11/7/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Power up: Heavy hitters on the free-agent market
Cano, Napoli, Cruz, Granderson among the most accomplished available sluggers
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Forget who may or may not dig the long ball.
Teams need power and home runs to balance out lineups. A little bit of speed and on-base percentage up top and on the bottom and some serious pop in the middle makes for a relentless attack. Mix in pitching and catch the ball and you might just find yourself playing in October.
In fact, the highest-priced free-agent hitter, second baseman Robinson Cano, is also the most well-rounded power hitter on the market, and a few others who will command large contracts -- Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli -- have made their marks in recent years by slamming balls over stadium walls.
But that doesn't mean general managers won't take fliers on players who have shown power strokes in the past.
Here are some of the marquee free-agent mashers:
Cano, 2B: Cano has hit at least 25 homers in each of the past five seasons, reaching a career high of 33 two years ago. Add to that a perennial slugging percentage over .500 and a career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .860, and here's your headliner in the pop category. And here's what could be one monstrous contract.
Granderson, OF: Granderson had a tough-luck year, missing 100 games because of freak injuries sustained when being hit by pitches, but in the two seasons before that, he hit 41 and 43 homers. Granted, the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium might have helped, but he hit 30 homers for Detroit the year prior to his trade to New York, so he's a legitimate power threat when healthy.
Cruz, OF: Teams interested in Cruz will hope that the performance-enhancing drug suspension he served in 2013 is the end of that chapter. They'll also hope Cruz continues to hit home runs the way he has over the past five years, during which he's averaged almost 27 per season while making two All-Star teams.
Napoli, 1B/DH: The Red Sox took a shot on a guy with two bad hips and it paid off. Napoli hit 23 homers and a few more in the postseason, including one in Detroit that might still be traveling through the cool air. Napoli has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past six seasons, including 30 for Texas in 2011.
Carlos Beltran, OF: Beltran hit 24 homers in 2013 and 32 in 2012, and we all saw how great he was this postseason as the Cardinals made it all the way to the World Series. He'll turn 37 in late April, so it wouldn't be surprising to see an American League team pick him up to spend some time as a designated hitter. He could very well fetch a nice two-year deal.
Brian McCann, C: McCann has been a rock for Atlanta for years, hitting at least 18 homers in all eight of his seasons as a regular big leaguer and topping 20 seven times. It's fair to wonder if last winter's shoulder surgery, which limited him to 102 games in 2013, will make teams want to try him out at first base. If so, that might help his power game.
Michael Morse, 1B/OF/DH: Morse was banged up for much of 2013 and a decent chunk of 2012 and didn't get a fair chance in either season to display the power that he showed while blasting 31 homers for the Nationals in his breakout year of 2011. Interested teams will hope his declining offensive stats across the board over the past two years were more related to injuries than the erosion of skills.
Mark Reynolds, 3B/1B: The strikeout numbers are gaudy and the homers have declined. That's not a great combination. But this is still a hitter with six 20-homer seasons on his resume, including years with 44, 37 and 32. That means there's probably still a place for him on someone's roster.
Paul Konerko, 1B: Konerko will turn 38 during Spring Training and is coming off one of his lowest-production years, as he hit only 12 homers in 467 at-bats. But he's bounced back from disappointing seasons before, he hit 26 homers in 2012 and he's got 427 dingers in his career. The big questions: Would he play for any team other than the White Sox? And will he play at all?
Raul Ibanez, OF/DH: Ibanez will turn 42 in June and doesn't play outfield very well anymore, but he can still turn on a pitch and hit it out of the park. In fact, he tied Ted Williams' record for most home runs by a player over 40 when he blasted 29 for the Mariners this season.
Other possibilities: Lance Berkman, 1B/DH; Marlon Byrd, OF; Corey Hart, 1B/OF; Jason Kubel, OF; Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH; Carlos Pena, 1B; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C; Delmon Young, OF.