We all know the theory that players tend to try harder or perform better when they are playing for a contract. If it is true or not is another debate, but here are five players who are free agents after the year that will at least be worth considering:
Jacoby Ellsbury – Outfielder – Boston Red Sox
Even if you don’t fully believe his 2011 campaign (.321, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 119 R, 39 SB), which we shouldn’t, there is no questioning the talent Ellsbury has when he is on the field. While the power is probably more in the 15 HR range (take out ’11 and he has hit 34 HR in 1,675 AB), he is a .300 hitter capable of stealing 40+ bases (he has as many as 70 in a season) and scoring 100+ runs.
The fact that he is a center fielder just adds to his potential value to a Major League club. Some want to call him soft, as he missed the bulk of 2010 (78 AB) and half of 2012 (303 AB). Another partial season will result in a major dent in his wallet, so you have to think he is going to do everything possible to be in the lineup.
With his talent, playing for money is the only incentive fantasy owners need to know about.
Hunter Pence – Outfielder – San Francisco Giants
Pence was once viewed as one of the better outfielders in the game, but the moment you took him out of a hitter’s environment (first Houston, then Philadelphia) he hits .219 in 219 AB. Yes, a .261 BABIP is part of the issue (for his career he has a .321 mark), but you know teams are going to point to the home ballpark and consider it the cause.
Considering for his career he has hit .288 with 63 HR at home and .283 with 75 HR on the road, the argument doesn’t hold much weight. Perception is everything, and another poor year will bring comparisons to Jason Bay and how he suddenly lost it moving to Citi Field.
We obviously shouldn’t over pay, but there is still potential value to be had here.
Delmon Young – Outfielder – Philadelphia Phillies
He has quickly been labelled more of a platoon player, and it is justifiable. In 182 AB against lefties in 2012 he hit .308 with 7 HR (against righties he hit .247 with 11 HR in 392 AB).
At 27-years old (he will turn 28 during the season), that’s not really a label you want. Forget about all of the other issues, if he proves he can hit he is going to get paid. He settled for a cheap, one year contract this season to help rebuild his value. There is plenty of incentive to do so (assuming he can get past his current ankle issue), and playing half his games in Citizen’s Bank Ballpark certainly will help.
Johan Santana – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher
He is getting paid a ton of money in 2013, after losing all of 2011 to injury and then completely falling off the map after his no-hitter in 2012 (he finished with a 4.85 ERA). Yoo know the Mets are hoping he pitches well, so they can try to cash in another prospect by the Trading Deadline.
For Santana, however, while he would likely get a high incentive deal in the offseason (at worst), this could be his last chance to get paid like a potential ace (or #2 starter). He’s 34-years old, but a lefty, so the money will be there if he shows that the results are.
Gavin Floyd – Starting Pitcher – Chicago White Sox
Floyd may be the most interesting player on this list. Since winning 17 games with a 3.84 ERA in 2008, fantasy owners have looked at him as a potential solid option. While he has been a consistent strikeout pitcher (7.02-7.72 K/9), his ERA as left much to be desired:
- 2009 – 4.06
- 2010 – 4.08
- 2011 – 4.37
- 2012 – 4.29
He’s consistently been a poor first half pitcher (4.81 ERA), but to say that he has financial incentive to post a big year would be an understatement. He has good control (career BB/9 of 3.02), was once a highly regarded prospect and is still just 30-years old. We have seen the type of money teams throw around to starting pitchers, so posting a 2008 type season will mean a massive pay day.
Considering the investment we likely have to make, that is all I need to know to make him well worth the flier.
What are your thoughts on these five players? Who do you think will post big years? Who do you think will fail to live up to the contract year hype?
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