Photo courtesy of MLB.com
By Nicholas Winter
The MLB season has ended and the off-season has started, which means that free agency has begun. Free agency this year might be a little different, due to the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) deal between the Owners and the MLB Players Association expiring at the beginning of December. Both sides have made little progress on a new deal, and it may lead to the owners “locking out” the players until a new deal is made. Nevertheless, free agency is packed once again with star bats and pitchers looking to cash in on their success, and while some might have to wait until the CBA agreement is reached, the top-tier free agents will most likely not have to wait long to find their new home. Let’s take a look at a couple of the top free agents available and their potential landing spots.
Carlos Correa is arguably the best overall player on the market this year. Correa is a star-studded shortstop who had spent his entire career with the Houston Astros up to this point. This free agency in particular is loaded with star shortstops. The Dodgers’ Corey Seager, Mets trade deadline acquisition Javier Baez, The Rockies’ Trevor Story, and The Blue Jays’ Marcus Semien are all available and are due for a big payday. Correa is the undisputed best shortstop of this free agent class and is the best player in free agency this year, posting big numbers for the Astros this year. Correa hit .279 and added 27 home runs to go along with his 92 RBI. Strong offensive numbers are not the only elite facet of his game; his defense is what sets him apart from the rest of the free agent class. By defensive metrics, he is ranked as the third-best defensive shortstop in the league, behind the likes of Fransico Lindor. Correa is expected to command a monster contract of somewhere around 10 years, $320MM.
There are only a select number of teams that could give out such a contract; a couple of teams that have maintained an interest in Correa so far are the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees. The Tigers have made it very clear that they are ready to take the next step and spend some money this off-season, and one of their weaknesses is at shortstop. They have maintained an interest in all of the top free agent shortstops and are considered one of the favorites to sign Correa. The Yankees also have a need for a shortstop; whether they are willing to make that kind of commitment to Correa, as they have been concerned with his injury history, remains to be seen. The Yankees are more likely to land Corey Seager, as it is widely thought around the league that the Yankees have been circling Seager for a while now.
Over on the pitching side of things, there are two pitchers at the top of the market: Robbie Ray and Max Scherzer. Ray is currently the favorite to win the AL Cy Young award after his brilliant season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Ray pitched to the tune of a 2.84 ERA over 193.1 innings and struck out 248 batters. Ray had struggled in the abbreviated 2020 season but put that behind him with the best season of his career. It primed him for a major payday, somewhere in the range of five years and $130MM. The Blue Jays are favored to re-sign Ray, as they can’t afford to lose more pitching, but watch out for teams like the Tigers and the Angels to possibly make a play for him if the Blue Jays decide not to re-up Ray. Scherzer is another one of the top pitchers on the market, and his potential landing spots seem to be limited to a couple of teams due to his personal preference of where he would like to pitch. Scherzer also has an enormous price tag, and the future Hall-of-Famer is primed to break the MLB annual salary record, which sits at $36MM per year. Scherzer might be the first MLB player to make $40MM per year, although at 37 years old, it is not likely he would get a contract over three years. As of right now, Scherzer is favored to resign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but keep an eye on the LA Angels, as they have been looking for pitching for a long time and could pull the trigger on one of the best pitchers of the last decade.
The Hot Stove League has begun, but that stove could get turned off very quickly if there is a work stoppage due to the CBA deal, so we could be in for a long-drawn-out free agency. Bundle up, folks.