Following the conclusion of the extensive 2021-2022 MLB lockout, free agency ensued immediately. Players have just under a month to make a decision before Opening Day kicks off on April 7. Players began signing contracts on March 13, with several notable players leaving their previous teams to ink long-term deals.
Prior to the lockout, former Cy Young-winner Max Scherzer and 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager signed contracts before the lockout began. However, many were not able to finalize their negotiations due to the limitations of the lockout.
No Place Like Home
Although many of the league’s stars made headlines by departing from their teams, some franchises held onto their key players.
The Los Angeles Dodgers retained long-time ace Clayton Kershaw by signing him to a one-year $17 million contract. The three-time Cy Young Winner totaled 10 wins last season while posting an ERA of 3.51. Prior to signing Kershaw, the Dodgers had already ensured that utility player Chris Taylor would return by signing him for four years and $60 million. Taylor made his first All-Star appearance in 2021, capping off the season by hitting an MLB record three homeruns in the ALCS elimination game.
The New York Yankees opted to resign first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a two year $32 million deal. The three-time All Star and former World Series champion was traded to New York midway through the 2021 season. Rizzo has posted batting averages of .248 and .222 over the past two seasons, a sharp decline from his 2019 average of .293.
Former AL MVP and two-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander signed a 1 year $25 million contract with the Astros. Verlander has missed the past two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair an injured elbow. Although 2021 Astros MVP Carlos Correa is yet to sign with a team, he has engaged in talks with the Astro’s front office about a possible return.
Kris Bryant sent shockwaves through the league with his decision to sign with the Colorado Rockies for seven years and $182 million. Instead of resigning with the Giants, the 2016 NL MVP will change teams for the second time this year. Despite posting the second lowest batting average of his career in 2021, the Rockies could not pass up Bryant’s upside and fielding ability.
After assisting in bringing the Braves their first World Series trophy in over 25 years, Freddie Freeman declined the Braves’ qualifying offer to remain in Atlanta. The 32 year-old first baseman signed a six year $162 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Freeman was part of the Braves organization for 15 years, finishing as the NL MVP in 2020 and was voted to five All-Star games.
After a few years of consistent production, shortstop Marcus Semien signed the first long-term contract of his career. Semien made his first All-Star game in 2021, and has finished in the top three of AL MVP voting twice. Semien has displayed unusual power for an infielder, totaling 46 homeruns in 2021. After one year with the Blue Jays, Semien signed a seven year $175 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
Pending Moves in the MLB
While Correa remains the most notable name that is still available, there is still some talent available in the free agent pool.
After declining the Rockies qualifying offer, two-time All-Star Trevor Story remains a free agent. Story has lost some of the hitting and fielding prowess that made him such a commodity just a few years ago. Story posted a .251 batting average in 2021 while hitting 24 homeruns. In his last two full seasons, Story hit above .290 while hitting over 30 homeruns in each season.
Nick Castellanos greatly improved his stock after an impressive 2021 season in which he rebounded from his struggles in 2020. Castellanos hit for an average of .309 while hitting 34 homeruns and 100 RBI’s. After the Reds confirmed their lack of interest in retaining Castellanos, the market is wide open for the 30 year-old slugger.