Phillies

Top free agents and potential Phillies targets flying off the board early

Phillies

Teams and players have been moving fast in MLB free agency, agreeing to deals ahead of a potential lockout when the CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. on December 1.

Just over Thanksgiving weekend, the Mets agreed to contracts with outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha and infielder Eduardo Escobar. They followed it up by agreeing to a three-year, $130 million deal with Max Scherzer, per multiple reports.

The Texas Rangers agreed to deals with starting pitcher Jon Gray and second baseman/shortstop Marcus Semien, the third-place finisher in 2021 American League MVP voting. The Rangers are still said to be in on top shortstops Corey Seager and Trevor Story.

As the Blue Jays lost a key player in Semien, they softened the blow by signing pitcher Kevin Gausman to a five-year deal worth $110 million. Later on Monday, ESPN reported that Toronto’s reigning Cy Young-winner, Robbie Ray, was headed to Seattle for five years and $115 million.

The Twins extended Byron Buxton for $100 million over seven years, the Rays signed Wander Franco to an 11-year, $182 million deal (the MLB record for a player with less than a year of service time), and the Marlins guaranteed Sandy Alcantara $56 million over five years. Miami also signed outfielder Avisail Garcia to a four-year deal.

It's not even December and 13 of the top 30 free agents have signed, based on MLB Trade Rumors' rankings.

From a Phillies perspective, the players to note are Marte and Buxton, two of the top options in center field. The Phils' two biggest holes are center field and left field, where they don't currently have a starter.

 

The next-best free-agent options in center field are Kris Bryant and Chris Taylor, though you wonder how viable the soon-to-be 30-year-old Bryant will be in center field for the back end of his contract. The Phillies, as expected, have been connected to Bryant and to corner outfielder Nick Castellanos, who is reportedly seeking a seven- or eight-year deal. 

The corner outfield market still includes Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, among others. There's a pretty steep drop-off after the first three, depending on your belief in Conforto's ability to bounce back from a poor 2020 season.

The Phillies also lost Hector Neris, who signed a two-year deal with the Astros. The Phils had interest in bringing Neris back as a setup man, so that's another hole to fill. Center field, left field, closer, multiple setup men and starting pitching depth remain key items on Dave Dombrowski's check list. The top free-agent relief options -- Raisel Iglesias, Kenley Jansen, Ryan Tepera, Mark Melancon, Daniel Hudson -- are still on the board.

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