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What should you know about MLB Free Agency

Once the clock struck midnight on Tuesday, the MLB free agency period began. Now 30 teams will begin to build their teams in quest of the 2015 World Series.

Now you will start to see bidding wars for some of baseball’s best players. So who are the offseason’s biggest targets?

Pitcher Max Scherzer and Designated Hitter Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers

Both Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez received the $15.3 million dollar qualifying offer from the Detroit Tigers, but both are expected to reject it and enter free agency.

Last March, Scherzer reportedly rejected a $144 million contract extension from the Tigers, so you know the 2013 Cy Young Award Winner will be looking for a huge long-term commitment from some team. Scherzerfinished the 2014 season with an 18-5 record and had a 3.15 ERA. He is considered the best pitcher on the free agent market.

The soon to be 36-year-old Martinez enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013, hitting .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs. While he’s mostly a DH these days, Martinez’s offense would be a welcome addition to any major league lineup.

Pitcher, Jon Lester, Oakland Athletics

Jon Lester, 30, has two World Series rings and has a resume of an ace. After he was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Oakland A’s at the trading deadline, Lester continued to pitch well. Last season, the left-hander finished with a 16-11 record and a 2.46 ERA.

If the Red Sox do not re-sign Lester, The Chicago Cubs could make the most sense. The Cubs will still need a top-of-the-line ace and team president Theo Epstein knows Lester well from his days in Boston.

Shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers

Ramirez could still return to the Los Angeles Dodgers if he turns down their qualifying offer, but there’s a good chance that won’t happen. While Ramirez’s numbers slipped in 2013, he is still considered to be the best free agent at the shortstop position. He hit .283 with 13 home runs and 71 RBIs in 2014 after hitting .345 with 20 home runs and 57 RBIs in 86 games in 2013.

There are also questions about where Ramirez will play defensively long-term since he is viewed by some teams as a future third baseman because his defensive skills have declined over the years. That’s why you could see Ramirez in the American League where he could be used as a designated hitter.

Pitcher, James Shields, Kansas City Royals

James Shields has had a good run for the Kansas City Royals during the last two seasons, especially in 2014 when he finished 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA. He didn’t pitch as well in the postseason despite the Royals’ World Series appearance. Despite that, Shields will probably receive a contract offer that the Royals aren’t likely to match this winter.

Third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants

Pablo Sandoval has to be the enigma of the 2014 free agency class. While he hit .366 in the 2014 postseason, there are many questions surrounding him.

Sandoval’s OPS has declined in each of the last three seasons. Then there’s the question about his weight as he gets ready to enter his 30s. Prince Fielder is a perfect example of why you should be cautious about giving contracts to overweight players entering their 30s.

Boston is viewed as a potential suitor for Sandoval, but I’m guessing he stays in San Francisco. The Giants have a good track record of retaining their players.

Outfielder, Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles

Last offseason, the Baltimore Orioles signed Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract and it was a bargain of a deal. Cruz hit 40 home runs and helped the Orioles to their first AL East division title since 1997. Despite having to give away a compensation pick for him, Cruz should find a number of teams interested in his services.

Other players to keep an eye on

Yankees’ David Robertson did an excellent job replacing Mariano Rivera as closer last season as he recorded 39 saves in 2014. Now the 29-year-old is looking for a big payday. I wouldn’t be surprised if Robertson received a multi-year deal, but it might not be in New York. The Yankees have been grooming reliever Dellin Betances to take over at closer someday and that time could be in 2015.

Russell Martin had a solid season with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014 as he hit .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs. He is also one of the better defensive catchers in all of baseball, so that’s why he is the most coveted at his position.

Other available position players include outfielders: Nick Markakis, Alex Rios, Nori Aoki, Torii Hunter, Michael Morse, Colby Rasmus, Delmon Young, Cuba’s Yozzen Cuesta, Ryan Ludwick, Josh Willingham, Ichiro Suzuki, Emilio Bonifacio and Nate Schierholtz.

Infielders and Designated Hitters: Adam LaRoche, Billy Butler, Aramis Ramirez, KendrysMorales, Stephen Drew, Chase Headley, Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Catcher Nick Hundley is available.

Starting Pitchers:  Jason Hammel, Brandon McCarthy, Jake Peavy, Edinson Volquez, Hiroki Kuroda, Justin Masterson, Brett Anderson, Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson and Aaron Harang.

Relievers: Andrew Miller, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Pat Neshek, Jason Motte, Casey Janssen and Sergio Romo.

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