A slew of interesting players are entering their contract years for the first time, as they'll reach six years of Major League service at some point during the season. Josh Hamilton, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Erick Aybar, B.J. Upton, Andre Ethier, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, and Anibal Sanchez are examples of such players. However, if arbitration-year extensions were not so common, the following players would also be headed for free agency after 2012 by virtue of accruing six years of service.
- Scott Baker's extension three years ago with the Twins included a $9.25MM club option on the 2013 season, which has a good chance of being exercised if he can maintain decent health.
- Chad Billingsley inked an extension with the Dodgers one year ago, paying $26MM for his first two free agent years or $37MM for his first three.
- Jon Lester signed a deal with the Red Sox three years ago that became a standard for his service class. That contract bought out Lester's first free agent year with a club option on another, although the option is voided if he is traded and has finished first or second in the Cy Young voting in 2012 or '13.
- The Marlins' Ricky Nolasco is notorious for having an ERA unworthy of his peripheral stats, and the team owes him $20.5MM over his first two free agent years.
- The Rays bet on James Shields four years ago, getting three club options on a pitcher with less than two years of service. They've got a potential ace at reasonable option prices for '13 and '14.
- As a Scott Boras client, Jered Weaver seemed unlikely to sign an extension, especially after taking a tough stance in arbitration. However, Weaver took a hometown discount last summer and is signed through 2016.
- Imagine the added drama for the Red Sox if Lester and Dustin Pedroia were both heading into walk years. That could've been the case, but Pedroia signed four years ago, giving the team control for up to three free agent seasons.
- If you think Troy Tulowitzki's November extension was massive, picture what he'd be looking at as a 28-year-old free agent after 2012.
- Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick was pretty close to free agency, signing a deal last month buying out three free agent years.
- The D'Backs' Chris Young signed four years ago, giving up one free agent year and an option on a second.
- The Reds made Sean Marshall an offer he couldn't refuse this month, as he didn't expect much more than three years and $16.5MM in free agency.
- Royals closer Joakim Soria signed four years ago, and still has a pair of club options on his first two free agent years.
- The Blue Jays' Casey Janssen and the Cubs' Carlos Marmol would also be entering contract years had they not signed extensions.