Before you know it, champagne will be spraying, a new World Series champion will be crowned and the 2013 free agency period will be underway.
It's not a particularly star-studded class this year. You won't see any big names like Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton. Robinson Cano is about as big as it gets, and that's only if Jay-Z fails to work out a deal before November.
However, there are a ton of guys available that should play a critical role in the 2014 pennant chase.
Let's take a look at where they stand through one month of play in an effort to forecast this winter's biggest paydays.
(All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com. All other stats and information courtesy of ESPN.com and FanGraphs.com.)
Dan Haren (RHP): 2012 was easily Haren's worst season since becoming a full-time starter in 2005, and thus far 2013 is looking much, much worse. Between his price tag ($13 million for a one-year deal this year) and concerns over his age and health, it's unlikely he'll be a hot commodity this offseason.
Michael Morse (RF): Thanks to eight dingers in April, his stock is on the rise. However, there are about a half dozen other free agent outfielders you'd rather hear your team is targeting than an oft-injured 31-year-old Morse.
Kevin Youkilis (1B/3B): Youkilis has missed at least 15 games in every season, has missed at least 40 games in the past three seasons and just landed on the DL again with back problems. Guys rarely become less injury prone after turning 35.
Ryan Madson (RHP): We haven't seen him pitch in 18 months, so it's kind of difficult to forecast where his stock will be in another nine months.
Brendan Ryan (SS): Impeccable defense, but you'd be better off letting your pitcher hit and using the DH on Ryan.
Jeff Franceour (RF): Frenchy has a great arm and is still just 29 years old, however, I think people are getting tired of waiting on him to put it all together. I know fantasy owners are.
Carlos Ruiz (C): Chooch will be a 35-year-old catcher at the start of next season and is just now returning from a suspension for use of a banned substance. Even with a career on-base percentage (OBP) of .363, there isn't much of a market for profiles like that.
April 2013 Stats: 8/52, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB
The good news for Stephen Drew is that there's not much else out there when it comes to free agent shortstops. One of the dozen teams with a need to be filled at that position will inevitably overpay for Drew. The Red Sox forked over $9.5 million in 2013 in hopes of getting 2010 Stephen Drew. Don't be surprised if a different team risks $5 million on him in 2014 for the same reason.
Maybe Stephen Drew at his peak was worth that kind of money. In 2008, he batted .291 with 21 home runs, and in 2010 he hit .278 with 15 homers and 10 stolen bases.
Since then, however, he's been frequently injured and incredibly replaceable. Between 2011 and 2012, Drew played in just 165 games, batting .238 with 12 home runs. For comparison, those are roughly Eric Hosmer's numbers from an alarmingly disappointing 2012 season.
April 2013 Stats: 8.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 BB, 9 K, 3 SV
Because teams love nothing more than to throw money at closers, the soon-to-be 37-year-old Rodney will inevitably end up with some sort of lucrative short term deal.
It's pretty difficult to argue that he deserves one, though.
His 2012 season was simply incredible, racking up 48 saves to go along with a 0.60 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. However, he failed to finish either of the previous five seasons with an ERA better than 4.20 or a WHIP better than 1.30.
In light of last year's campaign, his numbers thus far in 2013 are rather disappointing, but they're more in line with everything we came to expect from Fernando Rodney prior to 2012.
April 2013 Stats: 22/87, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB
It's been awhile since Justin Morneau has been what we would consider above average.
He was serviceable last year when he hit .267 with 19 home runs, but you need more than that from a first baseman in this league. Also, those numbers are nothing compared to what he was doing three years ago.
Prior to a concussion that cut his 2010 season short, Morneau was batting .345 and on pace for 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the fourth time in five years. He hasn't really returned to form since then, but there's still reason to believe he could hit 25 home runs and bat .280.
He turns 32 later this month, but that hardly makes him a senile old man at first base. In fact, of the 10 1B-eligible players over the age of 30 to receive more than 350 at-bats in 2012, Morneau and Carlos Lee were the only ones who failed to hit at least 24 home runs.
