MLB Predictions: The Next 15 MLB Stars Up for Long-Term Extensions

Andy VanfossanContributor IFebruary 23, 2011

MLB Predictions: The Next 15 MLB Stars Up for Long-Term Extensions

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    JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 17: Albert Pujols # 5 of the St. Louis Cardinals takes fielding practice at Roger Dean Stadium on February 17, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    With all the talk surrounding King Albert this spring training and Jose Bautista signing a five-year extension, Bleacher Report has decided to look at the next group of MLB stars that are looking at potential long-term contract extensions.

    With the economy not bouncing back like "experts" have said, teams are being more careful about handing out lucrative, long-term deals with their players and opting instead to spend money on player development. However, there are those players who are essential to their teams' success and they will be paid accordingly. 

    The following are the 15 stars that will earn long-term extensions sooner rather than later.

Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers)

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers bats against the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Giants won 3-1. (Photo by Ro
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Josh Hamilton is the Rangers best player and one of the top three players in the American League. He is a five-tool player who is a great story on and off the field, and he seems to have hit his stride in Texas. His numbers are solid if you throw out the 2009 season which was injury plagued, and add to that the fact he came back to win the league MVP last year.

    Hamilton agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract this offseason, which will keep him in Texas through 2012. Hamilton isn't going anywhere so expect him to sign another extension next year, except this time for four-to-five years at $90-100 million.

Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants bats against the Texas Rangers in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year did absolutely everything for the world champion Giants. He hit, played defense, threw baserunners out and called great games for a pitching staff that was young in its own right.

    Posey has some time before he is eligible for free agency as he won't become arbitration eligible for a few years, but considering what the Giants have in this young backstop, I think they'll do much like the Reds did with Joey Votto and buy out his arbitration years before they get there.

    He's already the second best catcher in the National League behind McCann in Atlanta and he will be paid like it by the Giants.

Tim Lincecum (San Francisco Giants)

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    SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 03:  (L-R) San Francisco Giants pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson speak to fans outside San Francisco city hall during the Giants' victory parade and celebration on November 3, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Th
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Lincecum is signed through 2011 and is arbitration eligible in 2012. The last time Lincecum was up for a raise, the Giants settled on a seemingly team-friendly two-year contract extension.

    This time will be different. I fully expect the Giants to lock up "The Freak" for at least four-to-five years which would give San Francisco a loaded pitching staff for the next several years.

    The issue the Giants will have to deal with, though, is their team is loaded with young stars (Cain, Posey, Sanchez and Bumgarner), and is giving a substantial raise to Lincecum the best for the future? I think the answer is a resounding yes.

Danny Valencia (Minnesota Twins)

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 7: Danny Valencia #19 of the Minnesota Twins reacts to a called third strike in the seventh inning during game two of the ALDS game against the New York Yankees on October 7, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    This may be a stretch, but it seems that the Twins have finally found their third baseman. Valencia hit .311 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. This may not seem like much, but considering the other option at third base, Nick Punto, Valencia was a God-send.

    The Twins have somewhat of a reputation of locking up their younger players, thus avoiding team arbitration. Denard Span and Nick Blackburn signed long-term deals after a couple solid years, so the precedent is there for the Twins to sign their third baseman of the future.

Phil Hughes (New York Yankees)

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Stephen
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Phil Hughes had been hyped up the past couple years in the Yankee organization and delivered in 2010. He was 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in his first full year in the Yankee rotation. Hughes is arbitration eligible in 2012 and a solid No. 3 starter.

    It's hard to imagine C.C. walking away from that much money after this year, but he could potentially opt out, which would make Hughes that much more valuable.

    The Yankees know this and will sign him accordingly.

Trevor Cahill (Oakland Athletics)

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Trevor Cahill #53 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Boston Red Sox at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 10, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Trevor Cahill was one of the top pitchers in the American League last year. He went 18-8 with a sub 3.00 ERA. He only struck out 118 in 196.67 innings, but he got the job done when asked. Cahill is the ace of an up-and-coming Oakland staff.

    Pundits are comparing this year's A's team to the Giants of last year. Cahill, although not the caliber of a Tim Lincecum, can be that ace the A's need now and into the future.

    He is arbitration eligible in 2012 and he can't become a free agent until 2015. GM Billy Beane, though, has a tendency of trading his top players at prime times in their careers. It will be interesting to see what Beane does with Cahill, but whatever he does, Cahill is deserving and will get some type of long-term extension.

Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs)

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    could this be a sign of things to come?
    could this be a sign of things to come?Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The way GM Jim Hendry spends owner Tom Rickett's money, you have to put a Cubs player in here. Starlin Castro will soon be, if he is not already, the face of the Chicago Cubs. Castro put together a solid rookie campaign, hitting an even .300 with three home runs, 41 RBI and 10 bags stolen.

