Korea, Freeman, Scherzer are among the best baseball free agents
With a potential closure on the horizon, business has mostly been business as usual in the free agent market – until now.
Detroit signed on the left, Eduardo Rodriguez. Houston retained star Justin Verlander. Noah Sendergaard of the Mets went to the Angels in an expensive one-year deal.
The deadline for accepting eligible bids last week came and went, further illustrating who was heading to the open market.
It remains to be seen if the uncertainty over the next working agreement will affect off-season movements for the top players available, but there are clearly plenty of good options for teams looking to get promoted.
Here’s a look at the best baseball free agents by position. The current ages of the players are in parentheses:
Left hand start
Carlos Rodon, White Sox (28)
It’s a match between Rodon and Robbie Ray. Rodón Ray didn’t really threaten in Cy Young’s vote, but ERA was half a turn lower and he’s also younger. Ray received a qualifying offer while Rodon did not, which could make Rodon a more enticing target.
Other options: Ray has rebounded admirably from a bad 2020, but it’s no wonder for one year. He did very well in 2017 as well. Clayton Kershaw has never made a show for anyone but Dodgers, but he’s available now and at 33 he can still be effective if he’s healthy.
Left hand bolster
Aaron Loeb, Mets (33)
The Loup went 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA in 65 games. Hit his opponents .192.
Other options: Andrew Chafin was impressive last season for both Cubs and Athletics. Tony Watson cut on walks after being traded from angels to giants.
Max Scherzer, Dodgers (37)
There are no signs yet of any major regression for Scherzer despite his advanced age. He’s had an ERA of 3.15 or lower in eight of the past nine seasons – the only time he’s been higher was in the short 2020 campaign.
Other options: Kevin Gusman did well in 2020 and looked like Cy Young’s rival this year until the second half faltered. Marcus Strowman gave the Mets 3.02 ERA through 33 starts in 2021.
Right hand armrest
Raisel Iglesias, Angels 31
Iglesias saved 34 games for Los Angeles, and things didn’t go smoothly for Cincinnati after he left. He’s saved at least 30 times in each of the past three uncut seasons.
Other options: Kenley Jansen appears to be slipping after three consecutive years with an ERA above 3.00. Then he lowered it to 2.22 this year and raised his opponents to 0.153 on average. Tampa Bay signed Colin McHugh before last season, and that alone is a good endorsement of the Savior’s potential. He went 6-1 with 1.55 ERA.
Ian Gomez, athletics (34)
There aren’t any star catchers available this year, but Gomes can save a little pop.
Other options: Roberto Perez reached 24 players in 2019, then lost under 200 in 2020 and 2021. Robinson Chirinos reached the double-digits for three consecutive seasons from 2017-2019, but has played only 71 games since then.
Freddy Freeman Braves (32)
Losing Freeman would be a major cause for the world champions, but it’s clear that the five-time All-Star and 2020 best player will come at a heavy price. Even in the first base, it is difficult to find this kind of stable production.
Other options: Anthony Rizzo OPS has been under 80,000 in the past two seasons, but it’s the only big name available at the start. Brad Miller is out of season 20 in Philadelphia but is unlikely to provide a high hitting average.
Marcus Simin, Blue Jays (31)
Let’s include Simin as second captain – he has played often this season – and avoid making a difficult decision at short notice. Semien has made 45 home runs this year while playing all 162 matches, placing third in the MVP vote. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he’s had the most wars of any player in baseball since the start of the 2019 season.
Other options: Cesar Hernandez made 18 appearances for the Cleveland team this season before being traded to the White Sox. Donovan Solano’s attacking numbers are down slightly this year but he’s been a strong contributor to the Giants’ 107 wins.
Eduardo Escobar, Brewers (32)
Escobar has racked up 28 home runs this year in his first full season since hitting 35 in 2019. He played a bit in first, second and short stops as well as third.
Other options: Kyle Seeger was given a standing ovation by Seattle fans in the last game of the season – apparently well aware that he might move to another team. Jonathan Villar’s stolen base numbers aren’t what they used to be, but he can still save a two-digit home.
Carlos Correa, Astros (27)
Correa made his debut in the league at the age of 20 and reached the free agency after celebrating his 30th birthday. This makes him a little younger than some of the other top players on this list, and he just might be the most sought-after name of the season.
Other options: There are a lot of good stopping points available this year. Cory Seeger is also 27, and Trevor Storey is 29. Javier Baez turns 29 on December 1.
Starling Marte, athletics (33)
Chris Bryant, Giants (29)
Nick Castellanos, Reds (29)
Marte did what he could to help A on the stretch, and ended up with the .841 OPS this year for Oakland and Miami. Bryant doesn’t turn 30 until January and can of course play third base as well as on the court. Castellanos has achieved career highs in homers (34), batting average (.309) and OPS (.939) this year.
Other options: Avisaíl García has racked up a career high of 29 Milwaukee homes and is just 30 years old. Chris Taylor remained a producer for the Dodgers while playing six positions. Japanese sprinter Seiya Suzuki hit 38 wrecks this season with his Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
Nelson Cruz, Rice (41)
Cruz may finally slow down, but only slightly. It hit 32 this year, but it’s 0.832 OPS, its lowest since 2012.
Other options: Keel Schwarber finally ended up with an MLS side when he was traded from Washington to Boston. He can play on the court, but he’s known for his racket, and his role will probably depend on where he’s going and what the rules are. Mitch Morland has spent a lot more time in DH than he has in first base this year, and his offensive numbers have dropped dramatically.
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