2013 MLB Postseason Stock Watch for Upcoming Free Agents, Week 2
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Of the four teams left in the MLB playoffs, there are several free agents-to-be who could be down to their last game or two with their respective clubs. There's no better time to make a lasting impression than now when each at-bat or each pitch takes on extra importance.
A player's resume rarely includes a large enough sample size to determine whether a player is more likely to come through in the postseason. Teams investing a large amount of money in a player, however, will feel much more comfortable knowing that a prospective employee has a history of coming through when the spotlight is shining the brightest.
Here's an update on eight free agents-to-be who still have a chance to add to the "playoffs" section of their resume.
Carlos Beltran, OF
With a long history of success, Beltran had already established himself as one of the better postseason hitters in the game. And while he's only 7-for-35 in 10 playoff games this year, he's sure getting his money's worth with two homers, two doubles, a triple, eight walks and 10 runs batted in.
His career 1.160 OPS with 16 homers in 44 playoff games only adds to his impressive resume, which includes three consecutive All-Star seasons that have been relatively injury-free. At age 36, he's putting himself in line to land a three-year, $60 million deal this winter.
Joaquin Benoit, RP
Unfortunately for Benoit, a shaky postseason performance is putting a damper on a strong regular season in which he established himself as one of the top closers in the game.
The 36-year-old allowed a game-tying grand slam to David Ortiz in the eventual Game 2 ALCS loss that could be seen as the turning point in the series if Detroit falls to Boston. He closed out the team's Game 4 victory but allowed a run after entering the game with a five-run cushion. The right-hander also allowed two runs in a one inning during an 8-6 ALDS win versus the A's.
While his postseason struggles shouldn't hurt his chances to land a closer's gig for 2014, this could drop him down the list of a deep group of free agents all vying for the same jobs this winter.
Mark Ellis, 2B
Ellis' chances of having his $5.75 million club option picked up for 2014 appeared bleak after a mediocre season at the plate (.674 OPS). But if the Dodgers were really leaning towards declining that option, the 36-year-old veteran is doing all he can to change their minds during the postseason.
Ellis has two hits in four of the team's nine playoff games and is 10-for-36 overall, including three doubles and a triple.
The Dodgers likely know what they'd get from another year of Ellis and it wouldn't be too costly at the price of his club option. But they could be more inclined to reward him if he continues to play a big part in the team's postseason success. It's still more likely that they decline and try to re-sign him at a lesser cost if they cannot find a better option.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
It appeared as though Ellsbury had maximized his value after a strong regular season (.781 OPS, 9 HR, 31 2B, 8 3B, 52 SB). But his value continues to rise during a spectacular postseason that includes 15 hits in 37 at-bats, including a pair of three-hit games and a four-hit game, and six stolen bases in six attempts.
Hunter Pence's five-year, $90 million contract extension at the end of September was great news for free-agent outfielders, especially Ellsbury, who is only 30 years old and fills two integral roles on a team (center field, leadoff hitter). After the postseason he's having, Ellsbury could end up with a deal in the six-year, $108 million range.
Omar Infante, 2B
After one of the best regular season's of his career (.795 OPS), Infante has struggled in the postseason. With only seven hits in 35 at-bats and his team down 3-2 in the ALCS, he's running out of time to boost his free-agent stock.
Not including top free agent Robinson Cano, the 31-year-old Infante is still leading the pack of second basemen on the free-agent market. But without a strong playoff performance to back him up, he could be losing ground to Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero, who was reportedly close to signing a five-year, $32 million deal last month.
It's not known if Guerrero's asking price has gone up or down. If his value is on the rise, however, he could be closer to surpassing what Infante will likely get.
Edward Mujica, RP
That Mujica has been relegated to mop-up duty this postseason will affect his value more than how he performs when he does take the mound. In case you're wondering, though, the 29-year-old pitched a scoreless ninth inning during a 7-1 NLDS loss to the Pirates and he allowed a solo homer to A.J. Ellis after entering with a 4-2 deficit in the Game 5 NLCS loss to the Dodgers.
His excellent regular-season performance, aside from a rough September, will ensure a nice payday this winter. But it's hard to guarantee that he'll end up with another closing job after the Cardinals lost faith in him when the games were most important.
Mike Napoli, 1B
Coming into Game 3 of the ALCS, Napoli was only 2-for-17 in the postseason and in danger of finishing what had been a great season on a down note. But he's made up for it in a big way over the past three games.
Starting with his solo homer in the Sox's 1-0 win against Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Game 3 of the ALCS, the 31-year-old is six for his last 10 with two homers and two doubles. His second homer of the series also opened the scoring in the team's Game 5 win on Thursday.
Even if his next contract is limited to two years because of long-term concerns of the hip condition that caused the Sox to pull a three-year deal off the table last winter, Napoli could still command as much as $20 million per season.
Ricky Nolasco, SP
Even if Nolasco doesn't start another game for the Dodgers, his contribution to the team's success in 2013 is undisputed. After he was acquired from Miami in early July, the 30-year-old went 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA in his first 12 starts with the Dodgers.
Things were clicking on all cylinders as the Dodgers were rarely losing, but adding Nolasco to stabilize the back of the rotation proved to be a very important piece to the puzzle.
Since that impressive 12-start run, however, Nolasco allowed 17 earned runs in 12 innings over his last three regular-season starts and then struggled in his lone playoff start (4 IP, 3 ER, 3 H) in the team's Game 4 NLCS loss to the Cardinals.
His overall value has still likely increased from the start of the season, but there's no doubt it's declined substantially since mid-September.