MLB Free Agents 2013: Ranking Top Players Scheduled to Hit Market After Season
As the Major League Baseball season enters the stretch run, certain teams are already looking forward to the offseason. The winter provides a chance for front offices around the league to revitalize rosters that weren't good enough to make the playoffs.
Overall, the 2013-14 class of free agents will likely rate pretty average. One area of weakness is starting pitching, where there's an obvious lack of depth, which means teams must be willing to spend if they want to add a key piece to their rotation.
Otherwise, teams should be able to make some value signings to bolster their squads for 2014. Let's check out some of the top stars who will hit the open market unless they sign extensions. For a look at other players who could hit free agency, check out Baseball Prospectus' comprehensive list.
1. Robinson Cano (2B—New York Yankees)
Cano provides elite offensive production at a position where that's traditionally rare. The Yankees second baseman is well on his way to slugging 25 home runs for the fifth straight season, all while maintaining a high on-base percentage and playing improved defense.
At 30, teams don't have to worry about him breaking down in the immediate future. Add in the fact he sports an effortless, sweet swing from the left side, and he's actually a pretty safe investment as long as the number of contract years isn't outrageous.
The Yankees should do everything possible to make sure he remains in New York. At a time when several of their veterans—namely Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira—are showing signs of wear and tear, they need him in the middle of the lineup for years to come.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF—Boston Red Sox)
Ellsbury doesn't get the credit he deserves because of expectations. Two years ago, he hit 32 home runs while stealing 39 bases and posting an OPS of nearly .930. That season amounted to a perfect storm he hasn't been able to replicate.
Which player is mostly likely to land with a new team for 2014?
Yet he's still an extremely valuable asset. The Red Sox center fielder has already stolen more than 40 bases to lead the league and is well on his way to his most productive overall campaign since that breakout in 2011. He's a major reason the team leads the AL East.
While that might be lost on fans outside of Boston, at least for now, other front offices are surely taking note. Players with his type of skill set are extremely tough to come by, which should make him one of the most coveted commodities if the Red Sox can't lock him into a new deal.
3. Matt Garza (SP—Texas Rangers)
Garza gets the nod over hitters like Brian McCann and Shin-Soo Choo because he's likely going to headline a weak starting pitching market. If he leaves Texas, there should be absolutely no shortage of suitors waiting for a chance to land him.
The right-hander hasn't posted an ERA above four since his rookie season in 2006. That's the type of consistency, along with a solid strikeout rate, that teams are looking for in free-agent starters. It limits the potential downside of a big deal.
Garza would also benefit from being in the midst of his prime when hitting the market. So there's certainly a lot of things to like. And, in a market that will have a limited number of other big names for teams to pursue for their rotations, that equals dollar signs.
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