Like it or not, money is often a big motivator. Most major league players get only one or two opportunities in their career to cash in on long-term, big-money deals.
So it's no surprise that when those opportunities arise, they often arrive at spring training in the best shape of their lives and with a renewed sense of focus. Those big-contract aspirations don't always lead to better production, but we've seen plenty of instances where players in contract years produce career-best numbers, or at the very least exhibit an improved level of performance and durability. As fantasy owners, it behooves us to pay attention to those players with dollar signs in their eyes.
With this in mind, let's look at the most notable players whose contracts are up after the 2013 season. The players are listed by position, and include their current position rank.
7. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox: Napoli originally agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston this offseason, but a hip condition forced the slugger to instead accept a one-year, $5 million pact (with $8 million in incentives). He'll have to prove he's completely healthy to warrant a multiyear contract next offseason.
13. A.J. Pierzynski, Texas Rangers: Even after hitting a career-high 27 home runs last season, Pierzynski was able to secure only a one-year deal. At age 36, he might have trouble getting multiyear offers in the future as well.
14. Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies: Ruiz will try to prove that last season's career-best campaign -- .325 average, 16 homers, 68 RBIs -- wasn't a fluke. However, he'll be 35 by this time next year, so it's doubtful any team would be willing to give him more than a one- (or maybe two-) year deal.
15. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves: For McCann, it's all about health. If he bounces back fully from offseason shoulder surgery, some team should give him a nice payday. He and Napoli are the only catchers in baseball with at least 20 homers in five consecutive seasons.
17. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: His 25 dingers last season were third-most among catchers, but he's a candidate to be dealt, given Boston's surplus behind the plate.
26. Lance Berkman, Texas Rangers: Berkman's career is winding down, but Texas is a good spot for him to rebound after knee issues limited him to just 32 games in 2012. His $13 million option in 2014 will vest with 550 plate appearances.
32. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins: Morneau stayed healthy last season after missing significant time in both 2010 and 2011, but his production left plenty to be desired. The Twins may try to bring him back if he shows signs of his old self this year.
1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: Cano was the No. 1 second baseman in fantasy last season and has hit better than .300 with at least 25 homers each of the past four seasons. It's hard to imagine the Yanks not bringing him back on a long-term deal.
13. Chase Utley, Phillies: How well he plays -- and how healthy he stays -- will determine what kind of market value Utley has after this season. After two straight years of failing to reach 400 at-bats, his arrow is pointing down.
18. Omar Infante, Detroit Tigers: Last season's .300 OBP was an eyesore, but Infante posted his highest home run total since 2004 and stole a career-high 17 bases in 2012. With a similar performance, he'll draw plenty of interest next offseason.
19. Kelly Johnson, Rays: Johnson inked a one-year deal with Tampa in February, and he'll have to improve upon last year's .225/.313/.365 slash line if any teams are going to commit to him for multiple years next time around.
27. Mark Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers hold a reasonable $5.75 million option ($1 million buyout) on Ellis for 2014, but he turns 36 in June and spent significant time on the DL last year, so his future is uncertain.
19. Kevin Youkilis, Yankees: Youkilis hasn't registered 500 at-bats in a season since 2008 and will be 34 when the season starts. Even with a strong performance in 2013, his age and poor track record of health will prevent teams from viewing him as a long-term option.
20. Michael Young, Phillies: After a disappointing 2012 campaign, Young will try to re-establish his value in Philadelphia. That said, his continued decline seems almost inevitable at this point.
28. Wilson Betemit, Baltimore Orioles: Betemit should get the majority of the at-bats at DH for the Orioles this season, and he needs only 324 plate appearances -- he had 376 last year -- for his $3.2 million option to vest.
15. Derek Jeter, Yankees: Jeter has a $9.5 million player option for 2014, but he'll surely be looking for a longer commitment if he has another productive season. Still, can you really see the 38-year-old donning anything but pinstripes? We can't, either.
24. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: Not only is Peralta coming off a terrible 2012 season in which he posted a .239/.305/.384 slash line, but his reputation may have been tainted after he was named in the records of Biogenesis wellness clinic director Tony Bosch, who has been linked to PEDs. Peralta will need a strong 2013 effort to re-establish his value.
29. Stephen Drew, Red Sox: Drew had to settle for a one-year contract after a disappointing 2012 season that didn't start until late June because of an ankle injury. Still, he's only 30, so a rebound performance could net him a multiyear deal next offseason.
30. Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals: Furcal, 35, must prove that he still deserves to play every day after his production dipped in the second half last year and an elbow injury ended his season in August.
14. Curtis Granderson, Yankees: He has batted a combined .247 over the past two seasons, but Granderson also popped 40-plus dingers in each of those years. He'll get a substantial payday, even if it's not with the Yankees.
15. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Ellsbury played in just 74 games last season due to injury, but he'll be one of next offseason's most coveted players if he can repeat his 2011 production (.321 average, 32 homers, 105 RBIs, 119 runs, 39 steals). A return to Boston seems unlikely.
25. Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds: Choo's power/speed combo should make him a sought-after free agent, though his suitors are unlikely to view him as a center fielder, which is how the Reds plan to use him this season.
29. Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers: Still just 27, Gomez is coming off a breakout season that included 19 homers and 37 steals. He'll draw plenty of interest assuming he doesn't have a major regression.
35. Hunter Pence, Phillies: Last year's .253/.319/.425 slash line -- including .219/.287/.384 after being traded to the Giants -- was a career worst for Pence, and a full season in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park likely won't help his numbers.
38. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals: Beltran is in the second year of a two-year, $26 million contract with the Cardinals. He has stated that he'd like to remain in St. Louis beyond 2013, though that seems unlikely with top prospect Oscar Taveras waiting in the wings.
39. Nelson Cruz, Rangers: While Cruz managed 500 at-bats in 2012 for the first time in his career, his past has been riddled with leg problems. And other than his power, he's a pretty pedestrian hitter against right-handed pitchers (.249/.296/.430 last year).
43. Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-backs hold a $7.5 million option on Kubel, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who clubbed 30 homers last year. That said, the outfield in Arizona is a crowded one, making the 30-year-old a potential trade chip.
44. Michael Morse, Mariners: The fences at Safeco Field have been moved in. That's good news for Morse, who is looking to rebound after hand injuries limited him to 102 games in 2012.
46. Coco Crisp, A's: The A's have committed to Crisp as their center fielder, though he's still a trade candidate following the offseason acquisition of Chris Young. Should Crisp stick around, Oakland holds a $7.5 million option ($1 million buyout) for 2014.
52. Corey Hart, Brewers: The Brewers reportedly considered trading Hart over the offseason, and he remains a candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline. That said, the slugger is recovering from knee surgery and is unlikely to return to action until late April at the earliest.
64. David Murphy, Rangers: The Rangers have discussed a long-term contract extension with Murphy, so he may not hit the market after batting .304/.380/.479 last year.
74. Rajai Davis, Blue Jays: The free-agent market may be limited for a role player such as Davis. He has speed to burn but does a poor job of getting on base.
84. Chris Young, A's: Young can be a frustrating player because he never seems to reach his full potential, but it seems to be a virtual lock that the A's will exercise their $11 million club option on him for 2014.
85. Raul Ibanez, Mariners: Ibanez turns 41 in June, but he still clubbed 19 homers in just 384 at-bats in 2012. He'll serve as a part-time player with Seattle and likely will operate on one-year deals until he retires.
86. Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals: Francoeur will serve as the everyday right fielder for the Royals this season, but he'll have to perform better than last year's .235/.287/.378 slash line to convince another team to hand him a starting gig when he hits the free-agent market.
