Nationals

Top MLB free agents still available after lockout halts offseason

Nationals
Carlos Correa

The MLB offseason came to a screeching halt Tuesday night, when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement expired and its owners triggered a lockout. Baseball’s first work stoppage since 1994-95, the lockout prevents any team from signing free agents or making trades.

As a result, what had been one of the most active MLB offseasons in recent memory has been put on hold until MLB and the players union can come to an agreement on a new CBA. Though a good portion of this winter’s free agents are already locked into deals, there’s still plenty of talent left on the market.

Here are the best free agents still available after the lockout pushed baseball’s offseason to a standstill.

TIER 1: The superstars

  • 3B/OF Kris Bryant
  • OF Nick Castellanos
  • SS Carlos Correa
  • 1B Freddie Freeman
  • RP Kenley Jansen
  • SP Clayton Kershaw
  • SS Trevor Story

The biggest contract handed out so far belongs to newly signed Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager, who inked a 10-year, $325 million deal in the days leading up to the lockout. Only Carlos Correa stands a chance of matching that number among available free agents, hitting the open market as a 27-year-old shortstop with two All-Star selections and a Gold Glove to his name.

Other bats expected to eclipse $100 million include Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos, Freddie Freeman and Trevor Story. The latter three all declined the qualifying offer, which requires their new team to forfeit draft capital in order to sign them. Freeman is the most likely player in the quartet to sign with his former team, though a reunion with the World Series champion Braves is no guarantee.

 

Rounding out the group are Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen. Both players have spent their entire careers in Los Angeles, earning long-term deals that kept them in Dodger blue well into their 30s. Their ages will likely prevent them from landing contracts in the neighborhood of the other players on this list, but their track record should ensure some high average annual values.

TIER 2: In for a big payday

  • OF Michael Conforto
  • 1B Anthony Rizzo
  • SP Carlos Rodón
  • OF Kyle Schwarber
  • OF Seiya Suzuki

Beyond the top dogs, there are still several free agents that should fetch serious financial commitments. Strong 2021 seasons from Kyle Schwarber (32 HR, .928 OPS) and Carlos Rodón (13-5, 2.37 ERA) boosted their stock after they were non-tendered and forced to settle for one-year deals last winter.

Michael Conforto and Anthony Rizzo aren’t coming off stellar seasons by their standards. Conforto missed some time due to injury and wound up with a .729 OPS, his lowest since 2016. Rizzo split his season between the Cubs and Yankees, posting a .783 OPS with 22 home runs. However, both sluggers’ full bodies of work suggest much higher ceilings and their next contracts should reflect that potential.

Seiya Suzuki was posted by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Nippon Baseball League this offseason, two years removed from the outfielder’s WBSC Premier12 MVP effort. Capable of playing third base and shortstop as well, Suzuki hit 38 home runs with a 1.079 OPS in 2021. He should make nine figures as an international free agent unrestricted by bonus pool limits.

TIER 3: High-upside players

  • SP Brett Anderson
  • RP Andrew Chafin
  • RP Alex Colomé
  • DH Nelson Cruz
  • SP Zack Greinke
  • SP Yusei Kikuchi
  • OF Joc Pederson
  • SP Michael Pineda
  • OF Eddie Rosario
  • SS Andrelton Simmons
  • OF Jorge Soler
  • RP Ryan Tepera
  • SS Jonathan Villar

In addition to the three outfielders that helped lead Atlanta to its World Series titles, the 2021-22 free-agent class is stocked with players capable of outperforming their expected contracts.

Looking for power? Nelson Cruz (89 HR since 2019), Jorge Soler (83), Joc Pederson (61) and Eddie Rosario (59) got you covered. Speed on the basepaths? Look no further than Jonathan Villar (70 SB since 2019). Need reliable infield defense? Andrelton Simmons (21 DRS since 2019) is as steady as they come.

On the pitching side, 38-year-old Zack Greinke (11-6, 4.16 ERA in 2019) is the biggest name, but Yusei Kikuchi (7-9, 4.41) took strides as a strikeout machine for the Mariners and Brett Anderson (4-9, 4.22) can be a reliable back-end starter for a playoff team. Relievers Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera were highly coveted setup men at the trade deadline and Alex Colomé boasts plenty of closing experience.