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Top free-agent list this winter

The system has changed for Major League Baseball this year, with the introduction of qualifying offers for compensation purposes rather than arbitration, but the basic principle has not.

Money talks, and those conversations begin in earnest this weekend, followed by the GM meetings, which start Wednesday in Indian Wells, Calif. In most cases, when it comes to free agency, bet the over, as teams on the cusp of contention -- or those desperate to get back to October -- tend to get cavalier about the price tags when offseason shopping.

This group lacks the market-busting types like Albert Pujols ($240 million) and Prince Fielder ($214 million) of a year ago. Despite more of a middle class this winter, they can quickly turn upwardly mobile when teams have cash to spend. And with a new collective bargaining agreement in place, there's labor peace, as well as more money coming in from freshly minted TV deals with MLB.

How much that emboldens clubs in the weeks ahead remains to be seen, and there is sure to be a sizing up period as everyone watches where the jumping off point will be. With the qualifying offers already in place, players have until Friday at midnight to decide whether or not to accept them -- it's set at $13.3 million for 2013.

Those that accept remain with their current teams for next season. Otherwise, they become free agents, and will cost their next club a draft pick as compensation when they do sign.

This list is not all-inclusive, but is a cross-section based on relative market value this winter, and not a strict ranking according to contract terms.


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