With a possible lockout on the horizon, it’s been mostly business as usual on the free agent market — so far.
Detroit signed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. Houston retained star righty Justin Verlander. Noah Syndergaard went from the Mets to the Angels on an expensive one-year deal.
The deadline to accept qualifying offers came and went last week, further clarifying who was heading to the open market.
It remains to be seen whether the uncertainty about the next labor agreement will affect offseason moves for the top players available, but it’s clear there are plenty of good options for teams looking to upgrade.
Here’s a look at baseball’s top free agents by position. Players’ current ages are in parentheses:
⦁ Left-handed starter — Carlos Rodon, White Sox (28): It’s a toss-up between Rodon and Robbie Ray. Rodon didn’t really threaten Ray in the Cy Young vote, but his ERA was about a half a run lower and he’s also younger. And Ray received a qualifying offer while Rodon did not, so that may make Rodon a more enticing target.
⦁ Left-handed reliever — Andrew Chafin, Athletics (31): Chafin was impressive last season for both the Cubs and Athletics. Chafin went a combined 2-4 with a 1.83 ERA in 71 games and five saves.
⦁ Right-handed starter — Max Scherzer, Dodgers (37): No signs yet of any major decline for Scherzer despite his age. He’s had an ERA at 3.15 or lower in eight of the last nine seasons — the only time it was higher was in the shortened 2020 campaign.
⦁ Right-handed reliever — Raisel Iglesias, Angels (31): Iglesias saved 34 games for Los Angeles, and things did not go smoothly for the Cincinnati bullpen after he left. He’s had at least 30 saves in each of the past three non-shortened seasons.
⦁ Catcher — Yan Gomes, Athletics (34: There aren’t any star catchers available this year, but Gomes can provide a bit of pop.
⦁ First base — Freddie Freeman, Braves (32): Losing Freeman would be a major downer for the World Series champions, but the five-time All-Star and 2020 MVP will obviously command a big price. Even at first base it’s hard to find this kind of consistent production.
⦁ Second base — Marcus Semien, Blue Jays (31): Let’s list Semien as a second baseman — where he mostly played this season — and avoid a tough decision at shortstop. Semien hit 45 home runs this year while playing all 162 games, and he finished third in the MVP vote. He has the most WAR of any player in baseball since the start of the 2019 season, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
⦁ Third base — Eduardo Escobar, Brewers (32): Escobar hit 28 home runs this year in the first full season since he slugged 35 in 2019. He played a bit at first, second and shortstop in addition to third.
⦁ Shortstop — Carlos Correa, Astros (27): Correa made his big league debut at age 20 and reaches free agency well shy of his 30th birthday. That makes him a good bit younger than some of the other top players on this list, and he may be the most sought-after name this offseason.
⦁ Outfield — Starling Marte, Athletics (33), Kris Bryant, Giants (29), Nick Castellanos, Reds (29): Marte did what he could to help the A’s down the stretch, and he ended up with an .841 OPS this year for Oakland and Miami. Bryant doesn’t turn 30 until January and can obviously play third base in addition to the outfield. Castellanos set career highs in homers (34), batting average (. 309) and OPS (. 939) this year.
⦁ Designated hitter — Nelson Cruz, Rays (41): Cruz may finally be slowing down, but only a little. He hit 32 homers this year but posted an .832 OPS, his lowest since 2012.
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