An early preview of MLB free agency

Ervin Santana has pitched well for the Kansas City Royals this season. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- A lot of players will wait a decade for their shot at free agency, after being drafted and signing as an amateur, and then playing some years in the minors before accruing the six years of service time that makes them eligible to test the open market. Along the way, some have worked through injuries, had failures along with the successes and have seen their service time manipulated by teams looking to maximize their investment.

Reaching free agency, then, is a big deal, a right that the players like Curt Flood fought for. Some players never get to free agency because they’re not good enough or because they choose to sign as a very young player, and some, like Albert Pujols, get there only once.

For a lot of those players set to become free agents in another two months, the hope of spring training has been washed away. For others, the hope has been realized.

Here are 10 would-be free agents who have helped themselves so far in 2013:

1. Ervin Santana, P, Royals

At the time that Kansas City traded for him last fall, there was a lot of surprise within the industry that the Royals had been so aggressive, given Santana’s diminished velocity and brutal 2012 performance for the Angels. But Santana bounced back in a big way, lowering his ERA by almost two full runs. Now he’s 30 years old and is in position to get paid.