Small sample size or not, how a free agent-to-be performs over the last few weeks of the 2013 season could be the difference between several millions of dollars on his next contract.
A player who finishes the season in a slump, especially one over the age of 30, is probably viewed as much riskier than one who ends on a hot streak. Since most players don't reach free agency until they are in their 30s, this is their time to prove that they still have plenty left in the tank at the end of a very long season.
So while a value range has likely been set, someone like Tim Lincecum can ensure that he reaches the top of that range by pitching well in his last three or four starts of the season.
The 29-year-old certainly can't erase the string of awfulness he displayed as a starting pitcher between April 2012 and June 2013 and completely rebuild his post-2011 value, which might've been higher than any pitcher in the game. But he's been consistently good since the start of July (4.12 ERA, 83 IP, 71 H, 29 BB, 82 K in 13 last starts) and has gone from being maybe the biggest risk on the free-agent market, likely having to settle for a one-year deal and possibly a move to the bullpen, to being one of the best available starting pitching targets for several teams.
In fact, the two-time Cy Young award winner is probably in line for a multiyear deal in the $12 to $16 million per season range. A poor finish and he's likely headed for Edwin Jackson territory (four-year, $52 million deal). If he continues to pitch well, however, Lincecum might even surpass Matt Garza and Ervin Santana at the top of the market and end up with a deal closer to what the Detroit Tigers gave Anibal Sanchez prior to the season (five-year, $80 million deal).
Here are four other players who are putting themselves in position to receive another $10 to $20 million over the span of their next deal if they can finish on a high note.