2014 MLB Free Agency: 15 Players Who Need a Huge Finish to Cash In
With a little more than a month left in the MLB season, many teams are still fighting for their playoff lives, while others are looking toward next year.
For some players, free agency is looming and they've been behind the eight ball all year. Some need to finish strong in hopes of cashing in a huge payday this offseason.
Here's a look at 15 soon-to-be free agents who need a huge finish to get those big bucks.
Brian McCann's future is really up in the air. He's a hometown boy, and the Atlanta Braves would surely love to keep him in Atlanta. However, there are a few issues. He will likely command big bucks in free agency, and the Braves have Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt who are ready to take over full-time.
Still, there is no denying the power and defensive ability McCann provides the Braves.
With Jason Heyward on the shelf for the rest of the regular season, McCann is going to have to come up big for the Braves to keep their momentum going. That, however, means his price tag could increase in the offseason.
Will he give the Braves a hometown discount? That will all depend on him.
As for now, a big last month of the season will no doubt increase the amount of money he'll receive in a contract.
Matt Garza will arguably be the best pitcher available on the market this offseason.
The Texas Rangers knew trading for him could mean losing out in the end if he didn't re-sign with them. But the value of having him down the stretch is what the team needed.
Garza is 3-1 with a 4.32 ERA in six starts for the Rangers this year. If he can lower his ERA to under 4.00 and continue to win ballgames, his price will skyrocket in the offseason.
Justin Morneau is getting hot at the right time in a contract year. He's hit seven home runs in August and has shown no signs of slowing down.
Although I don't think he will get a huge contract, continued success at the plate will add a few million to his contract.
The only question is, will the Minnesota Twins keep Morneau in town?
He's a fan favorite who fell on some hard luck over the years. But there's no question that, when he's healthy, he can do a lot of damage.
Dan Haren has to be one of the more disappointing pitchers this year. The Washington Nationals signed him to a one-year offer, and he's been horrible, to say the least.
Haren is 8-11 with a 4.64 ERA, but he has improved in his last six starts, giving up only five earned runs. If he can keep that up through the rest of the year, some team will sign him to a multi-year deal.
Then he can put all of the troubles of this season behind him.
Kendrys Morales is nothing more than a designated hitter who can pull spot duty at first base. However, he does have a good bat, as his .286 average with 17 home runs and 67 RBI shows.
As long as he can continue to show his power, some team will pay him close to $10 million a year.
But if he goes into a slump through the last month of the season, that could hurt him as well. As a designated hitter, you're only as good as your last at-bat. There's no making up for it in the field.
Josh Johnson was once an ace. Now, he's a pitcher fighting just to keep his job.
Johnson has a 6.20 ERA and only has a few chances left to make an impression for next year. If he fails to impress, he'll sign for one or two years and a small-figure contract.
The rest of this season is vital if he wants to elevate his status back near star pitcher.
Did we really expect anything different from Mark Reynolds? He has power, but the guy strikes out a lot and doesn't get on base, which is a huge reason why the Cleveland Indians let him go.
Then the Yankees picked him up off waivers and he went 3-for-7 with a home run and four RBI in his first two games. Since then, though, he's gone 0-for-12.
A good contract is not looking good for 2014 for Reynolds.
The Braves are always stocked full of pitching. With Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy all coming back next year, the team will likely have to decide between Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm.
Although younger, Maholm will likely be the odd man out in Atlanta and is auditioning for teams this offseason. He'll get multiple opportunities to prove himself, as Beachy is headed to the disabled list, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
Maholm is left-handed, which gives him an advantage, as multiple contending teams will be looking for a good left-handed starter.
As long as he can take care of business, Maholm will see at payday of at least $10-12 million a year with his next contract.
Stephen Drew has had a decent year for the Boston Red Sox, batting .246 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI. However, Xander Bogaerts is waiting to take over at shortstop next year, which means Drew will likely have to find a new home.
While he doesn't hit for great average, he does get on base almost one-third of the time and plays good defense.
If Drew can somehow come up big down the stretch or in the playoffs for the Red Sox, someone will take notice and pay him to come play shortstop.
Ervin Santana has quietly had a good season pitching for the Kansas City Royals. He's gone 8-7 with a 3.13 ERA and 130 strikeouts. That's not bad considering the Royals' track record.
Santana is looking like the second-biggest pitcher on the market this offseason. However, his value will likely be affected by Garza's.
If he can continue to pitch well down the stretch, who knows. It could be Santana who sets the pitching market.
While Young may not be available for the postseason, he will get his share of at-bats in September once he's called up.
He is literally playing for his baseball life through the rest of this year. If he fails, he'll have to sign a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training for some team. If he succeeds, he might get one more chance to prove himself in the big leagues.
I think it goes without saying that Ricky Nolasco is happy to be out of Miami.
Nolasco was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and has had success since then. In his nine games with the team, he's gone 5-1, given up 15 earned runs and only given up three earned runs in a game twice.
While Los Angeles may not be where he ends up next year, he's definitely pitching himself toward a big contract. Maybe in New York or Texas or Seattle.
Jacoby Ellsbury will be the No. 2 hitter on the market this offseason behind Robinson Cano.
The last two years have been sort of disappointing if you use 2011 as a barometer for Ellsbury. That year, he hit .321 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI. Since then, he's hit 11 home runs and driven in 73 runs over two years.
But a strong last month and playoff run will do more than silent the critics who say he's a one-year wonder at the plate.
He's already approaching a nine-figure contract. A strong showing the rest of the way will all but guarantee that.
Brian Wilson has a real chance to be a difference-maker in the playoffs for the Dodgers. None of the team's relievers have the kind of playoff experience he has, which gives him a leg up on the rest of the bullpen when a big out is needed in the seventh or eighth inning.
Wilson is looking to become a closer again, and a great showing the rest of this year could give him that opportunity in 2014.
Who knows, some team that's looking for a closer next year (New York or Oakland, just to name a few) could be watching to see if he could successfully fill that role.
One of the more underrated players in all of baseball, Shin-Soo Choo can do it all. The Cincinnati Reds got a real gem when they traded for him. This year, he's hitting .280 with 16 home runs, 40 RBI and 14 stolen bases.
Choo is not going to get a nine-figure deal this offseason, but he could get more than B.J. Upton got from the Braves last offseason.
If the Reds can win a playoff series, people will take notice.
Choo has been great and someone just needs to invest in him.
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