Soon-to-Be MLB Free Agents Who Need to Heat Up ASAP to Boost Their Value

Jason Lempert@MetsPride84Correspondent IJuly 29, 2013

Soon-to-Be MLB Free Agents Who Need to Heat Up ASAP to Boost Their Value

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    Believe it or not, the 2013 season is more than half over. And while there is still plenty of baseball left to play before a team wins the World Series, we are already looking towards the 2013-2014 free-agency period.

    Which team is going to dish out the big contracts this winter? What players are going to get overpaid for their services? These are some of the questions that start to get asked this time of year. 

    The value of certain potential free agents won't take too much of a hit based on a single season's performance. Robinson Cano, for instance, will be sure to get a hefty contract this coming winter, despite what happens the rest of the way.

    But there are several potential free agents whose current struggles could be diminishing their value as we head towards the winter shopping period.

Dan Haren

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    Remember when Dan Haren was a dominating starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks? This is the  guy who averaged 215 strikeouts from 2008-2010 and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2009, isn't it?

    After a disappointing 2012 season in Anaheim, Haren was released by the Angels and signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Washington Nationals. Well, things haven't gotten much better for the right-hander in the nation's capital.

    In 19 starts, Haren owns an ugly 5.49 ERA and an even uglier 5-11 record. He's allowed a league-high 21 home runs this season and seems poised to sign another one-year deal, though nowhere near the $13 million he got from the Nationals. 

Jason Kubel

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    Jason Kubel's second year in Arizona has not gone as well as he or the Diamondbacks would have hoped, given how successful his first year was. After signing a two-year, $16 million contract prior to the 2012 season, Kubel went off with his first career 30-homer season. 

    But 2013 has not been so kind to him. He missed about two weeks in the middle of April with a quad injury. And when he's been in the lineup, he just hasn't played up to par. Overall this season, Kubel has just five home runs and a measly .234 batting average.

    The D-Backs hold a club option for $7.5 million in 2014. It seems likely that the team will choose not to exercise that option, unless the 31-year-old can turn his season around quickly. 

Josh Johnson

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    The Toronto Blue Jays were the talk of the winter this past offseason. The Jays came out of nowhere to make a number of bold acquisitions, including a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins which sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Johnson north of the border.

    The hoopla surrounding Toronto was intense, as it now seemed like the team had positioned itself to make a serious run for the division crown.

    But, some 100 games into the season, the Jays find themselves dead last in the AL East, 14 games out of first place. And perhaps most disappointing of all has been the struggles of Johnson.

    The 29-year-old right-hander was expected to be the team's ace after enjoying a number of successful seasons in South Florida. But instead, it took him eight starts just to get his first victory. He missed the month of May with a triceps injury, and currently owns a hefty 6.08 ERA over 14 starts (1-7 record) with Toronto. 

    Johnson is due to become a free agent for the first time after this season, and unless he can find a groove soon, it may be a sad debut on the market for the righty.

Justin Morneau

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    For the first time since 2004, the Minnesota Twins may find themselves without the mighty M&M brothers—that of course being Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer— in 2014. The offensive combination have been a force in the Twins' lineup for the past decade, but that seems likely to come to an end following this season.

    Morneau's contract is due to expire at the end of the 2013 campaign, and all signs are pointing to him seeking employment some place else, if he is not traded beforehand of course. 

    There was a time when it looked like Morneau was going to cash in on a nice contract when his current six-year, $80 million deal was up. That possibility grew even more with a resurgent 2012 season in which he hit 19 home runs.

    But 2013 has been a struggle for the first baseman, as he enters play on Monday with a .264 batting average and just eight home runs in 96 games played. The former MVP can still get on a hot streak and raise his stock a bit, but it looks like he may have to settle for a one-year contract as he tries to revitalize his once very promising career.

Tim Lincecum

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    It's been a whirlwind career for Tim Lincecum. He's had plenty of ups and downs as a starter for the San Francisco Giants. He won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. He has two World Series rings in his collection as well. 

    But the 2012 season did not go very well for the right-hander. Last year, in what was his worst season, he finished with a 5.18 ERA and walked an abnormal 4.4 batters per nine innings. 

    And so far, the 2013 season has not been much better. He currently sits with a 5-11 record and a hefty 4.61 ERA. He did throw his first career no-hitter earlier this month, but for the most part, he's been highly inconsistent. 

    After a couple of two-year contracts to avoid arbitration with the Giants, Lincecum is scheduled to be a free agent for the first time in his career following the 2013 season. If he hopes to land at least an average contract, he better start pitching like the 2008-09 Lincecum.

John Buck

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    For the first three weeks or so of the season, John Buck was a monster. Through April 21, Buck was hitting .290 with seven home runs and 22 RBI. It was looking like the New York Mets had found themselves a steady, offensively-productive backstop.

    But since then, the wheels have fallen off for the 33-year-old. Since the calendar flipped to May, Buck is hitting a measly .212 with just five home runs and 28 RBI. He has struck out 65 times and recorded just 17 walks in that span as well.

    Buck is in the final year of a three-year contract he had signed with the Marlins in 2011. He has the ability to get hot over the season's final two months and could find another multi-year deal. But with Travis d'Arnaud working his way through the Mets organization, Buck will almost certainly be wearing a different uniform in 2014. 

Mark Reynolds

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    After the Baltimore Orioles declined their option on Mark Reynolds following the 2012 season, he latched on with the Cleveland Indians on a one-year, $6 million deal. Certainly, the Tribe knew, at least to an extent, what they were getting with Reynolds.

    Reynolds has a knack for hitting with a ton of power, but at the cost of a high strikeout rate and low batting average. But so far in 2013, his power hasn't exactly been there, and his free-agent stock is taking a bigger and bigger hit with each strikeout he racks up.

    Following his 37-homer season in 2011, Reynolds' home run output dipped to 23 in 2012. So far, he has just 15 in 2013, and his average is at a paltry .214. He's also slugging a career-low .376. If he is not able to pick up the pace during the home stretch, he could be looking at another one-year deal, perhaps at a lower value than the one he got from the Indians.