While Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Johnson and Tim Lincecum are unlikely to receive the free-agent mega deals they could've landed by bouncing back to their previous form, and Robinson Cano has maintained his status as the top free agent this coming offseason, several others have boosted their value with their play through the first two-and-a-half months of the season.
Rising to the top of the free-agent market for starting pitchers is 30-year-old right-hander Ervin Santana, who the Angels would've likely let go for nothing this past offseason had they not found a trade partner willing to take on $12 million of a $13 million club for 2013. The Kansas City Royals were the taker, and it's turned out to be one of the savviest moves of the winter.
All Santana's done is post a 2.74 ERA with only 13 walks and 71 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. He's completed at least seven innings in 10 of 13 starts, and he hasn't walked a batter in six of those. While he's on pace to allow 35 homers, nearly as bad as his league-leading 39 allowed in 2012, his other numbers are stellar across the board.
If Edwin Jackson can get four years and $52 million from the Cubs this past offseason after posting a 4.03 ERA with decent peripherals—which is not as impressive as what Santana's doing in 2013—it wouldn't be a stretch to think Santana can get five years and $80 million.
The Cubs will once again be looking for starting pitching with Matt Garza and Scott Feldman eligible for free agency—as will the Giants with Lincecum and Barry Zito also hitting the free-agent market—so Santana could be a strong fit.
Here are five others who are playing themselves into big contracts.