Top free agents poised for big paydays

As a free-agent catcher who can produce at the plate, Brian McCann could fetch top dollar. Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS – As the Cardinals and Red Sox play on, MLB’s other 28 teams are preparing for the offseason market that will begin next week. There has been some early trade talk, officials say, some feeling out for what could be available, and teams are preparing their budgets and trying to figure out where the spending will go.

There is some consensus on that point: The free-agent market is going to be flush with cash, some highly ranked evaluators predict, but not with quality free agents. Which bodes very well for the best of the lot.

As one executive noted, there figure to be situations in which the middle class of free agents will appear so uninspiring that a bidder will make a push for the top one or two players at a given position, rather than settle for something less from the pack. “It’s like what happened with Albert Pujols,” the executive said. “That deal was driven by [the specter] of TV money, where they are looking for a name. It’s an overpay, but they dive into it because of the splash.”

With teams set to receive the significant windfall from Major League Baseball’s new television contract, some evaluators expect that the best of the free agents could see the bidding for their services climb to unexpected heights.

If this happens, here are some stars who might benefit the most: