Free Agency Gets Underway
Free agency has already been underway for a couple of weeks yet there hasn’t been much action. Aside from Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman accepting their qualifying offers, no other major player news has taken place. This was expected among many in the industry as the pandemic has played a large role in the team’s finances and player’s contracts.
As a result, the free-agent market has been very slow. In addition to free agency, the trade side has been quiet as well, though there’s an expectation that will change shortly. It has been widely reported that Indians star shortstop, Francisco Lindor, will most certainly be traded before the start of next season. This was an expected occurrence, though the only question is where he will end up. The major teams involved include the Mets, the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, among others.
Mets to be Among Most Active Teams in Free Agency
Thus, although the market seems very slow right now, we expect it to pick it up in the next few weeks as players and teams begin to gauge interest in each other to make a deal. This is an especially critical off-season for many teams who fell short, but also teams like the Mets. That is because it will be new owner Steve Cohen’s first offseason with the Mets and he will look to make a splash for the team in Queens.
Whether it be a combination of J.T. Realmuto, Francisco Lindor, George Springer, Trevor Bauer, etc., the Mets will be among the most active teams throughout the offseason. As a result, we’ll start to get a really good idea of where free agency is headed in the coming weeks and where some of the big names will be headed.
Free Agent No. 1- J.T. Realmuto
The top free agent available is widely to believed be J.T. Realmuto, who spent the last two years in Philadelphia after five years in Miami. Realmuto has proven to be the best catcher in baseball, whether it be with his bat, defense, or base running. This past season put up 11 home runs and 32 RBI in the shortened season and hit to the tune of a .266 average. His WAR of 1.2 put him in the upper echelon of the league concerning catchers and his 123 OPS+ was up there as well (100 is league average).
Realmuto will have many potential suitors, with many pointing to either the Mets or Yankees as likely landing spots. However, Realmuto has reportedly asked for around $200 million for around 7 years. This would come out to an annual average value of $35 million per year. This would likely be too much to stomach for either New York club, however, if Realmuto’s asking price drops to say below $130 million, there’s a chance. Regardless, I think the Mets will pass on Realmuto given his age, 30, and possibly his asking term. As a result, I think he will likely end up remaining in the City of Brotherly Love.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
Free Agent No. 2- Trevor Bauer
The next free agent on this list is Trevor Bauer. Bauer just wrapped up his best season in his career which led to his first career Cy-young award. Bauer would fill an instant lead for so many teams at the starting pitching. For instance, teams like the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, White Sox, Giants, Blue Jays, and others are viewed as potential options.
Bauer is a true character and personality that the game needs. The Mets Team President, Sandy Alderson, said Bauer has a “great personality” and would be a player Mets fans would “embrace.” He then went on to say that baseball is an “entertainment business” and welcomes and encourages players of Bauer’s ilk. Bauer would be a huge improvement to any team’s rotation whether he serves as the de facto ace or not. Bauer’s 2020 season was exceptional when you consider he put up a 276 ERA+ (100 average) and a 2.7 WAR in only eleven games started.
Throughout his nine-year career, Bauer has had many ups and downs. Overall, he’s pitched to the tune of a 3.90 ERA in 205 games started with a career WAR of 17.5. Bauer has had a blast so far teasing several fanbases that he just may join their favorite team. Bauer is highly coveted around the league and it’s interesting to see which team takes him aboard. An intriguing team to me is the Blue Jays, who have a clear desire to spend this offseason. This comes after the 2020 season in which they made the playoffs where they were swept by the Rays in the play-in round. However, this will not be the last time we see these Blue Jays in the thick of things with their young and exuberant offense.
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays
Free Agent No. 3- George Springer
Next on the list, we have George Springer. The 2017 World Series Champion is expected to draw a ton of interest and rightfully so. Although Springer is currently 31, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Springer will likely command a four or five-year deal north of $100 million.
There are a lot of teams that make sense for Springer, including the Mets, White Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, etc. The most intriguing team on this list is the Mets. The Mets are projected to be among the most active teams in the offseason with Steve Cohen’s cash infusion. The Mets have spent the last several off-season’s shopping in the bargain area of the supermarket. Now, as Steve Cohen so perfectly stated in his introduction presser, the Mets will be shopping in the “gourmet” aisle.
The Mets would be a perfect fit for Springer. He grew up about a hundred miles away from Citi Field in Avon, CT. The Mets are also in desperate need for a center fielder. Brandon Nimmo has succeeded offensively as the Mets main center fielder, however, his defense was absolutely atrocious. if the Mets can replace Nimmo with Springer as the main man in center field, and shift Nimmo to left field, the Mets will be in a much better position.
Prediction: New York Mets
Free Agent No. 4- Marcell Ozuna
At number four on the list, we have Marcell Ozuna. After an underwhelming 2019 campaign in St. Louis, Ozuna bounced back in a big way this past year. Ozuna slashed .241/.328/.472 in 2019 with 29 home runs and 89 RBI, which were both better than the previous year. However, his OPS+ stood at 109, which was better than his previous year as well, but down from previous years.
In 2020, Ozuna blew the cover off the doors when he put up an OPS+ of 175, which significantly beat his second-best mark of 149 in 2017. He also slashed for an incredible .338/.431/.636 and put up 18 home runs and 56 RBI. The one limiting factor with Ozuna is his defense, which limited him to majority-DH duties in 2020.
With the expectation that the DH will remain permanent in the National League, this helps his cause to remain in the NL. After receiving only a one-year deal last offseason, Ozuna rest assured that he will receive longer-term and more money this offseason. There will be several suitors for Ozuna’s services as it seems he has come into his own. Teams such as the White Sox, Braves, Cardinals, and Rangers will be most active for Ozuna’s services. However, I think that Ozuna will remain with the club he played this past season.
Prediction: Atlanta Braves
Free Agent No. 5- D.J. LeMahieu
And at number five on the list, we have D.J. LeMahieu. LeMahieu has played his last two seasons in the Bronx in which he has excelled with the Yankees. When LeMahieu signed with the Bronx Bombers in January 2019, much didn’t make anything of it. If anything, Yankees fans were more excited with a former teammate of LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitizki signing with the Yankees.
However, LeMahieu shined right from the get-go. In his two years with the Yankees, he slashed .336/.386/.536 with 36 home runs and 129 RBI. LeMahieu rejected the Yankees qualifying offer and will now test the market. He, as the players before him, will be desired by several teams.
The Yankees may be pushed out of their comfort zone to ensure that LeMahieu returns if they do want to keep him. One of the main aggressive teams in pursuit of LeMahieu includes the division rival Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are another team that is going to be active in the free-agent market. They see LeMahieu as a perfect fit for their club in which he can be their leadoff man and second baseman. LeMahieu’s offense has been off the charts for the last two years and if the Yankees aren’t aggressive in trying to keep him, they may lose him to their division rivals.
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays
This wraps up this current set of predictions for the top five free agents in what is set to become an active offseason. As they say, we are currently in “the calm before the storm,” but once the first domino hits, whomever it may be, I believe we’ll begin to see more activity from teams around the league. Get ready for an exciting offseason baseball fans, things are about to get wild!