Finally! Some good players! Jhonny Peralta took advantage of a weak market to the tune of a four-year, $52 million pact with the Cardinals this offseason, but teams will have a relatively stronger class from which to choose next offseason.
The headliner of the group is Dodgers star Hanley Ramirez, who is tentatively slated for his first foray into free agency after signing a six-year extension with the Marlins back in 2008.
Ramirez may never get there, though, because he has discussed an extension with the Dodgers, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported last month via Twitter. The right-handed hitter never developed the consistency to be the perennial MVP candidate many projected he would be early in his career, but if he can put together a solid, healthy 2014, he'll likely be in line for a huge payday next offseason—assuming he doesn't get locked up before then.
Down a tier, we find two pretty good shortstops who might be looking for a Peralta-like contract if they play well next season in J.J. Hardy of the Orioles and Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera.
Hardy, especially, looks like a good bet to land that contract if he keeps up his recent production, while Cabrera will need to rebound from a disappointing 2013. Age is on Cabrera's side, though, as he turned 28 in November, while Hardy will turn 32 this season.
Jed Lowrie is another name to watch, a guy who hits well for a middle infielder (.264/.332/.427 career line) but might be best suited for a utility role because of his defensive limitations and proclivity for injuries. His 662 plate appearances last year were by far the most of his career, and if he can do it again, and maintain his production at the plate, he'll make for an interesting case in free agency.
Finally, a couple of past-their-prime greats will be at a crossroads, as Derek Jeter could be facing retirement, while Jimmy Rollins could be a free agent due to a convoluted vesting/club/player option for 2015 (as per Cot's Contracts).