2013 MLB Postseason Stock Watch for Upcoming Free Agents, Week 1
There were several free agents-to-be on display in each of the division series, and a majority of them played, not only like a World Series championship was at stake, but like they knew their next contract could increase with every big hit or pitch.
And that's because both of those are real scenarios.
There isn't one player that can't benefit from a strong playoff performance that proves that he is capable of playing his best when the games are most meaningful.
Here are seven players who have seen their stock rise and three others who have struggled under the spotlight.
Grant Balfour, RP
In what is shaping up to be a very deep class of free-agent closers, Grant Balfour did all he could to separate himself in the ALDS.
While two of his free-agent competitors, Joaquin Benoit and Fernando Rodney, had rough outings, and Edward Mujica has lost his closer's job in St. Louis, the 35-year-old Balfour retired nine of 10 batters faced in his three outings, allowing just one walk and striking out three while earning a win and a save.
Several teams will be looking for closer upgrades this offseason, and Balfour, who had a 2.59 ERA with 38 saves in 41 chances, has very likely done more than enough to secure a spot somewhere.
Carlos Beltran, OF
The 36-year-old Beltran only had four hits in the NLDS victory over the Pirates, but two were homers and one was a double. He also walked three times and knocked in six runs.
Maybe even more importantly is the fact that he's now started 140 games in right field this season, and his health is no longer in question.
Beltran then stepped it up another notch in Game 1 of the NLCS, driving in all three St. Louis runs, including the game-winning RBI against the Dodgers, as he further cemented his status as a clutch postseason performer.
While most would've guessed that Beltran's next contract would either be one or two years, and almost certainly with an American League team that could use him in the designated hitter role on occasion, it now wouldn't be a surprise if he can get a three-year deal in the AL or a two-year deal in the NL with an annual salary of at least $12 million.
Marlon Byrd, OF
After signing a minor league deal with the Mets this past offseason, Byrd struggled in April (.657 OPS, HR, 4 BB, 24 K) and quite possibly could've been released and might have struggled to find another opportunity.
But a Mets team that was extremely thin in the outfield continued to run him out there. He heated up in early May and didn't stop hitting until the Pirates, who acquired him in late August, were eliminated from the playoffs.
Including his 8-for-22 performance in six playoff games, the 36-year-old hit .303 with 24 homers over his final 133 games of the season. Now it wouldn't be a surprise if he surpassed his career-high $6.5 million salary of 2012 while landing a two-year deal.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
Even if the injury-prone Ellsbury could stay healthy in 2013, no one really knew what kind of player to expect. He was second in MVP voting in 2011 after he posted a .928 OPS with 32 homers. But when he was on the field last season, he wasn't very productive at all.
Outside of 2011, he had shown his value as a solid leadoff hitter who can get on base, steal bases and play strong defense in center field. But he wasn't a power hitter, by any stretch, which diminished the value of the contract he'd be able to land once he became a free agent.
While the 30-year-old has stayed healthy, aside from missing nearly three weeks in September with a foot injury, he hasn't shown to be the all-around star that he was a couple years ago. But he's pretty close, establishing himself as one of the top leadoff hitters in the game with a .355 on-base percentage, 52 stolen bases, 31 doubles, eight triples and nine homers during the regular season.
His value has only increased during the playoffs as he led the team with nine hits in 18 at-bats and four stolen bases in the four-game ALDS victory over the Rays. A $100 million asking price isn't out of the question now, which makes it scary to think how much he would've gotten had he hit 20 homers.
Freddy Garcia, SP
The fact that the Braves trusted Freddy Garcia enough to start a playoff game should be enough to boost his free-agent value. That he pitched well against a tough Dodgers lineup (6 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 6 K), helps even more.
After settling for a minor league deal with the Padres last winter, the 37-year-old will use his late-season stint with Atlanta (1.65 ERA, 27.1 IP, 23 H, 5 BB, 20 K), as well as the playoff start, to land a major league deal with an opportunity to start at the back of some team's rotation.
James Loney, 1B
After a terrific first half (.832 OPS, 9 HR, 22 2B, 43 RBI), Loney appeared to come back down to earth in the second half as he posted mediocre numbers for a first baseman (.700 OPS, 4 HR, 11 2B, 32 RBI).
So his 6-for-16 performance in the playoffs, which included two doubles and two walks, was just what he needed to jump back onto the radar of teams seeking first base help this winter. His second half likely dropped him into the two-year, $12-16 million range, but his strong playoff performance could drum up enough interest to drive the price up closer to $9 million per season.
Brian McCann, C
McCann is still entrenched at the top of the free-agent market for catchers, but his 0-for-13 performance in the playoffs, which followed an 0-for-7 to finish the regular season, has to have teams at least a bit concerned.
His track record does speak for itself, however, so the 29-year-old shouldn't lose too much sleep over it. The left-handed hitter has a career .823 OPS, was named to his seventh All-Star team in eight seasons and had been 9-for-30 with three homers in his previous postseason history. An 0-for-20 to end the season won't stop him from getting around five years and $70 million this winter.
Justin Morneau, 1B
Home runs are what get first basemen paid on the free-agent market, and Justin Morneau did a solid job of rebuilding his value by hitting 17 of them in 2013.
The problem is that homer No. 17 came in his last game as a Minnesota Twin on August 30. With Pittsburgh, the 32-year-old went 20-for-77 with only four doubles and no homers to finish out the regular season. And while he got a hit in five of six postseason games, six of Morneau's seven hits were singles, and one was a double.
The late-season power outage is likely to cost the former AL MVP in free agency, where he could be limited to a two-year deal in the $12-14 million range.
Fernando Rodney, RP
The 36-year-old rebounded from an awful start to the season—he had a 6.05 ERA and five blown saves on May 25—and will be headed for a big payday in free agency.
But a couple of ugly outings to finish out the postseason (1.1 IP, 2 ER, H, 3 BB, 2 K, blown save) could serve as a reminder and a caution to teams that it wasn't very long ago when Rodney was a mediocre journeyman reliever who had a 5.6 BB/9 innings between 2008-2011.
Juan Uribe, 3B
Of all the great storylines during the Dodgers' amazing season, it's been Juan Uribe who may be the most pleasant surprise.
After doing absolutely nothing (.552 OPS, 6 HR in 143 games) in the first two seasons of a three-year, $21 million deal, Uribe has come to life with a solid regular season (.769 OPS, 12 HR in 132 games) that has been capped off by an amazing NLDS (6-for-16, 2 HR, 4 RBI).
And his timing couldn't have been better. Unless Jhonny Peralta, who could land a starting job as a shortstop or a third baseman, is included in the group, the 34-year-old Uribe has established himself as the top player at his position in free agency.
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