Rather than assuming Morneau has regressed that far below league average, I'd view it optimistically as a sign that better times are ahead now that he seems to be fully healthy.
April 2013 Stats: 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
I'm not overly concerned about those early returns. Marcum spent the first four weeks of the season on the disabled list, and the term "mid-season form" wouldn't even exist if guys consistently bounced off the DL and pitched up to their full potential.
The cause for his delayed start to the season is becoming a mounting concern, though.
Marcum missed the entire 2009 season due to Tommy John surgery and missed two months in the middle of last season due to elbow inflammation. Those injuries already dropped his value to a $4 million contract for 2013, despite being just 31 years old and owning an ERA of 3.70 or better in each of his last four seasons.
He missed the start of this season with neck pains and right biceps tendinitis. With all of these injuries to his pitching delivery, it would take a very strong and very healthy five months for a team to really believe in him again. Given the plethora of right-handed starters that will be free agents this winter, Marcum will probably be fairly low on most wishlists.
April 2013 Stats: 27 IP, 14 ER, 5 BB, 25 K
Since this is now his seventh year in the big leagues, it's kind of shocking that Phil Hughes hasn't even yet celebrated his 27th birthday.
He's been all over the place in those seven years, though. We've seen Hughes bounce in and out of the rotation as well as in and out of the Majors. He's dealt with dead arm, cracked ribs, pulled hamstrings, near-sightedness, a strained oblique, a bulging disk and probably a few other ailments that were never publicly documented.
2012 was the first time he was able to stay healthy throughout the season, and he ended up posting a respectable 4.23 ERA with a 3.6 K/BB ratio.
Based on his home/road splits over the past three seasons, those numbers should only improve with a permanent change of scenario. On the road, Hughes had a 4.19 ERA, allowing one home run for every 9.7 innings pitched. At home in Yankee Stadium, his ERA was 4.72, and he gave up one home run every 4.9 innings.
Put him in a stadium where routine fly balls to right center don't turn into upper deck home runs and he might be a solid number three starter for years to come.
April 2013 Stats: 21/87, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB
Compared to where it was at the end of last season, John Buck's stock is somewhere near the troposphere right now.
In 343 at-bats in 2012, Buck batted .192 with 12 home runs and 103 strikeouts. Somehow that was worth 0.4 wins above replacement among catchers and worth $6.5 million to the Mets this season. Over the past three seasons, Buck batted .169 with a 25 percent strikeout rate against the Mets, so it's tough to say what they saw or how they saw it.
Regardless, he was on fire to start the 2013 season, trailing only Justin Upton in home runs while starting 21 out of 25 games at the most physically demanding position on the field.
Already in the latter half of April, though, we've seen the old John Buck come back out of his shell. From April 13-30, Buck batted .160 with three home runs and 15 strikeouts.
It might be too early to say I told you so, but I did.
April 2013 Stats: 21/90, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB
This is probably a moot point. As long as he's still worth something at all by the end of the season, you have to assume he'll be back with the White Sox in 2014. It's been one of those endangered, mutually symbiotic relationships in baseball in which the player remains with one team for just about his entire career.
Konerko came up with the Dodgers in 1997 and had a cup of tea with the Reds in 1998, but he's been baking his bread with the White Sox for the past 14 seasons. With 426 career home runs and a lifetime batting average of .282, he's a borderline elite first baseman who would most certainly be worth more than $13.5 million at this point in his career had he ever tested free agency.
It's difficult to predict how much he'll have left in the tank, as he'll be celebrating his 38th birthday during Spring Training next season. Both the power and batting average have been on the decline in each of the past two seasons, and appear on their way to a third consecutive year of regression.
However, his 2012 regressed stats were still 26 home runs and a .298 batting average. Even if he's dropped to 20 HR and a .270 batting average by 2014, he's definitely worth a one year deal somewhere. He could be the 2014 version of 2013 Lance Berkman.
