2013 MLB Postseason Stock Watch for Upcoming Free Agents, Week 1
How a player performs when the games matter most could have an affect on his overall value, which is of greater importance to those who are eligible for free agency at season's end.
While a majority of these players will not stand out in a good or bad way, there are a handful of them who will. As a result, the price tag could rise or fall, at least slightly. A pair of 2012 postseason stars, Marco Scutaro and Anibal Sanchez, each cashed in after boosting their value greatly with strong playoff performances.
Here are six players off to either a great start or a very poor start, or in one case, already done for the season after a wild-card loss.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
The question for A.J. Burnett isn't whether he'll get a big contract or not this offseason. It's whether he chooses to retire, return to Pittsburgh or sign elsewhere.
While the 36-year-old has appeared to find his comfort zone in Pittsburgh after two terrible seasons (5.20 ERA in 2010-11) with the New York Yankees, his biggest start as a Pirate was a bust as he allowed seven earned runs, six hits and four walks in two innings pitched in a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS.
If he doesn't get another start this postseason and his playoff resume stands as it currently is (6.37 ERA in eight starts), his reputation for not pitching well when the spotlight is shining brightest will continue and his market will be limited, even if his choice is to return to Pittsburgh.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Shin-Soo Choo could reportedly ask for over $100 million this winter, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Considering Hunter Pence signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension with the San Francisco Giants, he'll probably get it or come very close.
By homering in the Cincinnati Reds' wild-card loss to the Bucs, he probably didn't earn another dollar. But it was a nice exclamation point on a stellar first—and probably last—season with the Reds.
The 31-year-old finished the year with an .885 OPS, 21 homers, 34 doubles, 107 runs, 112 walks and 20 stolen bases. Pence, by comparison, had an .822 OPS, 27 homers, 35 doubles, 91 runs, 52 walks and 22 stolen bases. Choo's agent, Scott Boras, has a pretty good argument that Choo was slightly better. Robinson Cano might not be the lone $100 million man after all.
Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves
Brian McCann was hitless in Game 1 of the team's NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, although that's fairly common for a left-handed hitter facing Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw.
One game won't make a difference one way or another in how much the 29-year-old will make on his next contract. But it should be noted that he finished the season in a 10-for-62 slump. In the meantime, his top competitor on the free-agent market for catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, had 16 hits in his final 39 at-bats with three homers and five doubles to close what appeared to be a very sizable gap between he and McCann.
If he can stay hot throughout the postseason and McCann remains relatively quiet, the 28-year-old Saltalamacchia might even start to become the preference of some teams in search of catching help this winter.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Boston Red Sox
As mentioned in the previous slide for McCann, Saltalamacchia has likely closed the gap between the two on the free-agent market based on how each finished the season. The trend has now continued into the postseason with Saltalamacchia drawing a walk and knocking out Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Moore with a two-run double in the fifth inning.
During his latest hot streak, the switch-hitter is now 17-for-42 with three homers, six doubles and 13 runs batted in. Friday's double came against a very tough lefty, which is notable, considering that he did most of his damage against right-handers on the season (.873 OPS, 12 HR vs RHP; .628 OPS, 2 HR vs LHP).
Whether he comes close to McCann's contract, which is expected to be somewhere around five years and $70 million, he'll get paid well to be some team's starting catcher for the next few seasons.
Brian Wilson, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
There are a lot of great closers in the postseason, including three—Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Fernando Rodney—who will become free agents this offseason. And then there's Wilson, who isn't closing for the Dodgers but, as long as he keeps putting up zero's, teams won't have a hard time remembering that he was one of the best closers in the game from 2008 to 2011 before an elbow injury derailed his career.
With a scoreless inning in Thursday's game one win over the Atlanta Braves, the 31-year-old Wilson has now pitched 8.2 innings without allowing a run. Before that, he started the 2013 season with six scoreless innings.
It's hard to see him getting more than a two-year deal this winter, considering the number of closing options available and his small sample size since coming back from Tommy John surgery, but it's very likely he's closing again in 2014.
Delmon Young, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Once again, Delmon Young has proved that his postseason success is no fluke. He really is a much better hitter after the regular season.
With a homer in Tampa Bay's wild-card victory over Cleveland on Wednesday and another hit in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, the 28-year-old now has nine career postseason homers and an .887 OPS in 29 career games.
Ignore his regular-season numbers over the past few seasons and you'd think Young had become the star that most thought he would become when Tampa Bay took him with the first overall pick in the 2003 draft. But unlike Ruben Amaro Jr. did last winter when he signed Young to be his starting right fielder, most teams will not ignore his mediocrity during the first 162 games of the season.
His latest postseason heroics, however, should at least land him another major league deal that is heavily incentive-based.