If you don’t enjoy the reason for this free-agent freeze—the lockout of players’ owners, which started the second Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement ended—the result, at least, isn’t bad for now. eh? A joyous frenzy of spending ensued in the week leading up to that expiration. And when both sides ever get a labor peace, there will be a mad rush by players and teams to finish their business before they can call for spring (summer? autumn? never?) training. Maybe it could be the new model.
Rob Manfred and Tony Clark are under pressure to swarm their components, and there is a serious need not only to set economic terms for both parties, but to increase the appeal of their product through on-field changes. To prepare the plan as well. Once they’ve done that (January 15? March 15? Never?), the heat will turn to those who chose to defer their choices until the second half.
These clubs and players will emerge from their sleepless slumber and face the hottest heat immediately, no matter what the season:
Who else? When you run the most famous and successful franchise in North American games and register one of the more turbulent campaigns in recent memory, that forced the usually mild-mannered owner to declare, “We better, need to get period,” so inevitably sit out in the first half you’ll draw some attention to yourself. The Yankees must find their positions at shortstop, first base and center field. They could have used a more experienced starting pitcher and reliever. And I won’t believe that Gary Sanchez will actually be a member of the 2022 team until he hits a hit for Kyle Higashioka after Gerrit Cole’s departure on Opening Day.
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They fell out with the Braves in the National League Championship Series, and their one-time pitching supply has dwindled as quickly as Chris Cuomo’s list of defenders. The Mets stole their business-deadline takeover, Max Schaezer, team icon Clayton Kershaw is a free agent and the loathsome Trevor Bauer is still in legal limbo, so the Dodgers must find a supporting cast alongside Walker Buehler and Julio Ureas. Will happen. Call the free-agent close to Kenny Jenson.
The great unsolved mystery of this break in action: Why hasn’t Houston announced its two-year, $50 million deal to bring back future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander? Only a select few know and they just aren’t talking. Would it be nothing if Verlander returning from Tommy John surgery was back on the market? You could see the Yankees scoring another run on him. And who will replace Carlos Correa at shortstop, assuming he goes elsewhere?
President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, typically uber-aggressive, just signed reliever Cory Nebel. An outfielder (Michael Conforto?) and shortstop stand as priority items on his shopping list.
The defending World Series champions face just one task, though it just happens to be a hooper: Can they re-sign the franchise in the face of Freddie Freeman?
After surviving the final day of the regular season, he found a hand in Robbie Ray. Now they need a bat (Kris Bryant?)
He remained close to Raicel Iglesias and shocked the world with his large investment in Noah Syndergaard. Now they need another starting pitcher.
Athletics. They land here for a different reason: After jumping beloved manager Bob Melvin to the Padres, he never hides his intention to tear up again. However, trades for the mats (Chapman and Olsen) and pitchers (Chris Bassett and Sean Manea), if they were to happen, would be the latter.
The dynamic shortstop entered winter (definitely) eyeing a number one: $341 million, the amount that Steve Cohen donated to Francisco Lindor earlier this year. With two of his most obvious suitors (Tigers and Rangers) likely off the board, can the 27-year-old at least surpass the $325 million Texas guaranteed Corey Seeger? If the Yankees still seem like an unlikely pairing, how about the Phillies? Did Detroit pair LA Texas, Correa and Xavier Baez with Cesar and Marcus Semien? Can the Dodgers, like the Yankees still upset over 2017, sign him to replace Seeger? Could the Astros be back in the picture? This represents quite a challenge for his representative, John Rosen, who is a skilled agent in the entertainment world, though not in baseball.
He and Correa watched the other elite shortstops (Bazz, Seeger and Semin) decide their future. Will anyone give him more than $100 million? Is there any way he and the Yankees can agree a lucrative one-year deal DJ LeMahieu eases his former Rockies teammate’s transition to the Big Apple? This will give the Yankees young shortstop a year to develop further and a great platform for Story’s 2022-23 winter.
His agent, Scott Boras, easily found nine figures for his clients Scherzer, Seeger and Semien. Can he do the same for another trio: Conforto, Bryant and Nick Castellanos?
If you choose to bolt Atlanta, you can easily expect the Yankees or the Dodgers to welcome him, so don’t worry about his financial well being. Yet he has not hidden his desire to be brave for life. Can he convince his sole employer to reward him for his exemplary service?
He will face a different kind of pressure. Unless he’s worried about chasing every last dollar—and that hasn’t been his way—will he re-sign with the Dodgers, whose logo will eventually be on his Hall of Fame plaque? Or will he want to go home and join the Rangers, who had just boarded his longtime partner, Caesar?
He and the Yankees definitely looked like a great fit during that little sample. Can they agree on the right price to turn that honeymoon into a longer commitment?
The pitcher could play for the Mariners in 2022 on a one-year, $13 million deal. Instead, the 30-year-old opted for free agency. Can the Mets tap him to complete his starting rotation?
The final season of his big 10-year deal marks the all-time greatest hits against the Left, and he’s on record that he wants to continue playing. No one wants to see Pujol retire due to lack of interest. Come on, Cardinals, bring him back for the final race, featuring the amazing wonders Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.