Top 10 Free Agent Hitters Re Signing This Winter

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At the end of October, each MLB team’s front office personnel will be busily preparing to shore up their rosters for the upcoming season.

Expiring contracts will need to be decided upon as teams weigh a number of factors in determining whether it’s worth their while to extend players currently on the roster.

Bleacher Report will attempt to place odds on the top hitters’ chances of re-signing with their current teams. In some cases, we may choose players who have yet to hit free agency but could be under consideration as a non-tender candidate.

Washington Nationals: Adam LaRoche

After a miserable 2011 season in which he played just 43 games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is certainly a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

LaRoche has hit .269 with 29 HR and 92 RBI, showing no ill effects from a difficult labrum surgery last year. LaRoche is in the final season of a two-year, $16 million contract, with a mutual $10 million option for 2013.

Odds of re-signing with Nationals: 40 percent. Have to think the Nationals want him back, but it is not certain if LaRoche will accept it.

Toronto Blue Jays: Kelly Johnson

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays swapped second basemen last August, with Aaron Hill headed to Phoenix and Johnson traveling north of the border.

It’s safe to say the Diamondbacks got the better of that deal.

Johnson showed signs of improvement with the Blue Jays following the trade, hitting .270 in 33 games after hitting just .209 in 114 games for Arizona. The Jays were impressed enough to give Johnson a one-year, $6.38 million deal.

However, Johnson has largely struggled once again, hitting just .224 with 14 HR and 50 RBI. Meanwhile, Hill completely rebounded in Phoenix, hitting .294 with 22 HR and 67 RBI.

Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton

Without question the biggest name on the list of 2013 free agents, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is also one of the biggest question marks in terms of whether he’s worth the money.

Depending on who you ask or talk to, Hamilton is worth anywhere from $100 million to as much as $250 million. The biggest questions are health and prior substance-abuse history, either of which would be question marks for any athlete on their own.

Hamilton is leading the majors with 41 HR and 121 RBI and is a former batting champion and MVP, so the resume is certainly stellar.

The Rangers have been silent regarding any negotiations, and there are no doubt several teams who will be watching with rapt interest.

Odds of re-signing with Rangers: 20 percent. I honestly believe the Rangers want him back, but I don’t expect them to be offering anything close to a 10-year, $200 million deal. Some team will set the market, however. Some team always does.

Tampa Bay Rays: Carlos Pena

First baseman Carlos Pena signed a one-year, $7.25 million contract to return to the Tampa Bay Rays, where he had raked offensively for four years prior to his year with the Chicago Cubs.

However, this time around hasn’t been quite so rosy for Pena.

Pena has struggled, hitting just .196 with 17 HR and 51 RBI along with a career-low .667 OPS and career-high 168 strikeouts.

Odds of re-signing with Rays: Zero percent. I don’t see any chance at all of Pena returning, even at a drastically reduced rate.

St. Louis Cardinals: Lance Berkman

Considering he’s played just 31 games this season with three trips to the disabled list, it’s safe to say the 2012 campaign has been one of complete frustration for St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman.

Pegged to take over at first base after the departure of free agent Albert Pujols, Berkman was being counted on to provide the production he offered up in the 2011 season—a .301 average, 31 HR and 94 RBI.

Now, Berkman is pondering retirement, and the Cardinals will be seeking a permanent solution at first base.

Odds of re-signing with Cardinals: Zero percent. Berkman has already given strong indications he’s ready to return to Rice University, complete his degree and serve as a student-assistant for the baseball team. Berkman represented Rice as the College Player of the Year in 1997.

Seattle Mariners: Miguel Olivo

Nearing the end of a two-year, $7 million contract, Seattle Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo could well just be playing out the string.

With the younger John Jaso and Jesus Montero on board, Olivo will more than likely be the odd man out. Olivo is in the final season of a two-year, $7 million contract, with the Mariners holding the option for the 2013 season at $3 million.

Odds of re-signing with Mariners: Zero percent. With a .215 average and the Mariners already with two catchers under team control, there’s little to no chance that Olivo returns.

San Francisco Giants: Marco Scutaro

To say that the San Francisco Giants have been buoyed by the performance of infielder Marco Scutaro since Aug. 1 would be a vast understatement.

Scutaro has been huge for the Giants since his trade from the Colorado Rockies, hitting .341 with two homers and 30 RBI in 44 games. Scutaro has already provided several game-winning hits, and since Melky Cabrera was hit with a 50-game suspension on Aug. 15, Scutaro has become the go-to guy.

Scutaro had his $6 million option for the 2012 season picked up by the Boston Red Sox prior to his trade to the Rockies.

Scutaro would love to return to the Bay Area as well, telling Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com that he is happy with where he is.

“I would love to come back here,” Scutaro said. “I really love it here. There are great fans, it’s a great place to play. More important, it’s a place where you have a chance to win every year.”

Odds of re-signing with Giants: 60 percent. Have to think the chances are good, given what Scutaro has provided thus far.

San Diego Padres: None

Much like the Kansas City Royals, the San Diego Padres are loaded with 20-something players who are years away from free agency.

GM Josh Byrnes traded away several players for much younger players under team control, so entering the offseason, he will have few worries in terms of re-signing current position players.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Rod Barajas

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Rod Barajas was signed for $4 million with the hope that he could add some offense from behind the plate, something missing for much of last season with injuries to Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder.

Barajas has been a disappointment, hitting just .196 with nine HR, 25 RBI and a .592 OPS.

The Pirates hold a $3.5 million option for the 2013 season.

Odds of re-signing with the Pirates: One percent. Why would the Pirates pick up an option for a .200 hitter who has seen his playing time drastically diminished in favor of career backup Michael McKenry?

Philadelphia Phillies: Placido Polanco

Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco has been absent during their surge back into contention in the wild-card race in the National League.

Polanco’s lingering back issues have limited him to eight games since July 22, and he is currently on the disabled list for the second time as a result of those issues.

Polanco is in the final season of a three-year, $18 million contract, and the Phillies hold an option for the 2013 season for $5.5 million.

Chances of re-signing with Phillies: Two percent. The Phillies need to get younger, and I don’t see them taking a $5.5 million gamble on Polanco’s health.

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