The inevitable lockout has arrived as Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Player’s Association has expired. Rosters will be frozen until the next agreement has been finalized, and the timetable of this process is unclear. As a result of this, several big-name players remain on the market. Before we can get into that, let’s take a look at some of the moves we have seen in this offseason so far.
Noah Syndergaard Gets Fresh Start in Los Angeles with the Angels
BREAKING: Right-hander Noah Syndergaard and the Los Angeles Angels are in agreement on a one-year, $21 million deal, pending physical, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 16, 2021
The Angels bolster their staff with the highest-upside arm on the market — and pay a heavy price, plus a second-rounder.
The first somewhat big name to come off the board this offseason was former New York Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard, who signed a one-year, $21 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Syndergaard has been excellent in his Major League career when healthy, having ERA’s of 3.24, 2.60, and 3.03 across full seasons. Unfortunately, his time being healthy lately has been limited. After missing all of the shortened 2020 season, Syndergaard pitched only two innings before being shut down once again in 2021.
The fit here makes a ton of sense for both sides. Syndergaard clearly wasn’t thrilled with the Mets organization, and it was time for a change. It’s not exactly a secret that the Angels have struggled to assemble a competent pitching staff to help support Mike Trout and the offense. Signing Syndergaard is a step in the right direction. $21 million is a lot to pay for a pitcher who has only thrown two innings since 2019, but when he is at his best, Syndergaard is among the elite starters in the league. With that being said, his hair is going to look MAJESTIC in Los Angeles. It’s a risk they should be taking.
Adam Frazier is Traded for the Second Time in Four Months, This Time to Seattle
The Seattle Mariners are acquiring second baseman/outfielder Adam Frazier in a trade with the San Diego Padres, sources familiar with the agreement tell ESPN. Going to San Diego will be hard-throwing left-handed reliever Ray Kerr and outfielder Corey Rosier.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 27, 2021
It’s been a relatively quiet offseason on the trade front, with only one extremely noteworthy trade taking place as the San Diego Padres traded All-Star 2B/OF Adam Frazier to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for P Ray Kerr and OF Corey Rosier.
It’s been quite a few months for Adam Frazier, who began his 2021 campaign in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. He had a dominant start to the year and found himself in the MLB All-Star game in Colorado. As a reward for his performance, he got out of Pittsburgh and found himself in a playoff race in San Diego. San Diego has the depth in the infield in 2022 that they really did not need Frazier in the plan with Fernando Tatis Jr. at full strength. They clearly felt they could upgrade elsewhere.
As for Seattle, this is another step in the right direction after they just missed out on the postseason in 2021. Their lineup could still use another big impact bat, but with star prospects like Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez on the way, this looks like a team ready to make the jump.
Mets Do Their Black Friday Shopping in The Form of a New Offense
Sources: Eduardo Escobar, Mets in agreement on 2-year deal, pending physical. Close to $25M.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 26, 2021
Breaking: Starling Marte to Mets is done pending physical— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 27, 2021
Outfielder Mark Canha and the New York Mets are nearing a deal, league sources tell ESPN. Canha, 32, is a versatile, high-on-base guy who can play all three outfield positions and first base. When finalized as expected, the Mets will have gotten better.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 27, 2021
As the cries of Mets fans about the false promises of Steve Cohen got louder, he stepped in and delivered. It was a triple play so to speak for New York, as they signed three big names to help fill out their roster for 2022. The big signing was when they brought in former A’s OF Starling Marte on a four-year, $78 million dollar deal. They also brought in another former Athletic in OF Mark Canha on a two-year $26.5 million deal, as well as former Brewers INF Eduardo Escobar on a two-year, $20 million contract.
While not super flashy, the Mets became a much better team than they were before the day started. Starling Marte will lock down center field for the next few seasons and had an OPS of .841 in 2021. Canha and Escobar will also fill some needs as Michael Conforto and Javier Baez are both likely headed out of town, at a much lower price. Escobar made his first All-Star game in 2021 after a torrid start to the year in Arizona and was traded to Milwaukee before the deadline. This has the potential to be a very team friendly deal if Escobar can come close to repeating that production.
