Every MLB Team's Most Motivated Player This Offseason
The offseason, when interpreted literally, implies that MLB players don't work from November until February.
However, players continue to exercise, hit, throw—they're essentially only "off" from game action.
Still, some players work harder than others to prepare for the following season.
Based on disappointing seasons, contract years and the like, this is a list of players who should be motivated to work hard this winter.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Hill
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Aaron Hill revitalized his season after the Toronto Blue Jays dealt him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in August.
After hitting .225 in 104 games with the Blue Jays, Hill posted a .315 average in 33 games in the desert.
For encouragement, Hill can look at his improved stat line in Arizona, but he definitely is not satisfied with his .246 overall average and eight home runs—keep in mind, the second baseman hit .286 with 36 homers and 108 RBI two seasons ago.
Arizona declined its $8 million option on Hill, but the club hopes to re-sign him in free agency.
That's a decision that tells Hill the team doesn't value him at the same level they would have in 2009, possibly adding more fuel to his offseason workouts.
Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward
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Whether you call it a sophomore slump or an injury-plagued season, Jason Heyward's 2011 was underwhelming.
The runner-up in the 2010 Rookie of the Year voting, Heyward saw his average dip 50 points to .227 in 2011.
His home-run rate barely fluctuated—one home run every 28 at-bats in 2011 versus one every 29 at-bats in 2010—but his RBI total dropped to 42.
To his credit, Heyward hit .294 in 34 at-bats with two outs and runners in scoring position. However, he hit just .215 with runners on base in general.
As a highly-touted prospect, Heyward will face a lot of pressure in the opening weeks of 2012—will he prove to be resilient or not?
One way to alleviate that pressure immediately is to work hard this offseason and hit the ground running in April.
Baltimore Orioles: Jeremy Guthrie
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Jeremy Guthrie is a former first-round draft pick who never quite lived up to expectations.
He has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in three of his five seasons as a full-time starter but has a career-low of just 3.63.
In 2011, his ERA rose to 4.33—respectable, but nothing to write home about.
Guthrie will be a 33-year-old free agent next offseason, so a strong 2012 could earn him a decent contract.
In order for that to come to fruition, he'll need to be motivated and disciplined this winter.
Boston Red Sox: Carl Crawford
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After signing a seven-year, $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox last winter, Carl Crawford hit just .255 and posted career-lows in on-base percentage (.289) and triples (seven).
Also, don't be fooled by his three errors—a low total for an everyday player.
Crawford posted a minus-2.2 UZR and missed Robert Andino's catchable, dooming walk-off single. The left fielder committed a similar misplay just a week earlier against the New York Yankees.
Deservedly so, Crawford has caught a lot of flak for his underwhelming campaign, and it certainly can't be encouraging when your team's owner publicly states he disapproved of your signing.
Crawford is a four-time All-Star, but those appearances don't matter to Red Sox fans. They want Crawford play to the demands of his contract.
The 30-year-old has to prove that 2011 was a fluke.
Chicago Cubs: Geovany Soto
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Geovany Soto has been resilient in the past—he boosted his average to .280 in 2010 after hitting .218 in 2009.
In 2011, the former Rookie of the Year hit .228 with a career-high 124 strikeouts.
His power didn't dip—he belted 17 homers—but the catcher clearly needs plenty of work in the batting cage.
Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham
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If a headline like this wouldn't motivate you, I'm not sure what would.
Gordon Beckham offered hope that he would live up to the expectations of a top draft pick, hitting .270 with 14 home runs in his rookie year of 2009.
Since then, though, Beckham has deteriorated into a .230 hitter, leaving Chicago White Sox fans frustrated and confused.
Maybe doubt about his resiliency will motivate him this winter.
Cincinnati Reds: Edinson Volquez
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Not many teams will shell out money to a pitcher with a history of arm injuries and a 5.71 ERA.
Therefore, Edinson Volquez needs to work hard this offseason, building up strength in his arm so he can play a full season and lower his ERA.
Volquez won't be a free agent until 2014, but if he doesn't perform at a higher level in 2012, many teams will be too afraid to pursue him in two years.
Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore
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Grady Sizemore is a free agent, and it appears that he won't spend 2012 in Cleveland.
