For me, the baseball offseason begins in earnest with the release of MLB top 50 free agents lists. The Sports Illustrated Top 50 list is one I always look forward to.
Ben Reiter, the author of Astroball: The New Way to Win It All, was once the author of these lists. He’s since moved on to other endeavors, but the annual list, penned by Will Laws and Nick Selbe, remains credible.
It provides a roadmap for what promises to be a red-hot market. Here are my thoughts on what the next three months or so have in store for us.
The cream of this year’s free-agent class is the five top-tier shortstops available. Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez are all eligible to sign with whichever team they choose. Semien and Baez have the added value of being able to play second base as well.
The Detroit Tigers and Manager A.J. Hinch are connected to Correa. Motown made strides this past season and adding Correa could accelerate the rebuild rapidly.
The New York Yankees will be active in the middle infield sweepstakes. Seager is their main target but they have kicked the tires on Story too. If Correa does leave town, expect Houston to be aggressive in finding his replacement. Story could be fit, as could super-utility man Chris Taylor.
Coming off an MVP finalist prove-it year, Marcus Semien is one of the most intriguing players available. . Toronto will be assertive in attempting to retain Semien. However, expect the Mariners and Red Sox to also be in the running for his services.
If you ask Mets fans, the Javier Baez experiment was a thumbs down. If you look at the numbers, it was a four-star performance. After hitting just .248 with an OPS+ of 104 in 91 games with the Cubs, Baez mashed .299 with an OPS+ of 141 in 47 games in New York. There’s growing momentum for him to re-up in Flushing with good pal Francisco Lindor.
The other position group that is particularly strong this hot stove season is starting pitcher. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, and Clayton Kershaw are all hitting the open market.
After coming to the west coast, Scherzer seemed energized until he ran out of gas in the NLCS. Something tells me “Mad Max” could be in favor of running it back for another championship charge.
Ray seemingly unlocked a new level in 2021. He became a dominating, strikeout king with minimal walks under the tutelage of Jays’ pitching coach Pete Walker. Toronto will spend big to retain their stars.
Similarly, not many people expect Kershaw to be in anything but Dodger blue next Spring. All signs point to the sides coming together on a short-term contract.
The Los Angeles Angels are in the market for at least two veteran starters.
One other thing to monitor as the proceedings get underway is a couple of teams motivated to trade assets. The Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds are expected to move at least a couple of valuable pieces.
Teams that miss out on the top free agents or who are rich in prospects could explore this market. Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, and Eugenio Suarez are all on the block. Pitchers Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Sonny Gray are also potential trade chips.
The Oakland Athletics could be on the verge of trading some of their young stars, and the San Francisco Giants would gladly trade for starting pitchers like Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt.https://t.co/MB7ELET7iO— Sporting Green (@SportingGreenSF) November 10, 2021
For Oakland, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Frankie Montas are entering their second of three arbitration-eligible seasons. Pitchers Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt are also entering the final season before free agency.
No matter what happens, there’s sure to be plenty of suitcases packed and dollars exchanging hands over the next several weeks. Stay tuned!