Kevin Gausman Goes Across the Border to Join the Toronto Blue Jays
BREAKING: Right-hander Kevin Gausman and the Toronto Blue Jays are in agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
The Toronto Blue Jays knew they were going to be signing a big-name pitcher. But which one was the big question. Instead of waiting around on reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, the Blue Jays decided to give former Giant Kevin Gausman a five-year, $110 million deal.
It is a little bit surprising that the Blue Jays weren’t able to meet the demands of Robbie Ray, but Gausman is a rather nice consolation prize. Gausman had his true breakout season in 2021 in San Francisco as he had a 2.81 ERA in 33 games. The potential for Gausman to put it all together has been there, but it was not until this year he was as dominant as he showed.
The Blue Jays may come to regret not keeping Ray around, but Gausman is going to anchor a pitching staff that is starting to show a little bit more promise with the acquisition of Jose Berrios, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and top prospect Nate Pearson. With the offense in Toronto losing only Marcus Semien, the Blue Jays look ready to challenge for an AL East title.
Rangers Spend Half of a Billion Dollars on Dominant Middle Infield
Infielder Marcus Semien and the Texas Rangers are in agreement on a seven-year contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. @ByRobertMurray had the sides close.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 28, 2021
BREAKING: Star shortstop Corey Seager and the Texas Rangers are in agreement on a 10-year, $325 million deal, sources familiar with the situation tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
Every offseason there’s a team that doesn’t have a clear direction that makes a splash in free agency. The Texas Rangers did that and then some as they signed former Blue Jays 2B/SS Marcus Semien to a seven-year, $175 million dollar deal. At the time, it was assumed Semien would play shortstop, but that all changed when Texas doubled down on their middle infield and signed former Los Angeles Dodgers World Series MVP SS Corey Seager to a whopping ten-year, $325 million contract.
For a team that lost 102 games in 2021, this is an awfully aggressive move towards relevance in a division that has gotten a lot better. The Rangers still have an incredibly flawed roster and will struggle in their rotation. This will certainly help put fans in the stands, but contending in 2022 is unlikely.
It’s hard to blame Seager and Semien for joining Texas, considering most teams likely would not have matched the duration of those contracts. Texas knew giving them that security was their only way to take them away from an immediate contender, and these guys will be the face of a rebuild with no timetable. It is a bit of a question mark for a team that will likely be ready to contend as Seager and Semien are exiting their primes, but you have to respect the small market teams for not punting.
Javier Báez Looks to Usher in New Era in Detroit
While many of the rumors around the league had Carlos Correa as the main target of the Detroit Tigers, they went a different route as they signed SS Javier Báez to a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is not quite in the upper echelon of shortstops on the market, but he put together a very strong end of the year in 2021 to set himself up for a nice payday.
The Tigers surprised many by winning 77 games in 2021 and signing Báez is another step towards returning to the postseason. The team lacks a true face at the current moment, with Miguel Cabrera heading towards the end of his career. Báez has the type of personality to make that happen. He has been on teams with a lot of star players before in Chicago and New York, but he has a chance to lead his own team now.
The Tigers have a star-studded farm system with 1B Spencer Torkelson, CF Riley Greene, and C Dillon Dingler patiently waiting their opportunities to show Detroit what the future has in store. Signing Báez will help attract other free agents in the coming years, and while the Tigers might not quite have the fire power to dethrone the White Sox in 2022, they have the talent to compete for a Wild Card spot.
Scherzer Gets Record-Breaking Deal from the New York Mets
Max Scherzer and the Mets are finalizing $130M, 3-year deal. Minor details to go only.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 29, 2021
Steve Cohen was not done quite yet, as he gave Max Scherzer a three-year, $130 million deal with a record breaking $43.3 million per year to build a potentially historic top of the rotation with Jacob deGrom. All of the outside noise of Scherzer wanting to stay on the West Coast appeared to have been largely overblown, as Scherzer was happy to go back to the division he saw so much of with the Washington Nationals.
