammates admire him.
His glove alone will be responsible for a few Washington Nationals victories. At age 33, LaRoche isn't losing power any time soon.
Stats he must produce (per year): .264/.330/.477, 24 HR, 90 RBI in 620 PA.
B.J. Upton (Atlanta Braves)
New contract: five years, $75.25 million.
Massive contracts for athletic outfielders rarely work out. Ken Griffey Jr., Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells and Carl Crawford all testify to that.
Compared to them, B.J. Upton is getting eight figures at an earlier age, so perhaps he can avoid the injury bug.
If nothing else, the Atlanta Braves center fielder needs to get back to his old, patient approach. He tried to do too much in 2012, resulting in a sub-.300 on-base percentage.
Stats he must produce (per year): .255/.330/.440, 25 HR, 78 RBI, 23 SB, 600 PA.
Anibal Sanchez (Detroit Tigers)
New contract: five years, $80 million.
Anibal Sanchez has an injury history that suggests future trips to the disabled list are inevitable. On the other hand, he has steadily gotten better on the mound.
The Detroit Tigers can overcome a major injury in 2013 with their six MLB-ready starting pitchers.
In subsequent years (as Sanchez's salary rises), the right-hander will be more heavily relied upon.
Stats he must produce (per year): 14 W, 3.62 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 172 SO in 184.0 IP.
Nick Swisher (Cleveland Indians)
New contract: four years, $56 million.
Nick Swisher wasn't the best player available this offseason, but consistency is awfully important. He has totaled at least 23 home runs, 80 runs batted in and an .820 OPS in each of the past four summers.
New Cleveland Indians like Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs have been susceptible to brutal slumps in the past. And that's why neither deserve the same long-term security as Swisher.
The native Ohioan needs to be in the lineup everyday and working deep into counts to find the right pitch.
Stats he must produce (per year): .268/.360/.465, 26 HR, 85 RBI in 610 PA.
Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels)
New contract: five years, $125 million.
Nobody can deny Josh Hamilton's immense baseball talents.
It's the mental part of the sport that causes trouble for him. His all-out competitiveness takes a physical toll in the form in bruises, strains and fractures.
Also, Hamilton's confidence occasionally clouds his judgement, as we see when he chases pitches that shouldn't be put in play.
But if he were to settle into a Nick Swisher-like routine, the Los Angeles Angels would thrive.
Stats he must produce (per year): .305/.367/.560, 34 HR, 106 RBI, 6 SB in 590 PA.
Zack Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers)
New contract: six years, $147 million.
An introverted personality didn't deter Zack Greinke from setting roots in the country's second-largest media market.
He went with the best offer from a franchise that seems dead-set on winning a championship immediately.
Greinke can opt out of this contract halfway through. If things go better than expected over the next three seasons, he could be in line for a $200 million deal.
Stats he must produce (per year): 18 W, 2.97 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 196 SO in 202.0 IP.