How the 2013 Postseason Has Changed the MLB Free-Agency Picture

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How the 2013 Postseason Has Changed the MLB Free-Agency Picture
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Ellsbury's postseason performance may have pushed him into $100 million-contract territory.

The free-agent market could be open for business as early as next Monday, and while it had appeared to be shaping up late in the regular season, it turns out that it was far from settled. 

Pricey contract extensions for Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum, as well as speculated $100 million asking prices for Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, indicate that teams may have to ante up big dollars for the best players on the market.  

In addition, several free agents-to-be boosted their stock with strong playoff performances. Others hurt their value by showing that they might not be very good when the games are most important. 

Here's a look at how the 2013 postseason has changed the playoff picture.

 

Jacoby Ellsbury: $100 million man

Despite missing nearly three weeks in September with a foot injury, Ellsbury had already done enough to ensure he'd enter the offseason as the top center fielder on the free-agent market.

But a $100 million deal, as was suggested by his agent Scott Boras in an interview with CBS Sports last month, seemed steep considering he hadn't shown the power that made him a finalist for the AL MVP award in 2011. Considering that a similar player, Michael Bourn, got four years and $48 million the previous offseason, a reasonable projection for the 30-year-old Ellsbury would be somewhere around five years and $70 million. 

This is no longer the case, though. Ellsbury, who has been the catalyst for the Sox during their World Series run with a .902 OPS, 17 hits, 11 runs and six stolen bases in 12 games, is doing everything in his power to increase his value.

Pence's $90 million deal helps, but it's Ellsbury's playoff performance that might actually push him into the $100 million territory. 

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Carlos Beltran putting injury concerns to rest

Including the playoffs, Beltran has averaged 154 games per season since 2011, his ages 34-36 seasons. After leaving Game 1 of the World Series after robbing a homer with a rib injury, he was back in the lineup for Game 2. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI single to add on to one of the most impressive postseason resumes of all time. 

The knee troubles that caused him to miss most of the 2009 and 2010 seasons appear to be a thing of the past, and he'll be paid accordingly. It's his talent on the field that could net him as much as $20 million per year this offseason. It's his ability to stay on the field—even this late in the season—that will give at least one team enough confidence to give him a three-year deal.

 

Clutch hitting will overshadow Mike Napoli's hip condition

There's no doubt that the degenerative hip condition that caused the Red Sox to pull a three-year, $39 million deal off the table last winter is going to be an issue for Napoli again. But the fact that he started 131 games at first base—his first year as a regular first baseman—and put up impressive numbers during the regular season (.842 OPS, 23 HR, 92 RBI) will make it much less of an issue. 

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And if there was still any doubt, consider that the 31-year-old has had several big hits in the postseason, including a game-winning homer against Justin Verlander in the ALCS and a three-run double to open the scoring in the World Series, and he has not been hindered one bit by his hip condition.

The question is no longer whether he'll get a multi-year deal or not. It's whether he'll get two or three years.

/Getty Images


Add Brian Wilson to the list of top free-agent closers

The former Giants closer didn't even get a save opportunity during his two-month stint with the Dodgers. But by the playoffs, it was clear that Wilson had returned to form after missing all of 2012 and most of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery. 

After allowing just one earned run in 13.2 innings over 18 regular-season appearances, the 31-year-old was even better in the postseason. As the primary setup man to closer Kenley Jansen, Wilson pitched six shutout innings with two walks, eight strikeouts, a win and two holds. 

Those might be the last "holds" he records for a couple of seasons. He should land a closer's gig this winter.

 

"Left fielder" Jhonny Peralta near the top of the shortstop and third base markets

Peralta returned from a 50-game PED suspension late in the season to find he had lost his starting shortstop job to defensive whiz Jose Iglesias. The Tigers needed his bat in the lineup, however, so they got creative. 

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For the first time in his professional career, the 31-year-old played in the outfield. He also went 11-for-33 in the playoffs with three doubles and a homer. Does it mean he'll be recruited as a starting outfielder this offseason? Probably not. But that's only because several teams will be trying to sign him to be their shortstop or third baseman. 

It's not exactly the deepest market for those positions, which is why Peralta's suspension will have limited impact on his value. 

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Juan Uribe will be a starting third baseman in 2014

The Dodgers gave Uribe a three-year, $21 million deal after a 2010 season in which he posted a .749 OPS with 24 homers for the Giants. But it's extremely likely that he may have earned himself that third year or a few more million dollars after some clutch hitting in the playoffs. 

Uribe hit a game-winning homer in the deciding NLCS Game 6 win over the Phillies. He also hit a big three-run homer in Game 1 of the World Series. He didn't do much else, but his impact was clear in front of a national audience. 

Fast-forward to 2013, and Uribe is coming off a season in which he posted a .769 OPS with 12 homers and has been named a finalist for the Gold Glove award for third basemen. He came up big again in the playoffs, including another game-winning homer in the deciding game of a series. 

Regardless of how bad he was in 2011-2012 (.552 OPS), Uribe shouldn't have a hard time finding a starting job in what is a very weak market for third basemen. 


Where have you gone, Edward Mujica? 

A 29-year-old All-Star closer who is coming off a season in which he saved 37 games, posted a 2.78 ERA and walked only five batters in 64.2 innings should be extremely popular this winter, right? Not so much with Mujica. 

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If his own team doesn't have enough faith to use him in anything more than mop-up duty during the playoffs, why would teams interested in a closer look to Mujica ahead of Wilson, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nathan or Fernando Rodney? 

It's his own doing after a terrible September (7.1 IP, 9 ER, 18 H), but Mujica's value has taken a tremendous hit in a short amount of time, and the Cardinals aren't helping by not letting him pitch this postseason.

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