April 2013 Stats: 14.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 BB, 12 K, 10 SV
From the start of the 2008 season until today, Jim Johnson has a 2.82 ERA over the course of 338.2 IP. Last season, he converted 51 of his 54 save opportunities, cementing the Orioles' reputation as a team that can consistently win one-run games.
In a class that includes Ryan Madson, Fernando Rodney and Joel Hanrahan, the 29-year-old Johnson is unequivocally the best closer on the market, and someone will pay top dollar to get him.
Considering their endless supply of money, Mariano Rivera's impending retirement and the fact that Johnson has compiled a 1.40 ERA against them since the start of 2010, the smart money is on the Yankees throwing the most money at him.
The strange thing about Johnson's effectiveness is that he's not a strikeout pitcher. He has a career K/9 of 5.79, but he induces so many routine ground ball outs that it doesn't really matter.
April 2013 Stats: N/A
Corey Hart has been on the disabled list for the first month of the season and will be there for at least another month as he recovers from offseason knee surgery.
He'll still be a popular name in free agency talks after the season.
Over the last three years, Hart has batted .279 while averaging 29 home runs per season. If you can live with the fact that he's going to strike out once per game, he could be a fine acquisition.
April 2013 Stats: N/A
Moving from one disabled veteran to another, the Matt Garza trade buzz will start up in earnest from the moment he first takes the mound in 2013.
Unfortunately, none of us know when that will be, as he suffered a setback in his rehab and will likely be out at least another month.
When healthy, though, we're talking about a guy who has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the past six seasons and will strike out roughly one batter per inning. He'll be turning 30 right around the start of the free agency signing period, and could well be headed towards a seven-year / $100-million type of contract.
April 2013 Stats: N/A
Curtis Granderson is our third consecutive member of the list that hasn't played a game yet this season.
Granderson has turned into something of a one-trick pony in his "old age." In 2007, he finished the season with a .302 batting average, 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 home runs and 26 stolen bases.
Comparing that season to what he did last year, he's down 70 batting average points, down 20 doubles, down 19 triples, down 16 stolen bases but increased his home run count by 20. He also struck out in 195 of his 596 at-bats in 2012.
Once a five-tool star, Granderson has devolved into Adam Dunn at the plate.
His defensive stats aren't any better, either. In 2007, his UZR/150 was 14.8, but that dropped to a negative 18.5 in 2012. What that says is that his range depleted so much over the course of five years that his defense is now worth 0.22 less runs per game than it was in 2007.
Perhaps the Yankees' pitchers miss the run support his home runs provided, but they probably aren't missing his defense very much.
Granderson will still make a boatload of money, but let's just say I'm glad that my favorite team won't be shopping for an outfielder this winter.
April 2013 Stats: 30/98, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB
Doesn't Nelson Cruz just feel like a tailor-made New York Yankees acquisition?
He's missed at least 30 games in every season but one. He's creeping into his mid-30s. He's a slightly above average hitter who's being egregiously overpaid because of a good season he had five years ago.
He meets the basic qualifications for the Yankees' target list, right?
Joking aside, Cruz will be one of the secondary big names this winter. There are at least four other, better outfielders who will demand more of an investment, but Cruz should become a good "bargain" back-up plan for the teams that don't land a Jacoby Ellsbury or a Hunter Pence.
April 2013 Stats: 32.0 IP, 24 ER, 13 BB, 31 K, 3 QS
Prior to Tuesday night's implosion against the Indians, it looked like Doc was starting to come out of his early season funk. In his previous three starts, he had a 1.71 ERA, striking out 16 in 21 innings of work.
Now we're back to wondering whether the game might have passed him by.
Halladay turns 36 in a few weeks. 2012 was his worst season since 2000, and just the third time in the past 12 years that he finished a season with an ERA worse than 3.25.
Aside from Roger Clemens, most pitchers do tend to tail off in their late 30s. However, I find it hard to believe that Halladay has deteriorated from All-Star workhorse to replacement level pitcher this quickly.
