While the playoffs are now on the front burner, in the back of every baseball fan's mind, or the front if your team has been eliminated from contention, is what moves the team will make this offseason.
Free agency is always a hot bed for debate, and every year there will be a fair share of diamonds in the rough as well as big time busts. Often times, contracts are a sign of the free agent class as a whole and not necessarily what the player is worth. Once the top tier guys start to get signed, teams that missed out often overpay for second tier guys, and so on.
So here are 10 players that I think have set themselves up to earn a big payday this off seasons, thanks to big seasons in 2010, or simply for lack of better options at their position, but will fall short of expectations not live up to their contract.
Previous Contract: Three Years, $10 Million
Career Stats: 379 Games, 27-28, 16 Saves, 3.79 ERA, 446 Ks, 570.2 IP
2010 Stats: 67 Games, 5-5, 0 Saves, 2.64 ERA, 48 Ks, 61.1 IP
One of the most sought after and speculated arms at the trade deadline, Downs is the best lefty reliever in what is an extremely thin field of relievers to begin with.
There is no question that Downs has been one of the better setup men in the game the past three seasons, but it can't be stressed enough that he was doing it in Toronto, a town that is a bit more forgiving on their baseball players than many of the teams that will be vying for Downs' services.
Current Jays closer Kevin Gregg is the perfect example. After melting down in the highly scrutinized role of Cubs closer in 2009, he signed with the Jays last offseason and quietly saved 37 games, proving to be better in the low pressure atmosphere. Time will tell if Downs has the thick skin necessary to pitch in a big city.
Previous Contract: One Year, $2 Million
Career Stats: .243 BA, 90 HR, 325 RBI in 702 Games.
2010 Stats: .281 BA, 20 HR, 66 RBI in 118 Games.
Buck has always been known as a catcher with a solid amount of power but little else, as he compiled a .235 batting average in six seasons with the Kansas City Royals.
Given a chance at a change of scenery, as well as a chance to once again be the everyday starter, Buck thrived in 2010 with the Blue Jays, as he hit 38 points above his career batting average and made his first All-Star appearance as a result.
The Blue Jays were one of the more fun stories of 2010, and Buck's breakout season was certainly a big part of the story. However, with a weak free agent class of catchers, highlighted by Victor Martinez and little else, chances are someone will pay Buck based on 2010 and not on his career track record, and they will be sorely disappointed in 2011.
Previous Contract: Three Years, $34.5 Million
Career Stats: 418 Games, 411 Starts, 152-149, 4.26 ERA, 2,374 Ks, 2,647.1 IP
2010 Stats: 31 Games, 26 Starts, 10-10, 5.32 ERA, 121 Ks, 157.1 IP
Vazquez was one of the bigger flops of 2010, and his struggles were well documented as he pitched on baseball's biggest stage in New York.
That said, there is bound to be at least a handful of teams willing to take a chance on Vazquez, hoping that he will once again find his ace form, like he did in 2009 for the Braves when he went 15-10, 2.87 ERA, 238 Ks, finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting, after a 16-loss season the year before.
Vazquez would be a fine signing if he came at a reasonably low price. However, with a weak free agent field of starting pitchers, and Vazquez's impressive track record, someone is bound to overpay for his services.
Previous Contract: Three Years, $36 Million
Career Stats: .270 BA, 214 HR, 887 RBI in 1,650 Games.
2010 Stats: .258 BA, 19 HR, 77 RBI in 148 Games.
It seems like every time Guillen becomes a free agent, someone always opens up their wallet and overpays him, with the most recent culprits being the Royals when they shelled out $36 million for him, despite their need to rebuild and conserve their already thin budget.
Guillen gets the added bonus this time around of playing in the playoffs just before he hits the market, and with a few well timed hits, he could significantly increase his value by performing on the big stage.
There is a sharp drop-off in free agent outfielders after the Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, and a big market team that loses out on the aforementioned duo could very well overpay the aging Guillen as a consolation prize.
Previous Contract: One Year, $7 Million
Career Stats: 240 Starts, 97-89, 4.34 ERA, 956 Ks, 1,503.2 IP
2010 Stats: 32 Starts, 17-11, 3.75 ERA, 117 Ks, 221 IP
After resurrecting his career in 2009 with a 14-12 record, and a big late season contribution to the Twins playoff push, Pavano earned a one-year deal from the Twins before the 2010 season to avoid arbitration.
He has been their workhorse this season, winning 17 games, and leading the AL with seven CG and two SHO en route to another Twins playoff trip.
That's all fine and good, but so quickly we forget that this is the same Pavano that signed a huge four-year, $39.95 million contract with the Yankees in 2005 and then went on to win all of nine games in four seasons. Just something to think about for all those teams thinking of giving Pavano a big multi-year deal.
