Money is the name of the game in Major League Baseball free agency, which often results in the rich only getting richer by plucking the game’s top free agents.

And for every highly coveted free-agent superstar who signs elsewhere and flourishes, there’s also a big name who never comes close to living up to the gaudy price tag that he showed up with. 

Here are a couple of gems in this year’s class that will pay dividends for the owners and general managers who pony up the funds.


Jacoby Ellsbury, OF

Jacoby Ellsbury has been nothing short of a superstar every year that he was able to remain healthy.

One of few key pieces to make it through the 2012 housecleaning, Ellsbury raked in 53 RBI at the leadoff position with 172 hits in just 134 games.

He’s never looked better on the basepaths—he led the AL with 52 stolen bases—and surpassed the half-century mark in the category for the first time since 2009. 

We know from his stellar 2011 season—he finished first among position players in AL MVP voting—that he can be a deadly hitter as well. He got 212 hits, jacked 32 homers and knocked in 105 runs and 46 doubles. Oh, and he also won the Gold Glove that year. 

Very few, if any, players boast the all-around efficiency Ellsbury does. If he stays healthy, he’s guaranteed to produce gaudy numbers. It’s no surprise that agent Scott Boras told the Boston Globe‘s Peter Abraham that Ellsbury is being courted by the Rangers, Yankees and Cubs along with Boston. 


Brian McCann, C

Brian McCann is undoubtedly the top catcher available at a position that features many formidable free agents this offseason.

After the Braves announced McCann turned down their qualifying offer, it became obvious that the 6’3″, 230-pound catcher is in for a big payday.

Despite playing 102 games—his fewest since his rookie year in 2005—McCann still produced as the power hitter he is. He hit a home run nearly six percent of the time he stepped up to the plate, amassing 20 on the season. 

Hitting at least 70 RBI each season from 2006 to 2011, McCann has proven to be reliable at a position where long-term health is an undeniable issue. 

Whoever comes up with this prized free agent will see an immediate boost at the position.


Carlos Beltran, OF

After the late part of his Mets career was marred by injury, questions surrounded Beltran’s ability to stay healthy throughout the course of a season.

And despite being 36 years of age, Beltran only missed 27 games through two regular seasons with St. Louis. Before that, 2008 was the last time his games played reached triple digits. 

Beltran led the hot-hitting Cardinals with 24 homers this season, also racking up 84 RBI—two numbers he actually bested in 2012. He improved his batting average tremendously between the seasons, from .269 to .296. 

As an aging veteran, teams won’t be throwing long-term deals at Beltran. But you can bet that his recent numbers prove to teams that he can be an elite bat for a couple of seasons down the road. 

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