The 2013 Major League Baseball season is within the first two weeks of its commencement and already one of the hottest topics surrounding the league is the 2014 free-agent market.
This year’s class of free agents is littered with players on the verge of long-term deals and with former stars looking to revitalize their careers. 2013 is going to be a make-or-break season for many familiar faces around the league.
Here are three of the players who stand to gain the most from successful campaigns in 2013.
This will likely be one of just a few times that you will see Robinson Cano fall under the honorable mention category in the near future.
Cano is the big fish in the 2014 free-agent pool. He will in all likelihood be the most highly sought-after player after this season and could land a long-term deal in the range of $200 million. If he plays anything like he has over the past three seasons, averaging .313 with 30 home runs and 107 RBI, Cano will prove that he is worthy of one of the league's richest contracts.
Morneau is coming off of a 2012 season where he batted .267 with 19 home runs and 77 RBI. While these numbers may not turn any heads, the most important stat for Morneau was games played. Morneau started in 134 games, marking the first season in which the first baseman made more than 130 appearances since 2009, after injuries drastically shortened his 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Over a stretch from 2006 to 2009, Morneau was one of the top first basemen in the league. The lefty won the AL MVP in 2006 and knocked in at least 100 RBI each season while holding a .292 batting average.
Morneau is looking to regain his MVP form this season, and if he can put up numbers close to his pre-injury days, expect him to be one of the most highly coveted free agents in 2014.
Brian McCann is by far the biggest name in a class of free-agent catchers that is very thin; he has one less All-Star selection than the rest of the class combined. The six-time All-Star has hit for a career .279 batting average and knocked at least 20 home runs in each of the last five seasons.
McCann battled injuries throughout the 2012 season, and his batting average took a sharp dip to .230. He will need to hit around his career average this season if he hopes to make the salary of a top catcher like the Cardinals' Yadier Molina, who is currently on a five-year, $75 million contract.
McCann has spent his entire eight-year career with the Atlanta Braves; however, there are reports that the player and organization may be willing to part ways at the end of the season. If he has a bounce-back performance, McCann could be out of Atlanta’s price range.
McCann will be back behind the plate sometime in mid-April, as he is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and will need to play catchup on the rest of the class. If he puts up the numbers he is capable of, McCann should draw interest from around the league next offseason.
This could very well be the deciding season for the career of Tim Lincecum.
The former two-time Cy Young Award winner has seen a sharp decline in his effectiveness over recent years. In 2012, Lincecum finished with a record of 10-15, had an abysmal ERA of 5.18 and walked a career-high 90 batters. Most disappointing was the fact that the face of the San Francisco Giants franchise was relegated to the bullpen as the team went on to win the World Series.
Lincecum has to perform well in 2013 if he hopes to demand respect as a starter in the league. If he continues to struggle with his control and velocity through the 2013 season, Lincecum may find himself trapped in a diminished reliever role.