With a possible lockout on the horizon, it’s been mostly business as usual on the free agent market — so far.
Detroit signed left-hander Eduardo Rodríguez. Houston signed righty Justin Verlander. Noah Syndergaard moved from the Mets and to the Angels under a costly one-year agreement.
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Last week was the deadline for qualifying offers. This further clarified who was going to be in open market.
While it remains to be determined if the uncertainty surrounding the next labor deal will impact offseason moves by the best players, there is no denying that there are many good options available for teams who want to improve their team.
Below is a list of the top baseball free agents, sorted by position. In parentheses, players’ current ages appear.
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LEFT-HANDED TABLET STARTER
Carlos Rodón, White Sox (28)
It’s a toss-up between Rodón and Robbie Ray. Rodón didn’t really threaten Ray in the Cy Young vote, but his ERA was about a half a run lower and he’s also younger. And Ray received a qualifying offer while Rodón did not, so that may make Rodón a more enticing target.
Alternative options Ray: Ray did well in 2020, but it isn’t like he was a miracle worker. Also, he did very well in 2017. Clayton Kershaw has not pitched for the Dodgers but is available and, at 33 years old, can still be productive if he’s healthy.
Aaron Loup, Mets (33).
Loup was 6-0 and had a 0.95 ERA over 65 games. His opponents hit him with.192.
There are other options. Andrew Chafin impressed both last season with the Athletics as well as for Cubs. After being traded to the Giants by the Angels, Tony Watson reduced the number of walks.
Max Scherzer, Dodgers (37)
Scherzer is still in good health despite being over 50. He’s had an ERA at 3.15 or lower in eight of the last nine seasons — the only time it was higher was in the shortened 2020 campaign.
Alternative options: Kevin Gausman looked good in 2020. He was a Cy Young hopeful this year, but he fell apart during the second half. Marcus Stroman’s Mets had a 3.02 ERA in 2021, compared to 33 starts.
Raisel Iglesias, Angels (31)
Iglesias was able to save 34 games in Los Angeles. However, things didn’t go as planned for Cincinnati after his departure. Each of the three previous seasons, which were not cut short, saw him save at least 30 games.
Another option: Kenley Januarysen looked to be in decline after three years consecutively posting an ERA of over 3.0. After lowering it to 2.22, he held his opponents to an average of.153. Tampa Bay signed Collin McHugh last season. This is an excellent endorsement of the potential of a reliever. He was 6-1, with a 1.55 ERA.
Yan Gomes, Athletics (34)
Although there isn’t a star catcher this year for the US, Gomes may be able to provide some pop.
Other options: Roberto Pérez hit 24 homers in 2019 and then batted under .200 in 2020 and 2021. Robinson Chirinos had triple-digit homers for three seasons straight from 2017-19, and has played just 71 games in between.
Freddie Freeman, Braves (32)
Freeman’s departure would have a devastating impact on the World Series champs. However, the five-time All Star and 2020 MVP will be well-paid. It’s difficult for any player to produce this consistency at every base.
Alternative options: Anthony Rizzo is the best big-name option at first. His OPS was below.800 for the past two seasons. Brad Miller just returned from a Philadelphia season with 20 homers, but he is unlikely to post a high-batting average.
Marcus Semien, Blue Jays (31)
Let’s list Semien as a second baseman — where he mostly played this season — and avoid a tough decision at shortstop. Semien, who played all 162 games and hit 45 homers this season, was third in the MVP ballot. He has the most WAR of any player in baseball since the start of the 2019 season, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Other options: César Hernández hit 18 home runs for Cleveland this season before being traded to the White Sox. Although Donovan Solano had his offensive numbers drop slightly, he still contributed well to the Giants’ 107-win record.
Eduardo Escobar, Brewers (32)
In his first season in 2019, Escobar had 28 home runs. Escobar played shortstop, first and second base.
Other options: Kyle Seager got a big ovation from Seattle fans at the last game of this season — they were apparently well aware that he might be moving on to another team. Jonathan Villar may not have the stolen base numbers he used to, but he is still able to provide home runs in double digits.
Carlos Correa, Astros (27)
Correa was 20 when he made his first big league appearance and is just shy of 30. He is a lot younger than other players and may be the most wanted name in this offseason.
You have other options. There are many shortstops who can be trusted. Trevor Story, Corey Seager and Javier Baez are both 27-years old. Javier Báez turns 29 on Dec. 1.
Starling Marte, Athletics (33)
Kris Bryant, Giants (29).
Nick Castellanos, Reds (29)
Marte tried his best to assist the A’s in the final stretch and ended with a.841 OPS. This year, Marte also had a.841 OPS. Bryant won’t be 30 before January, and Bryant can still play third base as well as the outfield. Castellanos achieved career-highs of 34 homers, batting average at.309 and OPS at.939.
Other options: Avisaíl García hit a career-high 29 homers for Milwaukee and is only 30 years old. Chris Taylor was productive while playing six positions for the Dodgers. Japanese slugger Seiya Sugi hit 38 homers with Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
Nelson Cruz and Rays (41).
Cruz is slowing down, but it’s only a small amount. This year, he hit 32 homers and posted a.832 OPS. His lowest score since 2012.
Alternative options: Kyle Schwarber was traded from Washington, Massachusetts to Boston and ended up signing with an American League team. Although he can play in the outfield, he is best known for his bat. His role will depend on the location and the rules. This year Mitch Moreland was more often at DH than at first, which led to a drop in his offensive performance.