Batters up: Ten big hitters in free agency
Cano, Ellsbury among homegrown stars who figure to set the market this offseason
When some of baseball's most accomplished hitters had the opportunity to change their addresses the past few offseasons, that's what they did, moving away from the teams they'd called home for years.
This winter, a couple of the top hitters on the market fit that category -- both homegrown, both standouts at their positions, both with the ability to write their tickets to a new baseball home if they so desire.
Robinson Cano of the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox have decisions to make, and both are bound to be lucrative calls no matter which way they turn. It's possible they'll stay put in their respective baseball nests, but from Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, the past three years have seen some top hitters bolt via free agency.
The field of hitters among the 147 players who became free agents at the end of the World Series is deep in veteran talent, including other homegrown stars and a couple of players who have been postseason studs in short stays with their clubs.
The first step in the process is for their current clubs to decide whether to make a qualifying offer of $14.1 million by 5 p.m. ET Monday, and from there we'll know more about who might be hitting where next year.
Here's a look at 10 of the top hitters whose wares should heat up the Hot Stove:
Robinson Cano, 2B: Already, reports have surfaced of Cano and Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports agency seeking $305 million, so this figures to be a high-priced negotiation, and one that could take some time. Cano had another well-rounded season, and his 1,649 hits, 375 doubles and 822 RBIs since his 2005 big league debut are the most by any second baseman during that time, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The credentials are there, but will a suitor set a record to get him?
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF: Reported to be seeking a deal comparable to the seven-year, $142 million contract Crawford signed two years ago with the Red Sox -- who then proceeded to trade Crawford to the Dodgers in 2012 -- Ellsbury brings serious leadoff tools to the table. He also brings another World Series title that he was key in achieving. He led all postseason players with 14 runs scored and six steals, and he stole 52 bases in 56 attempts while hitting .298 during the regular season.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF: With change already in the air in Cincinnati, Choo's status could cause even more. The Reds could have a difficult time retaining the player they acquired from Cleveland a year ago, and they do have Billy Hamilton, who is poised to win a spot in the outfield. But a veteran center fielder with speed and power, who scored 107 runs and notched his third season with 20 homers and 20 steals, certainly will draw a good deal of attention.
Brian McCann, C: Talk about your homegrown product -- McCann is from Georgia and was a second-round Draft pick of the Braves in 2002. But it's likely he'll be moving on, his resume figuring to be attractive on the open market. A seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger winner, McCann played through a shoulder injury and missed part of 2013 but recorded a sixth consecutive 20-homer season.
Mike Napoli, 1B/DH: If a team wants a winner in the clubhouse and in the dugout, the bearded Napoli fits the bill. He did it with the pennant-winning Rangers in 2011, and he earned a World Series ring this year with the Red Sox. After making the transition to primary first baseman, Napoli matches McCann with six straight 20-homer seasons and became a big part of the turnaround in Boston. He has indicated he'd like to stay there.
Carlos Beltran, OF: It didn't take long for Beltran to take to St. Louis, and vice versa. He finally reached the World Series after more than 2,000 regular-season games in the big leagues, and he continued one of the finest postseason careers in history. He'll turn 37 in April, and he hits the market after two special seasons in St. Louis.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH: Acquired from the Angels last winter, Morales had a strong season for Seattle, hitting 23 home runs with a team-leading 80 RBIs and a .277 average. He's a player the Mariners would like to retain, but he'll be testing the open market for the first time.
Nelson Cruz, OF: A year ago, we didn't have to wait long to find out if a team would sign a player coming off a performance-enhancing drug suspension -- the Blue Jays signed Melky Cabrera before Thanksgiving. Unlike Cabrera, Cruz is on his current team's priority list, and after going for 27 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .506 slugging percentage in a season shortened to 109 games by a 50-game suspension, the 33-year-old figures to have value to a team seeking offense.
Curtis Granderson, OF: After playing out the last season of a six-year, $45.25 million deal, Granderson might be the right fit for the Yankees at the qualifying offer. If not, he'll hit the market for the first time.
Jhonny Peralta, SS: Like Cruz, Peralta was suspended during the season as a result of the Biogenesis investigation. He is unlikely to stay with the Tigers, who acquired Jose Iglesias from Boston in his absence. At 31, Peralta brings parts of 11 years of Major League experience and is coming off an All-Star appearance and some strong work in the postseason.
The World Series champions also have catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and shortstop Stephen Drew to think about, and the Pirates have to determine whether they want to sign veterans Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau after acquiring them en route to the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1992.
There are some other notable batters hitting the market, such as Corey Hart, who will be returning from injury, Nate McLouth, an Oriole the past 1 1/2 seasons, and Brian Roberts, who has spent his whole career with Baltimore. Kevin Youkilis and Delmon Young will be back on the market after signing one-year deals last offseason.
And another franchise stalwart will be discussing his future: Paul Konerko. The White Sox captain, in Chicago for 15 years, will have to decide if he wants to return to what looks like a part-time role, retire or finish his career with another team.
Decisions, decisions, and many to come. For the market's best hitters, free agency has just begun.