There’s still another five months in the season for free agents-to-be to make a strong impression and boost their value this upcoming offseason.
A few of them got started early with strong starts, and several have some catching up to do if they want to draw up some interest leading up to the free-agency period in November.
Here are five players from the 2014 free-agent class that were big winners in April and five that were losers.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cincinnati Reds
April Stats: .337 BA, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 8 2B, 20 R, 17 BB, 19 K, 2 SB
Hitter-friendly stadium or not, the 30 year-old Choo is on pace to double his $7.38 million salary and could get a deal worth at least four years after his lone season in Cincinnati. He probably won’t get it from the Reds, who will have Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce at the corner outfield spots in 2014 and top prospect Billy Hamilton likely patrolling center field at some point, if not on Opening Day.
There won’t be a shortage of teams interested, though, as he’ll easily be in the top three of free-agent outfielders along with Jacoby Ellsbury and Hunter Pence.
Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
April Stats: .327 BA, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 8 2B, 18 R, 9 BB, 17 K, SB
Cano’s value probably can’t get much higher. It can certainly decline, though, if he has a bad year. But the 30-year-old almost never has a bad year. In fact, he’s had just one so-so year and that was back in 2008 (.715 OPS).
Since then, Cano has averaged 29 homers, 46 doubles and 102 runs batted in per season. Signing him will be risky, however, since he’ll be 31 next season and will probably seek an eight-year contract worth close to $200 million. The Yankees will try to re-sign him, but expect the Dodgers, Cardinals and Cubs to make a run at the four-time All-Star.
Ervin Santana, SP, Kansas City Royals
April Stats: 2.00 ERA, 36 IP, 32 H, 5 BB, 31 K in five starts
Unwilling to pick up Santana's $13 million club option, the Angels traded him to the Royals along with $1 million for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk. Ironically, the 30-year-old will be in line for a raise on that salary if he continues to pitch as well as he has through the first month of the season.
Not only is Santana pitching better than ever, the free-agent starters who had been expected to amongst the top-paid hurlers next offseason (Roy Halladay, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum) aren't pitching nearly as well.
Mark Reynolds, 1B, Cleveland Indians
April Stats: .295 BA, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 5 2B, 18 R, 10 BB, 22 K, SB
The 29-year-old Reynolds received a one-year, $6 million deal after a strong finish with the Orioles in 2012. That success has carried over to 2013 with Reynolds hitting eight homers in April and back on track to reach the 30-homer mark for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
It was Reynolds' rough April (.466 OPS) that hurt his overall 2012 numbers and possibly his value this past offseason. If he can avoid a prolonged slump in 2013, he has the potential to put up numbers that could get him at least three years and $39 million on his next deal.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
April Stats: 2.83 ERA, 35 IP, 27 H, 14 BB, 48 K in six starts
A 37-year-old can only have so much value on the open market, which is the only reason Burnett isn't on pace to cash in again next offseason. Well, those two poor seasons (2010-2011) with the Yankees will also be in the back of the minds of interested teams who might wonder whether he just found his comfort zone in Pittsburgh.
He's pitched like an ace since joining the Pirates in 2012, but he's likely limited to a two-year deal, although $30 million won't be out of the question if he can stay healthy.
Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
April Stats: 6.75 ERA, 32 IP, 29 H, 13 BB, 31 K
Already well behind pace to reach the 225 innings needed for his $20 million option to vest for 2014, Halladay will likely hit the open market for the first time in his career.
The soon-to-be 36-year-old will still draw plenty of interest, especially since he has pitched well at times. But getting hammered in three of his six starts in April is a red flag that Halladay is on the decline.
David Murphy, OF, Texas Rangers
April Stats: .176 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 2B, 3B, 6 BB, 15 K
If only Murphy hit free agency after his career season of 2012 (.859 OPS), he'd be a very rich man right now with a long-term deal in the $12 million-per-year range.
The 31-year-old doesn't have the type of reputation, though, to still get a big contract after a bad season. And that's exactly what he's having right now.
Chris Young, OF, Oakland Athletics
April Stats: .172 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 5 2B, 3B, 12 BB, 20 K, 5 SB
While he's not doing so bad if he's on your fantasy team, Young's .277 on-base percentage in 23 games isn't getting the A's very excited about picking up his $11 million club option for 2014.
His combination of power, speed and defense will keep his value high, but the 29-year-old could get a huge payday if he can get closer to his career .317 on-base percentage to go along with 20-plus homers and steals.
Edinson Volquez, SP, San Diego Padres
April Stats: 6.39 ERA, 31 IP, 41 H, 13 BB, 18 K
Based on talent, there's always a chance Volquez could sneak up to the top of the free agent starter rankings. The 29 year-old has the stuff to pitch at the top of the rotation but has never had enough control—he led the league in walks in 2012—and now hitters are teeing off on him this season.
It's doubtful he'll ever return to his pre-Tommy John surgery and pre-P.E.D. suspension form of 2008 (17-6, 3.21 ERA, 206 K), and it's even more doubtful that any team will give him more than a two-year deal because of his inconsistency.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
April Stats: .253 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 5 2B, 7 BB, 11 K
Once upon a time, Morneau was the AL MVP (2006) and followed that up with four consecutive All-Star appearances. Injuries took their toll, and the 31-year-old hasn't been the same since.
If 2012 was any indication, though, Morneau is still pretty good at hitting a baseball at times. He had a .959 OPS in May, an .848 OPS in July and an .850 OPS in August. He wasn't very good in the other months, which is why his .688 OPS in April is an indication that he's no longer capable of putting it all together for a full season.
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