87. Delmon Young, Phillies: Perhaps the hitter-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Ballpark will benefit Young after he had to settle for a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Phillies following a poor 2012 campaign. That said, he's already off to a bad start, as he's expected to begin the year on the disabled list while recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
12. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: No contract extension has been worked out yet, but it'd be surprising if the Cardinals didn't lock up the right-hander before he became a free agent.
21. Roy Halladay, Phillies: Halladay was considered one of baseball's most bankable aces just a year ago. Now his $20 million option is no longer a guarantee to be picked up after he posted a 4.49 ERA and was limited to 25 starts by a shoulder injury in 2012.
24. James Shields, Royals: Unless Shields' arm literally falls off this year, the Royals will exercise his $12 million option after dealing Wil Myers, one of the game's top prospects, in exchange for the right-hander's services.
30. Dan Haren, Nationals: Haren inked a one-year deal with the hopes of rebuilding his value after a down year in 2012, due at least in part to back and hip problems. A rebound season should net him a long-term deal.
31. Josh Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays: There's plenty of risk with Johnson, who has a lengthy injury history, but he's only 29 and did make 31 starts last year. A strong (and healthy) showing with the Blue Jays this season would likely earn him a nice payday.
32. Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees: This could be Kuroda's last season in the major leagues, as the 38-year-old has expressed interest in returning to Japan for 2014. If he decides to stay, however, he'll likely re-up with the Yankees.
33. Tim Lincecum, Giants: Last year at this time, Lincecum was likely counting on getting a megadeal when he became a free agent. No megadeal is expected, however, after he posted a 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP last year and was shifted to the bullpen in the playoffs. How he responds this season will determine whether the Giants try to re-sign him or let him hit free agency.
38. Jon Lester, Red Sox: Lester is coming off a disappointing 2012 season in which he sported a 4.82 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but the Red Sox likely will pick up his $13 million option if he doesn't suffer a major injury. If Lester is traded and finishes first or second in the Cy Young voting, he has the right to void the option.
47. Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs: His 2012 season was hindered by elbow issues, but Garza is only 29 and will get a sizable contract next offseason if he stays healthy in 2013. Expect his name to be a popular topic of discussion as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
53. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: Vogelsong was a pleasant surprise for the Giants the past two seasons, posting a 3.05 ERA during that time. As such, the Giants likely will exercise the right-hander's $6.5 million option.
55. Phil Hughes, Yankees: Hughes should receive plenty of interest on the free-agent market due to his age (he turns 27 in June) and his pedigree as a once highly touted prospect, but his performance thus far has left plenty to be desired. Don't look for the Yanks to try to bring him back unless he really turns the corner.
58. A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates: After two seasons of 5.00-plus ERAs with the Yankees, Burnett returned to fantasy relevance with the Pirates in 2012. However, because of his struggles in New York, big-market teams (especially those in the AL) might be gun-shy about adding the right-hander once he becomes a free agent.
64. Jason Vargas, Los Angeles Angels: While Vargas likely will receive much more run support in Anaheim, he'll miss Safeco Field, where he posted a 2.74 ERA last year (versus a 4.78 mark on the road). The left-hander will need to prove he's more than a Safeco product if he's going to land a substantial contract in free agency.
68. Wandy Rodriguez, Pirates: When the Astros dealt Rodriguez to the Pirates last season, his $13 million club option for 2014 became a player option. With a strong performance on the mound in 2013, the southpaw may opt to seek a long-term deal elsewhere.
69. Chris Capuano, Dodgers: Because of the Dodgers' plentiful pitching depth, Capuano isn't guaranteed a rotation spot, meaning he could be dangled as a trade chip either before Opening Day or during the season. The two sides (whether the "team" side is the Dodgers or another organization) share a mutual $8 million for 2014.
71. Shaun Marcum, New York Mets: Marcum settled for a one-year pact with the Mets after an injury-riddled 2012 season. If he can prove he's healthy again, he should have little trouble securing multiyear contract offers next offseason.