The velocity concerns from Spring Training are no longer there. He's simply walking more batters than at any other point in recent memory. He's had exceptionally bad luck with home runs as well, allowing a dinger on 27.6 percent of fly balls. Thanks to the walks, those aren't often solo shots, either. As such, his ERA is through the roof despite an xFIP of 3.77.
I still believe Roy Halladay can be more than effective for at least another year, and so will a number of general managers with money to spend.
April 2013 Stats: 34/101, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB
Of all the players in a contract year, Shin-Soo Choo's stock has risen the most during the month of April.
It's become abundantly clear that the situation in Cleveland just wasn't a good one for Choo—and by "situation," I mean being forced to bat in the heart of the lineup because the rest of the roster was made of Swiss cheese and hospital gowns.
Even while facing the opposing pitchers' best stuff on a regular basis, Choo still had an on-base percentage of .370 over his final five seasons in Cleveland. Now that he's in the leadoff spot where he belongs, he's thriving to the tune of a .477 OBP and has increased his runs per game from 0.57 to 0.74—an improvement of 30 percent.
If he can even remotely keep up this pace and finish the season with something resembling his 2009 and 2010 seasons in which he batted .300 and averaged 21 home runs and 21.5 stolen bases, he should sign quite the contract this offseason.
April 2013 Stats: 28/108, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 4 SB
With Hunter Pence, you know you're getting 110 percent for darn near 162 games each season. As recklessly as he plays, he's been very healthy throughout his career, only really missing a significant chunk of time during his rookie season after suffering a broken bone in his wrist.
With his consistent health has come consistent stats. Pence has hit between 22 and 25 home runs in each of the past five seasons, and he's on pace to be in that range again in 2013.
The stolen bases this season have been somewhat of a pleasant surprise, though. He was fairly active on the basepaths early in his career, but had only attempted 17 stolen bases over his previous two seasons. That's a rate of one attempt for every 18 games. So far in 2013, it's been one attempt every seven games, and they've each been successful.
If he's adding that caveat back into his repertoire, it would be an enhancement on the resume he'll be passing out in a few months.
April 2013 Stats: 11.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 8 HLD
A middle reliever as the 10th-most valuable free agent? Surely the author of this article must be writing from the Atlanta bullpen!
Before you lose your mind, let's do a little exercise. Write down the names of five left-handed relievers you actually trust in a late-game situation.
Go ahead. I'll wait.
While you're doing that, here are the numbers on Eric O'Flaherty from the start of the 2011 season through today: 1.32 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.51 K/9, 2.78 K/BB.
All finished? Did you end up just writing Aroldis Chapman's name five times?
Let's just look at a few bullpens around the league to see who would want O'Flaherty at their disposal. The Boston Red Sox only have one left-handed reliever in their bullpen—Andrew Miller. He's only there because he failed so miserably as a starting pitcher that they had to just accept him as an average middle reliever.
The same could be said about the Washington Nationals and Zach Duke. The St. Louis Cardinals have 37-year-old Randy Choate as their only left-handed reliever. The Yankees are paying Boone Logan over $3 million to be their only left-handed reliever, despite never posting a WHIP of 1.30 or better for a season.
You get the idea. The supply is low and the demand is high. Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Burnett are respectively making $2.75 million and $3.625 million in 2013 after hitting free agency in 2012.
O'Flaherty is a much better pitcher than either of those guys.
April 2013 Stats: 29/98, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 4 SB
If I'm a fan of a team that needs help at second base, I'm terrified about this ranking.
For whatever reason, second base is a young man's game. In 2012, there were only seven second basemen over the age of 30 who had 300 or more at-bats. With 11 home runs and a .256 average, Chase Utley was the only one to both hit eight or more home runs and bat .222 or better.
Last season wasn't exactly an anomaly, either. With the exception of Jeff Kent—who "inexplicably" batted .302 with 20 home runs at the age of 39—second basemen tend to rapidly decline around their 33rd birthday.
Roberto Alomar batted .336 with 20 home runs when he was 33, but dropped to .266 with 11 home runs at 34. At 35, he was hitting .258 and averaging a home run every 103.2 at-bats.
