With the Major League Baseball off-season heating up and free agents eligible to sign with the highest bidder, TSN.ca takes a closer look at ten of the more interesting players to keep an eye out for.
Some of the players like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke are on top of most free-agent lists, while others like Ryan Dempster and Melky Cabrera have some questions that will be answered as the market for their services continues to develop.
With that in mind, here are the TSN.ca Top 10 free agents to watch.
Josh Hamilton – Despite missing 14 games in 2012, the 31-year-old hammered 43 home runs and picked up 128 RBI. While Hamilton is undoubtibly the best hitter on the market, there are questions about his abilty to stay healthy long term given his previous issues with drugs and alcohol that cost him three seasons from 2003-2005.
While Hamilton and his camp will seek a long term deal, like the ones recently signed by great hitters like Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Prince Feilder, it remains to be seen if teams will be willing to take a chance on the slugger for an extended period of time.
Hamilton could be a difference maker though for a number of clubs, so it should be interesting to see where he ends up and for how long.
Zack Greinke – Greinke was dealt by the Brewers to the Angels in the middle of the 2012 season, and he posted similar numbers with both squads en route to a 15-5 record with a 3.48 ERA. The 29-year-old, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009 with the Royals, has a career 3.77 ERA and hasn't spent any time on the DL in his major league career with an arm injury.
In a market thin on top rung pitching, Greinke should have a long list of suitors.
Michael Bourn – The speedster stole 42 bases last season for the Braves, and has compiled 257 steals in the last five seasons. Aside from his base running ability, the centre fielder has also shown that he can hit, posting a .274 average and a .348 on-base percentage last season.
With the game transitioning back towards a more a speed and defence approach, the market for Bourn and his skills should be robust.
Anibal Sanchez – The 28-year-old posted a 9-13 record in 2012 when he split time with the Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers. Sanchez, who has never topped the 200 inning mark in any of his seven seasons in the Major Leagues has a live arm and would be a solid middle of the rotation starter for most teams. Because of the relative thin free-agent crop of effective starters, it's not out of the realm of possibility that a bidding war for his services, due to his stuff and age, will occur.
B.J. Upton – The first overall pick in the 2002 draft has never quite lived up to the potential or hype that surrounded him. With that said, he is still a very useful player.
He has stolen 30 or more bases in each of the last five seasons and last season, he clubbed a career high 28 home runs. On the down side, his batting average is hovering in the .240 range and his strikeouts have been mounting year after year.
At 28, Upton is at his baseball prime, it's just a question of how much and more importantly how long a team is willing to commit to him.
Dan Haren – The 32-year-old hits the market coming off his worst season since becoming a regular starter in 2005. He missed five starts over the course of the year because of back issues. Those same issues are the reason
the market for Haren will be interesting, especially in light of the nixed trade between the Cubs and Angels before he became a free agent.
If Haren is right physically, he could be a difference maker, but that appears to be a big question at this point.
Edwin Jackson – The 29-year-old right-hander had a solid season with the Washington Nationals in 2012. He's been a member of seven different organizations in the last five seasons and he'll no doubt be looking for a deal that hopefully will keep him in one spot for the near future.
While he's not an ace, he has shown to be a valuable mid-rotation arm.
Ichiro – Seemingly out of the blue, the lifetime Mariner was dealt from his only MLB team to the Yankees in July. The 39-year-old looked lost with the Mariners, posting a .261 AVG and a .288 OBP. With the Yankees, where he hit lower in the lineup upon arrival before eventually moving back up the order, he posted a .322 AVG/.340 OBP.
While his days as a star player appear to be over, Ichiro still has name value among fans and showed at the end of last season that he has the ability to thrive with a contending team. That might limit the market for his services, but it will be interesting to see where the 10-time gold glove winner ends up.
Ryan Dempster - 2012 was a tale of two seasons for the 35-year-old Canadian. He started the season with the Cubs where he posted a stellar 2.25 ERA in 16 starts. He then accepted a mid-season trade to the Rangers, where he struggled in his first exposure in the American League, posting a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts.
There will be a lot of interest in the 35-year-old, but it's hard to imagine a great deal of that will come from an American League team given his stint in Texas.
Melky Cabrera – The 28-year-old outfielder was well on his way to the 2012 National League batting title when he was suspended by the league for 50 games due to PED use. There are questions about not only what he'll be able to accomplish on the field next year, but how long he'll sign for and for how much.