1. Josh Hamilton, OF,
The biggest impact, middle-of-the-order hitter on the market, who is said to be seeking seven years, $175-million (U.S.), and will be 32 in May. Hamilton, pictured above, has past issues with substance abuse and the strange end to his season makes him a risk. His 2012 season is tough to decipher: second-best OPS (on-base plus slugging) of his career; unusually high number of walks … and 162 strikeouts – 79 more than the season before.
2. Zack Greinke, RHP,
Los Angeles Angels
There are several No. 3 starters on the market, but Greinke’s the only ace – and it will not be out of the question to see him command even more than the six-year, $144-million deal the Philadelphia Phillies gave Cole Hamels. The Angels are clearing the decks, and ought to be intent on re-signing him.
3. Melky Cabrera, OF,
San Francisco Giants
He’s not the first player to be suspended for using performance-enhancing substances and he won’t be the last. The question, of course, is whether the au naturel Cabrera is as good. If eight teams pursue you, thinking of you as being undervalued, won’t that tend to make you overvalued? Do not be surprised if Cabrera makes a killing in this market, albeit on a short-term deal.
4. B.J. Upton, CF,
Tampa Bay Rays
A career-high in strikeouts and career-low in bases on balls in his walk year – but he’s the same age as Cabrera, younger than Hamilton, and with less baggage than both. He’ll not likely ever play up to his tools, but he will be the most sought-after position player on the market.
5. Edwin Jackson, RHP, Washington Nationals
A durable, middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater who will attract attention from several teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s averaged 197 innings per season, with 157 strikeouts and had a WHIP of 1.218 this past season (significantly better than his career mark of 1.438). He made $11-million in 2012, so start the bidding at $14-million per over five years. Whichever team signs him will be told they are guilty of a gross overpayment.