Previous Contract: Two Years, $6 Million
Career Stats: .267 BA, 143 HR, 501 RBI in 1,060 Games.
2010 Stats: .248 BA, 22 HR, 76 RBI in 154 Games.
Long one of the better hitting utility players in baseball, Wigginton was an All-Star for the first time last season, mostly because of the simple fact that someone had to be an All-Star from the Orioles.
It is a safe bet that he will command slightly more than the two years, $6 million he signed for when he joined the Orioles, and despite the fact that he is a sub-par hitter at best, and far from the player he was when he was with the Rays, or even the Astros, he will probably get it.
His versatility and moderate power make him a valuable commodity, and the two year, $12 million deal that Mark DeRosa signed last year could be what Wigginton is looking for, although even $8 million over two years would be over paying him.
Previous Contract: Four Years, $40 Million
Career Stats: 285 Starts, 113-96, 4.18 ERA, 1,474 Ks, 1,718.1 IP
2010 Stats: 30 Starts, 10-12, 3.62 ERA, 166 Ks, 193.2 IP
Lilly has been a model of consistency the past eight seasons, winning at least 10 games and making at least 25 starts each season during that stretch. He has also shown the capacity for much more, with a 17-win season and a pair of All-Star appearances mixed in during that stretch as well.
Lilly is a durable, reliable starter, and the fact that he is left handed only makes him that much more valuable. His pitching style bodes well for him pitching at a high level for at least a couple more years, and his 7-4 record in 12 games with the Dodgers serve as a valuable audition for playoff-minded teams.
So why put him on this list? For the simple fact that, outside of Cliff Lee, Lilly is arguably the best starting pitcher on the market, and because of that, there is a very good chance that someone will significantly overpay for him, be it in dollars or in the length of the deal.
Previous Contract: Five Years, $60 Million
Career Stats: .280 BA, 365 HR, 1,156 RBI in 1,849 Games.
2010 Stats: .312 BA, 39 HR, 111 RBI in 149 Games.
Konerko has been the heart and soul of the White Sox for over a decade now, and he picked a fantastic time to have one of the best seasons of his impressive career.
He has put himself in line for a multi-year deal in the $10 million per neighborhood, and that may be too pricey for the White Sox, who seem to be at a crossroads after going all in and acquiring Jake Peavy and Manny Ramirez the past two seasons, but falling short of October baseball.
Konerko will get paid, regardless of whether or not it is in Chicago or elsewhere, but the fact of the matter is, in the three seasons prior to 2010, he averaged just .260 BA, 27 HR, 80 RBI, and that sort of production is what should be expected from Konerko heading forward, and it can be had for significantly cheaper.
Previous Contract: Four Years, $19.5 Million
Career Stats: 198 Starts, 87-62, 3.27 ERA, 1,065 Ks, 1,319.2 IP
2010 Stats: None
From 2006-2008, there were few pitcher better than Brandon Webb, as he went 56-25, winning the NL Cy Young in 2006 and finishing second the other two seasons.
However, injury struck for the sinkerballer, and he has made just one appearance in the past two seasons. The Diamondbacks appear ready to move on, and obviously this will be a situation that requires some monitoring as he is coming off of the always complicated "shoulder injury".
Truthfully, this entire situation screams out this year's Ben Sheets, as he pitched well enough in front of scouts to earn a big contract, but did little to show he still had it during the regular season. If the price is right, Webb is certainly worth a chance, but paying him with the expectation of him fronting your rotation will only end in disaster.
Previous Contract: Two Years, $10 Million
Career Stats: .272 BA, 120 HR, 406 RBI, 77 SB in 775 Games.
2010 Stats: .296 BA, 27 HR, 85 RBI, 13 SB in 156 Games.
Werth has really come into his own in the last few seasons, as he does a little bit of everything for the Phillies, and does it all at a very high level.
Once a top prospect in the Blue Jays' organization, and then in the Dodgers' organization, Werth did not get his first chance to play everyday until 2008, when the Phillies gave him a chance and he responded with a 20-20 season.
Now, he is in position to cash in on the success he has had the past three seasons, and he will be the most sought-after free agent not named Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee once the offseason begins. And therein lies the problem.
Werth is a terrific player, and makes any team he's on better. However, he is by no means a superstar, and there are holes in his game. He strikes out a ton, and while his power numbers are good, they are numbers for a six-hole hitter at best.
Werth is going to be paid like a middle of the order run producer, and at the moment, he has the privilege of hitting in one of baseball's best lineups, where he has plenty of help around him. In the end, he simply won't produce enough to justify the contract he's going to receive.