But the 29-year-old should certainly be motivated this winter.
Obviously, he needs to allot some focus to signing a new contract, but he has hit just .234 over the past three injury-shortened seasons after hitting .279 in his first five seasons.
Colorado Rockies: Huston Street
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In 2011, Huston Street, a former heralded prospect and Rookie of the Year, posted a 3.86 ERA—decent for a starter but way too high for a closer.
It appears that Rafael Betancourt will supplant Street as the Colorado Rockies' closer, and Troy E. Renck thinks the Rockies could trade Street.
That has to be demoralizing.
You can bet Street is motivated to prove the organization wrong.
Detroit Tigers: Austin Jackson
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After hitting .293 while playing solid defense in 2010, Austin Jackson appeared to be one of the best young center fielders.
However, his average fell to .249 in 2011, and he struck out 181 times—even more than the 170 strikeouts in his rookie season.
Jackson has to prove 2011 was nothing more than a sophomore slump. In order to do so, he'll need plenty of motivation—spending countless hours in the batting cage isn't easy without a persistent internal drive.
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
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When you're supposedly a franchise player and you hear your team is pursuing a top free agent at your position, you must feel a chip on your shoulder—even if you're the lackadaisical Hanley Ramirez.
The Florida Marlins are apparently the first team to aggressively negotiate with Jose Reyes.
Ramirez missed 70 games in 2011 and hit .243 in the 92 in which he played.
Add the possibility of being supplanted by Reyes, and Ramirez should be very motivated this offseason.
Houston Astros: Carlos Lee
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Carlos Lee is 35 years old and entering a contract year.
Teams will certainly pay El Caballo for the .275 average, 18 homers and 94 RBI he posted in 2011, but a more productive 2012 could earn him big bucks.
For that to happen, Lee cannot take the term "offseason" too literally.
Kansas City Royals: Joakim Soria
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After accumulating 132 saves and posting a 2.01 ERA over his first four seasons, Joakim Soria struggled in 2011, finishing with 28 saves, seven blown saves and a 4.03 ERA.
No Kansas City Royal had a more disappointing season, and Soria should work this offseason to iron out his issues.
Los Angeles Angels: Torii Hunter
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At 36 years old, Torii Hunter is nearing the end of his career (critics will point to his .262 batting average and minus-0.9 UZR in 2011).
Hunter did jolt 23 long balls and drive in 82 runs, but he'll need to raise his average in 2012 to silence the critics.
At his age especially, you have to work hard in the offseason just to maintain your ability—he'll have to work even harder to improve.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier
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Entering a contract year, Andre Ethier will need to regain the power that made him a well-rounded hitter in the past. He hit just 11 home runs in 2011.
Ethier hit .292 and won a Gold Glove this season, so proving he can still hit for power will entice teams to pay him even more money next offseason.
Milwaukee Brewers: Zack Greinke
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Zack Greinke is entering a contract year.
Since posting a 2.16 ERA and 9.5 K/9 and winning a Cy Young award in 2009, Greinke hasn't been as dominant.
He did improve this season after finishing 2010 with a 4.17 ERA and 7.4 K/9 but still wasn't nearly as effective as he was in 2009.
With his 2011 numbers—16-6, 3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 10.5 K/9—Greinke would earn a big contract. However, if he can improve even more in 2012, he'll receive a lucrative deal.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau
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Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau played in a combined 151 games in 2011, belting seven homers, driving in 60 runs and hitting .259.
The duo comprise the face of the Minnesota Twins and need to be healthy and primed for productive seasons.
They're both gamers and certainly did not enjoy sitting out the bulk of 2011, so expect them to be motivated this winter.
New York Mets: David Wright
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David Wright hit a career-low .254 with a meager 14 home runs and 61 RBI in an injury-plagued 2011.
Thought to be the face of the franchise, Wright has heard his name in trade talks.
Combine that with an underwhelming season, and the All-Star third baseman should be driven to work hard this winter.
New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez
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Alex Rodriguez played in just 99 games in 2011, failing to extend his 13-year streak of hitting at least 30 home runs and driving in 100 runs.
The third baseman hit .276 with 16 homers and 62 RBI.
2011 marked the fourth consecutive season in which Rodriguez failed to play in 140 or more games. Perhaps his body simply can't handle full seasons anymore.
