One of the most active free-agency periods in Major League Baseball history came to a screeching halt as it was disrupted by the league's work stoppage. When MLB and the MLBPA finally come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, we'll be in for plenty more fireworks.
A number of big names remain on the MLB free-agent market after a wild November full of significant signings. Among them was Max Scherzer to the New York Mets, Corey Seager, and Marcus Semien to the Texas Rangers, Javier Baez to the Detroit Tigers, Robbie Ray to the Seattle Mariners.
The Boston Red Sox signed a handful of players to short-term contracts including veteran pitchers Michael Wacha, James Pacton, and Rich Hill. Longtime Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez departed Boston for the Tigers on a five-year deal.
So, who's left in free agency? Here's a look at the top 10 players still on the market as we await baseball's return.
1. Carlos Correa, SS
Most of the other top middle infielders in this year's free-agent class already found new homes, so we can expect Correa to do the same shortly after the lockout ends. The two-time All-Star's deal is expected to be massive as he reportedly turned down a lucrative 10-year contract with the Tigers prior to the work stoppage. At 27 years old, Correa is the best all-around player available this offseason and he's only getting better.
Potential Red Sox target?: Don't count on it. Boston apparently was one of the many teams in touch with Correa, but at this point we just can't expect Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox front office to back up the Brinks truck in free agency. If they shocked us all and signed the former Houston Astros star, Xander Bogaerts would have to move over to second base.
2. Freddie Freeman, 1B
Freeman has set himself up nicely this offseason, to say the least. The longtime Atlanta Braves slugger is coming off another stellar season and a World Series title, one year after taking home the 2020 National League MVP award. He has plenty left in the tank as he enters his age 32 season and has a big payday ahead.
Potential Red Sox target?: We'd be stunned if Freeman left Atlanta, never mind signed with a Boston team that has top prospect Triston Casas just about ready to take over at first base. Anything is possible with Casas expected to spend most of the 2022 campaign in Triple-A, but it's extremely unlikely.
3. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF
Bryant had a big bounce-back season after a down 2020 campaign. While he may not be the perennial MVP candidate we expected him to be at the start of his career, he's still one of the game's top hitters and a versatile defender to boot. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has experience at both corner infield positions and all three outfield spots. He'll fit in nicely just about anywhere.
Potential Red Sox target?: There's been little to no Bryant-to-Red Sox buzz this offseason. That said, Bloom says the team is looking for a right-handed bat after trading away Hunter Renfroe, and we all know this Sox front office prioritizes versatility. Never say never.
4. Nick Castellanos, OF
Castellanos is one of the best bats in this year's free-agent class. The 29-year-old is coming off a 34-homer All-Star season in Cincinnati. He's a defensive liability, but his presence in the lineup more than makes up for those deficiencies.
Potential Red Sox target?: Castellanos' name hasn't been mentioned in any Sox rumors to date, but that could change once the lockout concludes. As we mentioned above, Boston is looking for a right-handed bat to replace Renfroe. If a Kyle Schwarber reunion doesn't work out, perhaps they'll shift their attention to a slugging outfielder coming off a career year.
5. Trevor Story, SS
Story is the second-best middle infielder available after Correa, but his home/road splits are scaring everybody. Away from Coors Field last season, the 29-year-old hit just .203 compared to his .296 at home. He's a career .241 hitter at ballparks not named Coors Field and a .303 hitter when in Colorado. Those numbers are alarming, but he'll still make a pretty penny this offseason if previous middle-infield signings are any indication.
Potential Red Sox target?: It looks like it! Boston reportedly was showing interest in Story prior to the lockout. He checks multiple boxes as a right-handed hitter who can take over for Bogaerts at shortstop and/or fill the second base void.
6. Kyle Schwarber, OF
Schwarber earned his first All-Star nod in 2021 after a ridiculous 16-homer June with the Washington Nationals. The 2016 World Series champion's stellar season at the plate continued after he was traded to Boston at the deadline. In 41 games with the Red Sox, he slashed .291/.435/.522 with seven home runs. Plenty of teams are in the mix for the 28-year-old, which comes as no surprise given the likely implementation of the universal DH.
Potential Red Sox target?: Boston has reportedly expressed interest in bringing Schwarber back, but it'll have plenty of competition for his services. Rumor has it the Philadelphia Phillies had "serious talks" with Schwarber before the lockout. With Renfroe gone, a Schwarber reunion remains a real possibility but it appears Bloom has shifted his focus to a right-handed slugger instead.
7. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Kershaw's days as a perennial Cy Young candidate probably are behind him, but make no mistake, he's still one of the game's top pitchers. However, the 33-year-old southpaw has been snakebitten by injuries in recent years and missed the 2021 postseason due to an elbow injury. There's obvious risk with signing Kershaw this offseason, but that risk has the potential to pay off in a big way.
Potential Red Sox target?: Pretty much every Kershaw-related report has him either heading back to L.A. or home to Texas to bolster the Rangers' pitching staff. The Red Sox could use another reliable arm at the top of their rotation, but it doesn't seem likely it'll be Kershaw.
8. Carlos Rodon, LHP
Rodon is one of the more high-risk, potentially high reward options on the starting pitcher market. After years of injury woes and being unable to put it together for the Chicago White Sox, he came out of nowhere in 2021 to toss a no-hitter and post a 2.37 ERA and 0.96 WHIP en route to a fifth-place AL Cy Young finish. The question is whether that success can be duplicated, or if he's bound to regress to the mean in 2022.
Potential Red Sox target?: The Red Sox are among several teams linked to Rodon, which makes sense given their need for another dependable southpaw to replace E-Rod. Our John Tomase believes Rodon would be the perfect Boston signing... though that isn't exactly a good thing.
9. Michael Conforto, OF
Conforto is a prime candidate for a one-year "prove it" deal after a rocky 2021 season. The former New York Mets outfielder hit .232 with a .729 OPS after posting a .322 batting average with a .927 OPS in the shortened 2020 campaign. He could be a steal for a team looking for a relatively inexpensive slugger this offseason.
Potential Red Sox target?: Not a whole lot of talk about Conforto coming to Boston. In fact, most reports seem to indicate a return to the Mets is in the cards.
10. Seiya Suzuki, OF
Suzuki is considered one of the top outfielders on the market after starring in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league. The five-time All-Star slashed .315/.415/.571 with 38 homers for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 2021. That kind of power will get plenty of attention from MLB organizations once the lockout ends.
Potential Red Sox target?: Yup. Boston reportedly is one of three American League East clubs "aggressively" pursuing the Japanese slugger. That report came shortly after the Renfroe trade, so stay tuned once MLB returns to action.