Back in 2005, the Mets signed Carlos Beltran to a staggering 7 year/$119 million dollar contract. Beltran was one of the top players in baseball at the time and could seemingly do it all on the baseball field (hit for power, steal bases, gold glove defense). There's no doubt that Beltran was due for a huge contract, but what cemented his huge contract was his absolutely ridiculous performance in the 2004 playoffs. For three weeks in October, Beltran was the best player in baseball and showcased his immense ability on the biggest stage in baseball. At the same time, Beltran elevated his free agent stock to a price range that exceeded $100 million dollars. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.
So what free agents this season will use their postseason performance as a springboard for free agent riches? Let's take a look at some possibilities:
10. Jon Garland/9. Vincente Padilla
-With Hiroki Kuroda out for the NLDS and possibly longer, the Dodgers will likely be counting on one of these two (or maybe both) to start a game. Both Garland and Padilla have seen their numbers improve dramatically since joining the National League and a good start in the playoffs could lead to a bigger payoff/commitment down the road.
8. Jason Marquis
-For about four months this season, Marquis was one of the top pitchers in the National League. However, his performance has been just terrible. If Marquis can throw together a couple good starts in the playoffs, then teams might feel more comfortable handing him a three year deal.
7. Fernando Rodney* (not officially in the playoffs yet)
-Entering this season, Fernando Rodney was an unknown for the Tigers. Everyone knew that he had electric stuff, but no one knew if he could handle being the Tigers' closer. Despite his 4.33 ERA, Rodney has 37 saves this season and without him, the Tigers bullpen would have been atrocious. If Rodney shows that he can be a productive closer in the playoffs, then I'd expect his pay day to increase.
6. Randy Wolf
-I'm not sure if there's much more Wolf could do to showcase himself in the postseason because his regular season stats were so good. But the pressure is on Wolf, for sure. The Dodgers will be counting on him to be their ace and who knows, if Wolf throws a couple of very good games in the playoffs, I could see his stock increasing.
5. Brett Myers
-Lemme preface this by saying that there's no guarantee that Myers will even be on the Phillies post season roster. But nevertheless, if he makes the roster, Myers could be handed a remarkable opportunity. Despite missing lots of time this season because of injuries, Myers could see lots of action in the Phillies mess of a bullpen this postseason. And you never know, Myers could even see some time as closer for the Phillies. A solid postseason from Myers could lead to the free agent riches that seem questionable at best right now for Myers.
4. Joel Pineiro
-Pineiro has a chance to do something really special this postseason. On one hand, Pineiro has been one of the Cardinals' top pitchers this season and has earned the right to start the 3rd game of the NLDS, but he does not have the pressure of being "the ace" for the Cardinals thanks to Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. I can absolutely see a huge postseason cementing Pineiro's place as the second best starting pitcher on the market.
3. Jason Bay
-If Bay can follow up his stellar 2008 postseason and fantastic 2009 regular season with a quality performance this postseason, then Bay could be setting himself up for a HUGE payday. Can he earn more than Matt Holliday? Probably not. But can Bay earn a $100 million dollar contract? With a great postseason, I wouldn't count it out.
2. John Lackey
-This is Lackey's time to shine. The Angels need him to be their ace and dominate for the next three weeks. A performance like that would do more than just state the obvious-that Lackey is the best starting pitcher on the free agent market-but it would prove to teams that when Lackey is healthy, he can dominate on the big stage like every team wants their ace to do.
1. Matt Holliday
-Can his market value go any higher after his epic two month stretch with the Cardinals? A Cardinals World Championship can go a long way in securing Holliday a deal that far exceeds a total value of $100 million.
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