Rodriguez needs to prove he's still worth $30 million per year.
Oakland Athletics: Kurt Suzuki
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Plenty of Oakland Athletics should be motivated this offseason—with the exception of Jemile Weeks, no Athletic hit above .265 in 2011.
Kurt Suzuki hit .237 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI.
Of all A's to appear in at least 100 games, none hit worse than Suzuki. Enough said.
Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard
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Despite hitting .253, Ryan Howard had a productive offensive season, blasting 33 homers and driving in 116 runs.
Unfortunately, Howard ruptured his Achilles tendon during the final out of the NLDS. He'll spend most of his offseason rehabbing, so he'll have to work harder to catch up once he's cleared for baseball activity.
He'll need to be disciplined and motivated in order to return early and ready in 2012.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez
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Pedro Alvarez produced at such a low level in 2011 that the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted their former No. 2 overall draft pick to the minors for 42 games.
Alvarez hit .191 with four homers, 19 RBI and 80 strikeouts in 74 games with the big league club.
His 2011 numbers made his mediocre 2010 numbers—.256 average, 16 homers and 64 RBI—look Hall of Fame worthy.
San Diego Padres: Every Offensive Player
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Not sure if this is a cop-out or not, but there's not one single San Diego Padre that blatantly out-sucked the rest of his team.
As a squad, the Padres ranked No. 29 with a .237 batting average, No. 28 with 593 runs, No. 29 with a .349 slugging percentage and dead-last with 91 home runs.
Only two Padres who appeared in more than 100 games hit above .264.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
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According to Matt Snyder, Buster Posey has been able to run, hit and catch bullpen sessions—great signs of improvement after suffering a gruesome leg injury in May.
Posey thinks he'll be ready for spring training, but after such a long recovery process, he'll need to work extremely hard this offseason to return to game shape.
Seattle Mariners: Franklin Gutierrez
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Franklin Gutierrez posted career-lows across the board in 2011.
The former Gold Glove center fielder hit .224 with one homer, 19 RBI and a .261 OBP.
He's about to enter the final season of his four-year, $20.25 million deal, but his numbers have declined in each of the previous three seasons.
In order for Gutierrez to reverse the trend, he'll need a productive offseason.
St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright
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The St. Louis Cardinals exercised their 2012-2013 option on Adam Wainwright—a good sign they think he'll successfully return from Tommy John surgery.
Nonetheless, Wainwright hasn't pitched in a game since 2010, when he went 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA, so he'll need to exert lots of effort this offseason in order to return to game shape.
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria
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In 2009, Evan Longoria had the best offensive season of his career, hitting .281 with 33 homers and 113 RBI.
He hit 31 homers and drove in 99 runs in 2011, but his batting average dipped to a career-low .244—his previous low was .272 in 2008.
Despite his low average, Longoria was considered one of the best hitters in baseball this year.
Elevating that clip while maintaining his power will allow him to enter elite territory.
Texas Rangers: Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Darren Oliver
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Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Darren Oliver all had stellar seasons.
Young hit a career-high .338, Beltre earned a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger and Oliver posted a career-low 2.29 ERA.
Now in the latter stage of their careers, the trio has spent a combined 44 seasons in the big leagues, yet they have amassed a grand total of zero World Series rings.
Young and Oliver have lost two consecutive championships, and Beltre joined them for 2011, when the Texas Rangers found themselves one strike away—twice!—from a title.
With limited seasons before retirement, you can bet the trio is as hungry as ever.
Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind
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With the exception of doubles, Adam Lind improved across the board in 2011 despite playing in 25 fewer games.
The first baseman hit .251 with 26 homers and 87 RBI.
However, the numbers are skewed—he hit .197 in the second half.
Lind will need plenty of work this offseason to shake off his dreadful finish and even approach the .305 average, 35 homers and 114 RBI he posted in 2009.
Washington Nationals: Jayson Werth
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Last offseason, Jayson Werth signed a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals.
However, he failed to live up to its standards, hitting .232 with 20 homers and 58 RBI.
Fans hate when players don't produce—especially when they're making an average of $18 million per year.
Werth has to adjust and play at the level that earned him the lucrative contract.