Joe Morgan was hitting .288 with 22 home runs during his 33rd year on Earth. Over the next two years combined he hit just 22 home runs while batting .243.
Ryne Sandberg batted .304 with 25 home runs during the season in which he turned 33 years old. It was the sixth consecutive season in which his WAR increased from the previous year, reaching an impressive 7.3. After that 33rd birthday, he never again topped 3.0 in a season.
In case you're unclear on where this history lesson is coming from, Chase Utley turns 35 this December, and he's already been on a significant decline since the end of the 2009 season. I thought about leaving him off of this list altogether, but someone is going to stupidly offer him a 3 year / $36 million contract this winter. Just watch.
April 2013 Stats: 19.2 IP, 15 ER, 9 BB, 19 K, 2 QS, 1 MRI
The free agent market is going to be flooded with right-handed starting pitchers. If we include Dan Haren from the honorable mentions list, Josh Johnson is the sixth one we've hit on, and there's still an elite one remaining.
Despite the other options out there and several seasons with injury concerns, Johnson figures to get one of the most lucrative deals of the bunch.
When healthy, you could easily argue that he's one of the 10 best RHP in the game today. From 2009-2012, Johnson had an ERA of 2.99 while recording a quality start in 75 of his 101 games, including a string of 19 consecutive quality starts in 2010. He finished that season with a 2.30 ERA and was off to an even better start in 2011 before losing the season to shoulder inflammation.
If he can work through the triceps injury that has been ailing him this April, the 29-year-old will be richly rewarded.
By the way, is it still way too early to revisit the Marlins' salary dump from last November? Jose Reyes is out for a few months, Josh Johnson is banged up, Mark Buehrle has been roughed up beyond belief and Emilio Bonifacio is batting .188 with no stolen bases. Of the five players the Marlins sent to the Blue Jays, the only one doing anything of note is John Buck, and he's doing it for the Mets. Poor Toronto.
April 2013 Stats: N/A
There's been nothing yet this season to base his value on, as he won't be making his season debut for at least another few days.
However, one look at his recent history should confirm suspicions that he'll be a hot commodity at the end of the season, provided he is anything close to his normal self once he returns.
Brian McCann has hit at least 18 home runs in each of the past seven seasons. Last year was the first time he failed to bat at least .269 in a season. He has been incredibly durable, logging more plate appearances from 2006-2012 than all catchers not named Joe Mauer—and Mauer has had the "unfair" advantage of occasionally starting at first base or designated hitter.
He's still only 29 years of age. Even if he doesn't have Ivan Rodriguez's longevity, you can reasonably expect at least another three years of him playing at peak performance.
With the exception of Buster Posey and perhaps Carlos Santana—neither of which will be free agents at any point in the next five years—there's no full-time catcher in the league today that I'd rather sign to a multi-year contract.
April 2013 Stats: 28/104, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB
Just so we're clear on the order of this slide and the previous one, Mike Napoli is not a full-time catcher. From 2010-12, only 55 percent of his at-bats came as a catcher, and he hasn't yet played a single game behind the plate in 2013.
Those years of his life appear to be behind him, and it's probably for the best. His continued eligibility as a catcher in fantasy baseball has been nothing short of a gold mine, but his peak value in the real world is at a position where he'll actually start more than 120 games per season.
When you give him at-bats, he gives you home runs. Of the 60 players who have hit at least 100 home runs since the start of the 2008 season, only Jose Bautista homers more frequently than Napoli. Bautista's rate has been one home run every 16.67 plate appearances. Napoli checks in at 17.55 plate appearances per home run, ahead of Albert Pujols' rate of 17.68.
Those are some pretty serious and expensive names we're comparing him against. Bautista is making $14 million this season while Pujols has a salary of $16 million.
Napoli is making just $5 million this season. He originally agreed to a three-year / $39 million contract with the Red Sox before injury concerns necessitated a rework of the deal. Playing exclusively at first base and DH should help keep him out of the training room, as it's nowhere near as rigorous as trying to be an everyday catcher.