77. Ricky Nolasco, Miami Marlins: Nolasco was one of the few notable names not dealt by the Marlins this past offseason, but that doesn't mean he'll stay in Miami all year. He's set to make $11.5 million this season, and frankly, it'd be a little surprising if they didn't at least try to unload that contract by the trade deadline.
80. Johan Santana, Mets: Unless the Mets can persuade another team to trade for Santana and take on at least part of his contract, the Mets will buy out the lefty's $25 million club option for $5.5 million, allowing him to test the market. While he showed flashes of dominance last season, he still made only 21 starts due to injury and posted an 8.27 ERA over his last 11 outings.
82. Paul Maholm, Braves: Coming off a career-best 2012 campaign, Maholm will eye a multi-year deal on free agency after the Braves exercised his $6.5 million option for 2013. The southpaw sported a 3.54 ERA and 1.19 WHIP after Atlanta acquired him at the trade deadline last July.
85. Gavin Floyd, White Sox: Floyd was the subject of offseason trade rumors, but he remains in Chicago for the time being. A new home could provide a boost to his value, as he holds a 5.09 ERA at U.S. Cellular Field over the past two seasons.
86. Andy Pettitte, Yankees: Pettitte is unsure whether he'll pitch beyond 2013, but he likely will remain a Yankee until he decides to call it quits.
87. Jason Hammel, Orioles: A knee injury held Hammel to just 20 starts in 2012. However, he posted a career-best 3.43 ERA and 1.24 WHIP when he did take the mound. If he carries that success into 2013, there should be plenty of interest for him on the open market.
7. Fernando Rodney, Rays: Rodney completely reinvented himself in Tampa last year. He'll have plenty of suitors next offseason should that success carry over into 2013.
8. Mariano Rivera, Yankees: Rivera is expected to announce before the end of spring training whether 2013 will be his final season. Should he pitch again in 2014, he'll almost certainly be in pinstripes.
10. Joe Nathan, Rangers: Unless the 38-year-old Nathan breaks down or suddenly becomes ineffective, the Rangers should pick up his $9 million option. The wrinkle is that the right-hander can void the option if he finishes at least 55 games this season.
11. Joel Hanrahan, Red Sox: After saving 76 games over the past two seasons, Hanrahan will be an attractive free-agent commodity with another strong season. He's also a candidate to be dealt again if the Red Sox struggle to compete.
18. Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies: Betancourt likely will decline his half of the $4.25 million mutual option for 2014 if he maintains the same level of success he showed last year, when he saved 31 games in his first full season as a closer. The Rockies could look to deal him at the trade deadline if they're out of contention.
19. Ryan Madson, Angels: 2012 was a lost season for Madson as he recovered from Tommy Johnson surgery. He'll need to make a good impression in his one-year deal with the Angels to prove he's fully healthy and worth a multiyear commitment next offseason.
20. Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics: Balfour could miss the beginning of the season due to a procedure on his right knee. However, he should reclaim the closer gig upon his return, which will help his value in free agency.
27. Casey Janssen, Blue Jays: Janssen is expected to get a crack at the closer gig this year. Regardless of whether he takes the job and runs with it or settles back into a setup role, exercising next year's $4 million club option should be an easy decision for the Jays.
34. Carlos Marmol, Cubs: While Marmol misses plenty of bats, his inconsistency and wildness on the mound figure to hurt his value on the open market. Despite 92 saves over the past three seasons, his potential suitors next year may not view him as a ninth-inning option.
40. Frank Francisco, Mets: Francisco posted a 5.53 ERA and 1.61 WHIP last year and battled elbow issues, which could prevent him from being ready on Opening Day. Whether he closes games for the Mets this season or not, expect teams to treat him as a middle reliever/setup man in free-agent negotiations.
45. Brian Wilson, free agent: Wilson was still unsigned at the time this was written as he works to return from his second Tommy John surgery. He'll likely try to re-establish his value with a one-year deal.