For Scherzer, this seems to be the best of both worlds. He becomes the highest paid player in baseball and goes to a team that with their recent moves is in a good position to contend. Scherzer already has a World Series ring, but he is still as competitive as they come.
Scherzer did deal with a little bit of dead arm in 2021, but he recently spoke out and said the Dodgers plan for resting him backfired. He believes the more work he puts in during a season, the more ready that he is down the stretch as he was in 2019. Scherzer will likely get as many innings as he chooses in Queens in 2022, and if he and deGrom stay healthy, it could be a long season for NL East hitters.
Reigning Cy Young Winner Robbie Ray Becomes Much Needed Ace in Seattle
Reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and the Seattle Mariners are finalizing a five-year, $115 million contract with an opt-out after the third season, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
After the Blue Jays decided to pass on bringing back Ray to sign Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray knew he had to find a new home for 2022 and beyond. Ray earned $5 million more than his counterpart as he signed a five-year, $115 million deal with the Seattle Mariners. It is unclear whether he would have taken the same deal with the Blue Jays, because it’s awfully surprising that they would not get a deal done over a $5 million dispute.
Seattle got a much-needed ace of their staff, which takes this team to a new height. Especially when they could be contending for a Wild Card, having a star pitcher that can win you that game will go a long way. Along with the previously mentioned Adam Frazier trade, the Mariners are still looking to sign an impact bat such as Kris Bryant or Nick Castellanos. With Frazier and J.P. Crawford up the middle, Seattle seems like they are staying away from the pricey SS market.
Ray had an ERA of 2.84 with 248 K’s as he won his first career Cy Young. He spent the majority of his career in Arizona before spending the last year and a half in Toronto. He will now potentially find himself in a playoff race against his former team.
Marcus Stroman Announces His Own Signing as He Joins the Chicago Cubs
CHICAGO! @Cubs— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) December 1, 2021
“Marcus Stroman… the Fastball King of Chicago”
Stroman decided to be the distributor of his own news as opposed to the media as he announced that he was joining the Chicago Cubs. Details later came out that it was a three-year, $71 million deal. The Cubs may be in the midst of a retooling process, but Stroman gives them stability at the top of their rotation and a player with an incredible work ethic no matter the situation.
Stroman, like another former Mets pitcher in this article, was not exactly thrilled with the New York Mets front office. Of course, Stroman has a right to feel disrespected after the Mets seemed uninterested in a reunion after he was excellent for them. With that being said, they had their eyes on a bigger prize as they landed Max Scherzer, but Stroman knew he needed a change of scenery.
Enter Chicago, a place where Stroman can come and command a rotation. The Cubs may struggle a bit as they rebuild following the departures of Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber, but they know they will be able to have a good outing every fifth day from Stroman. If all else fails, he could be a valuable trade chip at the deadline in the future.
Top Names Still Available:
1. 1B Freddie Freeman
It is a bit surprising to see that Atlanta has not locked up Freddie Freeman this far into the offseason, especially after he helped lead them to a World Series title. It’s a business at the end of the day, whether we want it to be or not. The whole world (outside of the NL East) wants to see Freeman as a Brave for life. That’s not the way the world goes, and there’s a chance we see Freeman elsewhere come 2022. Still, it’s very possible Freeman gives Atlanta the benefit of the doubt in negotiations because of how much he loves it there.
Potential Fits: Braves, Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Blue Jays
Prediction: Re-Signs with the Atlanta Braves
2. SS Carlos Correa
Carlos Correa has made it clear he has no issues waiting for the potential lockout to come and go before he makes his free-agent decision. A lot of the general public saw Correa heading to Detroit to reunite with former manager A.J. Hinch, but they opted to sign Javier Báez instead. While a return to Houston is not impossible, they’ve made no indications they are willing to meet his demands. As with most big-name players, the Yankees and Dodgers make a lot of sense here. With Corey Seager gone, the Dodgers could opt to move Trea Turner to SS, or they could give Correa a blank check. There have been reports that some Yankees players are not too fond of the idea of Correa in pinstripes after what happened in 2017, but I’m sure they’d get over it rather quickly.