If he can continue the torrid pace he's on through the month of April, his salary might triple in 2014. At any rate, I somehow doubt Stephen Drew ($9.5 million) will be making nearly twice as much money as Napoli next season.
April 2013 Stats: 32/113, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 11 SB
If you can overlook the injury concerns, what's not to love about Jacoby Ellsbury?
He's everything you want in a leadoff hitter, batting just shy of .300 in his career with 200 stolen bases and a strikeout rate of 13.6 percent. The 32 home runs from 2011 will almost certainly never happen again, but he has a respectable amount of power, a terrifying amount of speed, solid defense and a good batting average.
Better yet, he's only turning 30 this September, which should make him highly sought after in a market full of outfielders in their mid-30s.
The return of the stolen bases this season is the primary cause of his rising stock. In 2011 and 2012, he averaged just one stolen base per 18.2 at-bats, and was caught stealing 25 percent of the time. In April, he averaged a stolen base every 10.3 at-bats with a success rate of 85 percent.
April 2013 Stats: 30 IP, 11 ER, 11 BB, 28 K, 3 QS
It took an implosion against the Detroit Tigers, but his numbers at the end of April are much more in line with what we should expect from Maholm than they were 10 days ago.
It's hard to believe that a slightly above average starting pitcher could rank this high on the list, but there is a severe drop off from Maholm to the next-best left-handed starting pitcher available.
Whether you think the second-best guy available is Ted Lilly, Jeff Francis or Erik Bedard is up for debate, but there's no question that Maholm is the blue-chipper of the bunch.
April 2013 Stats: 12/46, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB
Chase Headley had a late start to the season, but he hasn't disappointed thus far.
The particularly appealing thing about Headley is that he hit 31 home runs last season, even though he played half of his games in Petco Park. He's essentially the inverse of Carlos Gonzalez—a great player who doesn't look as great because of the park where he plays his home games.
Put him in a more hitter-friendly ballpark, and he might hit 40 home runs.
And let's just say that slugging third basemen are worth their weight in gold. Trevor Plouffe, Pedro Alvarez and Mike Moustakas are all every day third basemen despite barely batting the Mendoza Line and frequently committing fielding errors—simply because of their potential to hit 25 home runs.
There are a very limited number of teams that wouldn't be after Chase Headley if he makes it to free agency.
April 2013 Stats: 29.2 IP, 12 ER, 17 BB, 32 K, 2 QS
Tim Lincecum was extremely mortal in 2012. He struck out better than one batter per inning for a sixth consecutive season, but he struggled with his control and just generally had bad luck with BABIP and home runs.
However, it was the first bad season on a resume that includes two Cy Young awards.
He's still just 28 years old and should have a good number of successful years ahead of him. He hasn't exactly been "The Freak" yet in 2013, but in his last two starts (admittedly against San Diego) he's gone 13.2 IP allowing 2 ER and striking out 17 batters.
If he can carry that momentum into the next six weeks, it will be mighty impressive considering the murderer's row that San Francisco faces between now and mid-June.
April 2013 Stats: 35/107, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB
Despite all the concerns expressed about aging second basemen on the Chase Utley slide, there's no soon-to-be free agent that I'd rather sign to a three-year contract than Robinson Cano.
Cano turns 31 this offseason, but through one month of 2013 he's projecting to have the best season of an already stellar career.
I will express a little concern over how transferable his power might be in a new stadium. In his first four years with the Yankees, he averaged one home run every 35.78 at-bats. Since they opened the new Yankee Stadium with that jet stream to right-center, Cano has averaged 21.48 at-bats per home run.
Some of that can certainly be attributed to him hitting his prime and becoming a better slugger, but you'd have a tough time convincing me that the ballpark didn't also play a factor.
Still, we're talking about a guy with a .309 career batting average who hasn't missed more than three games in any of the past six seasons. Whether you expect 20 home runs or 30 of them, he's more valuable than any other second baseman in the league.