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2011 Walk Years - Hitters
Nate Springfield | Thursday February 17th, 2011
A slimmer Prince Fielder is ready for a big walk year. (Getty)
A slimmer Prince Fielder is ready for a big walk year. (Getty)
When a big leaguer has an expiring contract, it typically means two things: production and destination.  With production, the player might post big numbers in hopes of landing a long term contract.  With destination, the player may find himself with a new team for the final two months of the season.

Below are hitters with fantasy relevance who are entering the final year of their contract.  These players could produce monster numbers in hopes of earning big bucks, or they could be traded before the July 31st deadline and finish the season with a new team.

Albert Pujols - 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Wednesday's deadline for the Cardinals to extend Pujols' contract has come and gone, and it doesn't sound like the two sides were close to a deal.  In May, Albert will earn 10-5 rights, which allows him to veto any trade.  He has publicly stated that he would veto any in-season trade, so expect him to stay put in St. Louis for 2011.  A walk year may not make a difference for a player of Pujols' caliber since he should be the best player in the game yet again this season.

Prince Fielder - 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Fielder has been a Brewer since he was drafted seventh overall in 2002.  The team and Prince worked towards an extension last season, but the two sides were not able to reach an agreement.  Milwaukee seems to be "all-in" this season and if the team is in contention for a playoff spot at the deadline, Fielder will definitely stay put.  He's experienced up-and-down years throughout his career, but has worked on his conditioning this off-season, likely resulting in big production numbers for his walk year.

Jimmy Rollins - SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Last season is a year that Rollins hopes to forget, as hamstring and calf injuries caused him to miss 70 games. Along with battling injuries during the regular season, Rollins also had surgery in early December to remove cysts from his wrist this winter.  Like Pujols, Rollins owns 5-10 rights and if the Phillies are in the midst of a pennant race at the deadline, he will surely veto any trade.  Rollins could bounce back this year at age-32, but won't reach the numbers from his prime seasons.  The veteran has a chance for one more decent contract, but health concerns will be a bigger factor for his 2011 performance than his next potential contract.

Jose Reyes - SS, New York Mets
Reyes broke into the major leagues in 2003 at 20-years-old and appeared in 69 games.  He broke out in 2005 and averaged 158 games played over the next four seasons.  Over the past two seasons, he was limited to only 166 games total due to hamstring injuries.  Reyes is a prime candidate to be on the move at the trade deadline due to the current financial state of the New York Mets.  Reyes, 28, is young enough to sign one more big contract, but will need to remain healthy and produce for the Mets.

Carlos Beltran - OF, New York Mets
Beltran, who underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in January of 2010, played in 64 games last season.  During Beltran's walk year in 2004, he appeared to sacrifice batting average for an increase in power, while maintaining his stolen base totals from previous seasons.  Since he is more limited on the basepaths now, due to age and injury, Carlos should try to boost his power numbers again to prove he is worthy of another big contract.  The Mets will likely try to move Beltran at the deadline if the team appears out of playoff contention, but will need to find a team willing to take on some of his salary.  A move to the American League is probable for Beltran, as an AL team could limit injury risk by playing him at designated hitter.

Juan Pierre - OF, Chicago White Sox
Pierre, 33, is an aging speedster who is starting to see a diminish in speed skills.  His situation in Chicago, where he has the green light to steal at-will, gives him enough opportunities to maintain high stolen base totals.  Last year, he attempted a career high 86 stolen bases and was successful 68 times, also a career high.  White Sox general manager Kenny Williams is not afraid to make a trade to improve his team at any time of the season, so it is hard to say if Pierre will stay put in the Windy City.  He should attempt at least 80 stolen bases again this year and could possibly set another career high in attempts if he can improve upon his on-base percentage from prior seasons.

Aramis Ramirez - 3B, Chicago Cubs
Although Ramirez has a vesting/club option for 2012 at the price of $16 million, he would have to be the National League MVP in 2011 or the MVP of the National League Championship Series for the option to vest.  The third base free-agent market is thin next off-season, so Aramis has many reasons to have a huge year in 2011.  He managed to get healthy at the end of 2010, a problem that effected his first-half performance last year.  There are few reasons why Aramis will stay a Cub for the entire 2011 season: he has 10-5 rights and has publicly stated he would like to stay in Chicago.  If traded, his 2012 option automatically vests and the Cubs are obligated to pay another $1 million in salary.

Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.