    Obviously, being a rookie last year, Castro has some time to "earn" his money, but with the way teams are being aggressive locking up their young talent, don't be surprised if Castro is the next Cub player to get big money.

Elvis Andrus (Texas Rangers)

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers bats against the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Giants won 3-1.  (Photo by Ron
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade with Atlanta, Andrus seems to be the shortstop of the Rangers foreseeable future. He leads off a potent Rangers lineup that includes: Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton and, for now, Michael Young. Andrus is the prototypical leadoff hitter.

    He can steal you bases, he's fast, and he can score some runs. Power isn't his game at all, but otherwise he is a solid all-around player. With the money the Rangers now have with their media contracts, expect Nolan Ryan to lock up his shortstop for quite a while.

Heath Bell (San Diego Padres)

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 01:  Heath Bell #21 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on October 1, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Arguably one of the top three closers in the game (Brian Wilson and Rivera), Bell was the subject of trade rumors as early as last year. Those rumors passed as the Padres made an improbable run towards the NL West title only to see it slip away in the final days of the season.

    Bell is the most known, nationwide, of the Padres and his saves numbers—42 and 47 the past two years—have earned him an extension in San Diego.

Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves)

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 10:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves against the San Francisco Giants during Game Three of the NLDS of the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Turner Field on October 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Teams are starting to pay their young, budding stars after a shorter amount of time to actually save money in the future. The Braves may have to do this with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. Heyward was as good as advertised in his rookie year in which he played the entire season with the big club and hit 18 home runs and drove in 72 runs.

    He also swiped 11 bags for good measure. The Braves are quietly building their team up for runs like they had in the 1990s and early part of 2000s, and Heyward will be the centerpiece for the franchise for quite some time.

Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)

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    PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on September 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Kershaw's free agent year is 2015, but his arbitration starts in 2012. The Dodgers are in a bit of a financial bind with the McCourt divorce still hanging over the team as they go into spring training this year.

    Still, Kershaw is one of the top lefties in the league. His 13 wins won't necessarily turn a lot of heads, but his two consecutive years of sub 3.00 ERA will. He struck out 212 batters in his 32 starts for the Dodgers, who overall last year were pretty disappointing.

    He has No. 1 stuff and he will only get better as he matures and continues to learn how to pitch.

Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)

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    ST. LOUIS - AUGUST 1: Andrew McCutchen of the St. Louis Cardinals fields a fly ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 1, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Pirates 9-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh fans have to be fed up with the Pirates futility over the past 20 years. Signing Andrew McCutchen to an extension would be another sign that the Pirates are serious about winning. McCutchen is their only All-Star and best player. He isn't eligible for free agency until 2016, and he is under team control until then.

    Still, as mentioned with several other players discussed so far, the Pirates would be wise to buy out McCutchen's arbitration years and build around him over the next few seasons. It can't be any worse than it already is in the Steel City. 

Adrian Gonzalez (Boston Red Sox)

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    BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Adrian Gonzalez answers questions during a press conference to announce his signing with the Boston Red Sox on December 6,  2010 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    This one is about as close to a given as there is. Gonzalez is in Boston, simply put, because the Padres couldn't afford him. They knew they wouldn't be able to pay him what he was asking and instead of losing him to free agency, they traded him to the team that desperately wanted him.

    He is a free agent after the 2011 season and if his track record hitting in a pitcher's ballpark is any indication of what he could do at Fenway, the Red Sox will pay through the roof to re-sign him.

    Money usually is no object for the Sox, so consider this already a done deal baring some unforeseen episode.

David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 12:  David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during Game 5 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field on October 12, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The former No. 1 pick out of Vanderbilt is the ace of a young Rays staff and will be a free agent after the 2012 season. Price won 19 games in 2010 and set career best numbers across the board. Although the Rays don't necessarily have the money to spend, they would be foolish not to sign Price to some type of an extension.

    They traded Garza to open up a space for Jeremy Hellickson, but Price is the anchor of the staff. The Rays need to keep Price if they intend to continue to be a factor in the loaded AL East.

Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees bats against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 6-1.  (Pho
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    I realize Cano has two team options for 2012 and 2013, but nobody leaves the Yankees. Cano hit 29 home runs and drove in 109 runs in 2010; he also made a strong case for league MVP.

    A-Rod isn't getting any younger and Jeter probably signed his last contract this offseason, which leaves Cano. If Cano puts up the numbers he did in 2010, he'll have his extension sooner rather than later.