MLB Free Agency: The Best Players Still Available in Free Agency
MLB Free Agency: The Best Players Still Available in Free Agency
With Major League Baseball now officially on a hiatus for an undetermined amount of time, not every free agent got caught up in the spending spree that happened prior to the work stoppage.
We saw Javy Baez, Corey Seager, Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman and others receive massive contracts before December 1st. But now unsigned free agents will wait and hope for a quick resolution to the lockout so they can begin wading back into the free agency waters.
Who are the best remaining free agents as we end day one of the lockout? Let’s take a look at who remains unsigned.
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Top MLB Free Agents Still Available
After seeing Baez and Seager get massive long-term deals in the past week, Correa might be the first player in line to get back in the MLB buildings when the doors reopen. He has made it clear he is looking for a 10-year deal, a al Corey Seager. But the question remains who wants to give it to him.
Perhaps the Cubs would make that offer, and the Yankees always are in the mood to spend money. We also can’t rule out a return to the Astros if they decide they can go beyond five years in their best offer.
Correa was third in WAR among all shortstops last year and just turned 27 years old, so even if a 10-year deal doesn’t happen, a seven-year commitment similar to what Baez received is a lock.
The overwhelming favorite team to land Freeman is the Braves, as he has given every indication that he wants to return there. The two sides just need to come to terms on the years and the financials. Now a World Series hero, it would be a massive upset if the Braves let the fan favorite leave town.
Freeman is 32 years old, so look for him to land a deal in the five year range that could be front-loaded with salary. With a near .300/.400/.500 slash line last season, Freeman is still a top first baseman for at least the next few years.
The two teams that have been most closely linked to Bryant this offseason are the Mariners and the Rockies. Both make sense for the Las Vegas native, and it looks like his services will remain out west in come capacity. The Giants have not made any indication they are serious contenders to bring Bryant back.
The interesting thing about Bryant is he stands along among the free agent third basemen this year. He is much younger and supremely more talented than Kyle Seager, Eduardo Escobar and Jonathan Villar. He is in a market of one, so it’s a matter of who is willing to pay the most for the almost 30-year old.
The smart money about eight months ago was that there was no way Story would finish the year with the Rockies. Colorado now stands to get nothing back in return except a compensatory draft pick if Story signs elsewhere this offseason.
He has also been linked to the Mariners, but Story would likely have to play a different position there. Perhaps take over the Kyle Seager? A dark horse for the uber-talented 29-year old would be the Astros if they don’t come to an agreement with Correa.
Story is likely very happy to see the season Nolan Arenado just produced in St. Louis as he can point to that success as an example that Coors Field hitters are not just a product of their environment.
We know that the Yankees are desperate for first base help and would love to re-sign Rizzo to a long-term deal, but they are playing the long game to first see where Freeman’s value lands, then see if there is a trade market for Matt Olson (younger and more productive then Rizzo last year). At that point they will likely access Rizzo’s prospects if they strike out on Olson.
It seems the days of Rizzo being a 4-5 WAR player are long gone, and the on base percentage and slugging numbers are starting to tumble. But a place like Yankee Stadium might be a quick fix for that problem. Would the Cubs consider bringing him back? Perhaps if the price was right.
Right fielders who can mash the ball are relatively easy to find in this age of major league baseball, but Castellanos doesn’t have much competition in that department now that Avisail Garcia signed with the Marlins. Jorge Soler is out there as well, but Castellanos is a more complete player, albeit quite a bit older.
Castellanos did pick the right year to have an elite season. His WAR of 4.2 was ninth-best among all outfielders and his slugging percentage trailed only Bryce Harper at the position. If we come out of the labor stoppage with a universal DH, there will be a bigger market for him, but for now it seems the Phillies have the most interest.
Speaking of elite seasons, Schwarber looked like the second coming of Babe Ruth for about three weeks before a hit by pitch derailed his season. He rebounded to finish with 32 homers in just 113 games, plus a 3.1 WAR. His slugging percentage (.544) was off the charts great compared to his previous seasons and some team is going to pay up hoping he can recapture that as an outfielder or DH as he inches closer to 30.
Schwarber is clearly another player that would benefit from a universal DH, but right now, teams like the Rockies, Phillies, Red Sox and even Nationals have been kicking the tires on the big man.
Kershaw is perhaps the most interesting case study in this free agency class for a few reasons. First, he is coming off injury so that could depress his value. Second, the team doctors and trainers now cannot see him during the lockout, so what does that do to his rehab and progression? Third, he is a Dodgers icon and fan favorite, so the Dodger faithful would revolt if he isn’t brought back. What do the Dodgers do? That remains to be seen.
I have seen rumors of a hybrid two-year deal that pays him a little in the first year while he recovers from injury and then backloads the salary in year two when he is presumably healthy. But for a player that will be 34 and coming off of injury when the season starts, who far do the Dodgers or any other team want to go?
Another pitcher coming off of injury but who is dominant when healthy is Rodon. He is quite a bit younger than Kershaw at just 29, but his injury history is more worrisome, including the fact that he could only muster 28 innings in August and September this year due to shoulder concerns.
Rodon gives his team an elite strikeout rate and good peripherals, but he might never be able to pitch more than 150 or so innings, and so what is that worth on the open market? Someone will need a flame-throwing left-hander. The White Sox are most likely out since they didn’t even extend a qualifying offer, so the market for Rodon has not developed yet.
After a 2019-2020 stretch that saw Jansen dip into good-not-great territory, he was back to the lights out closer we know from years past in 2021. His 2.22 ERA and 0.52 HR/9 were both his best since 2016 and he posted 38 saves plus well over a strikeout per inning.
The Dodgers have Blake Treinen waiting in the wings, so they have no real motivation to bring back Jansen other than nostalgia and goodwill. With Raisel Iglesias and Mark Melancon signing deals already, Jansen will be the hot name on the free agent market when baseball operations resume. He may be 34, but teams are desperate for experienced ninth-inning men and Jansen has more of it than anyone around.
Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.