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4 pending MLB free agents hurting their cause

Contract year. A term that many baseball players understand. A chance to make yourself a lot of money, or cost yourself a lot of it.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Being in a contract brings all the glory of a big-time payday, cashing in on one's success. But for some, the pressures of a contract year, lingering effects of an old injury (or perhaps an undiscovered one), and sometimes plain-old bad luck can cause them to blow their chance at a large contract.

Here are four pending 2015-16 MLB free agents hurting their chances to cash-in come winter.

Matt Wieters, C, Orioles

It has been quite the struggle for Matt Wieters. Tommy John surgery limited Wieters to only 26 games in 2014 and he has yet to make his return in 2015. The 28-year-old will need to get on the field at some point to show that he still can be the .257/.320/.423 hitting catcher that he was in years past.

Weiters was moved to the Orioles' 60-day DL just yesterday. When he actually returns, his outlook for a productive return -- and his chances at a fat free agent contract -- are both increasingly grim.

That said, he has three All-Star games to his credit, along with three straight 20-plus home run seasons. Getting on the field will be the first step in Wieters proving he's still got it and worth a big pay day in December.

Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals

It was fair to question whether Desmond would even start the season with Washington -- the shortstop's name was thrown around in plenty of trade rumors last deadline, creating doubt.

Desmond didn't help matters with a number of key errors during the opening series against the New York Mets. Through 32 games, Desmond has nine errors and is on pace for FORTY FIVE on the season. Compared to his 2014 season, he had only 24 errors in 154 games. Is it the "yips," the old term of being in a contract year causing players to lose focus? Who knows.

When right defensively, Desmond is one of the premier shortstops in the game. In 2014, Desmond hit .255 with 24 home runs. But so far in 2015, it's been a slow start. Hitting only .240 with two home runs through six weeks of the season (on pace for ten for the season) certainly leaves much to be desired.

Desmond has turned around the defensive problems, apparently, and the hope is that his bat follows suit -- or else Desmond will likely be leaving more than the Nationals. He'll be leaving money behind this winter.

Mat Latos, SP, Marlins

The current Marlins starter was brought in as part of a plan by the Marlins front office to give Giancarlo Stanton some help in his quest to bring Miami back to the postseason. Latos, Michael Morse and Dee Gordon were the three key pieces that were supposed to help.

Viewed as a number two that can help bridge the gap until Jose Fernandez returns, Latos hasn't exactly lived up to those goals. So often, the numbers don't do pitchers justice. But in this case, the numbers match the eye test for Latos: a 1-3 start with a 4.72 ERA in seven starts.

This is a guy who has three seasons where he has won 14 games, as recently as 2013. He is still only 27 and can turn it around to become a reliable starter. Latos is also being paid $9.4 million. If his struggles continue, he can guarantee that he won't be getting that much on his next contract.

Jeff Samardzija, SP, White Sox

Shark has been bounced around a lot these past two seasons, clubs playing hot potato with him and that pending free agent contract. Samardzija started the 2014 season as a member of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, realizing that they couldn't afford to keep Samardzija and wanting to get max value for him, traded him to Oakland for Addison Russell.

In the offseason, Oakland also realized (or knew ahead of time) that they weren't in a position to afford Samardjia when he became a free agent, and they traded him back to the White Sox. Now the White Sox have the 30-year-old in their rotation in the hopes that he can lead a young pitching staff to the postseason, perhaps in the mold that the Royals used James Shields to shape their younger starters. A 2-2 record with a 4.38 ERA in six starts can't be what either Samardzija or the White Sox had in mind. Which team is going to shell out a gigantic major league contract for that?

There is some suggestion, with nothing major attached to it, that the White Sox could move Samardija again if they feel that he won't re-sign with Chicago, or if he asks for too much in his next contract. Samardzija is one of the more interesting guys on this list because he could find his name among those being shopped come the July trade deadline. In any case this supposed big payday might never come if he can't turn it around.