Potential Fits: Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals
Prediction: Signs with the Dodgers
3. OF Nick Castellanos
In a contract year, Castellanos put together the best season of his career with the Reds in 2021. Castellanos hit .309 with 34 HR’s and a .939 OPS while being named to his first All-Star team. There is some cause for concern that Castellanos had never hit over 30 HRs in his career before last season, but he generally hits for a high average and has been steadily improving his OPS every year. While defense isn’t his specialty, he is the perfect middle of the order bat for a contending team. The Padres have shown a lot of interest, and a 3-4-5 of Tatis Jr., Machado, and Castellanos would be arguably the best in baseball. All outfield needy teams should be in on Castellanos.
Potential Fits: Padres, Phillies, Marlins, Mariners
Prediction: Signs with the Padres
4. OF Kyle Schwarber
After finishing a six-year tenure and winning a World Series with the Cubs, Schwarber signed with the Washington Nationals before the 2021 season. Schwarber made himself right at home in Washington as he went on a record setting hot streak on a putrid Nationals team. He set an MLB record with 12 HRs in a 10-game span and was then used as a trade chip and sent to Boston where he became “Kyle from Waltham.” A lot of teams could use his services, but Philadelphia feels like a perfect fit. They had horrible production from the leadoff spot in 2021, which led to Bryce Harper having low RBI totals in his MVP season. Schwarber hit .297 with 17 HR’s an OPS of 1.216 out of the leadoff spot, per Baseball Reference. Philadelphia needs a power left-handed bat to balance out the lineup, and they need a left fielder. He would also make sense for Miami, but Philadelphia would likely be able to outbid them. A potential reunion with Boston is not out of the question, but they seem as though they are spending elsewhere. “Kyle from Delco” feels inevitable.
Potential Fits: Phillies, Red Sox, Marlins, Mariners
Prediction: Signs with the Phillies
5. 3B/OF Kris Bryant
The second member of this list to finish a lengthy tenure in Chicago comes in the form of Kris Bryant. A former MVP and World Series champion, Bryant was dealt to the San Francisco Giants at the deadline. Bryant is very valuable because of ability to play 3rd base as well as any outfield spot, but his bat leaves a little bit to be desired compared to the other names on the market. Bryant hit .262 with an .835 OPS, and neither of those numbers scream “mega-deal”. He has earned the right to ask for a big contract, but it is understandable why some teams may hesitate. Wherever Bryant goes, he will be valuable for many different reasons. He feels like the kind of guy who could take a young team in Seattle and help bring them to the next level along with Robbie Ray.
Potential Fits: Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
Prediction: Signs with the Mariners.
6. Trevor Story
There really has not been much news on the Trevor Story front at all. We have seen Javier Báez and Corey Seager sign, but Story feels likely to wait until after the lockout along with Carlos Correa. Story was surprised when he was not dealt at the deadline, as it seems as though Colorado simply let him walk. A strange approach, but at least they can get the qualifying offer draft pick in return. Story has some questions around him on whether he can put up big numbers outside of Coors Field, and they are valid concerns. Nolan Arenado did a pretty good job at silencing those critics when he was traded to St. Louis, and Story has the potential to do the same. There are a lot of potential suitors for Story, and it’s hard to get a feel for where he might go. Perhaps St. Louis would like to reunite Story and Arenado in baseball town. There have been some rumors that Colorado wants to bring back Story, but unless they are willing to break the bank, it seems he would rather go to a contender.
Potential Fits: Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, Rockies
Prediction: Signs with the Cardinals
7. Anthony Rizzo
Completing the trifecta of former Cubs World Series Champions still on the market, Anthony Rizzo remains unsigned. Rizzo was traded to the Yankees at the deadline and did not put-up numbers that he would’ve liked to see in the Bronx. Still, he has a long track record of success. Staying in New York makes a lot of sense for Rizzo given the short porch in Left Field, a contending team around him, and likely a large payday. If New York isn’t interested, Rizzo could potentially find himself staying in the AL East with the rival Red Sox. Rizzo has not had much of a market emerge and seems comfortable riding it out into the lockout.
Potential Fits: Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Cubs
Prediction: Re-signs with the Yankees