The best way to describe Major League Baseball free agency is it’s a marathon. The free agency period has been going on for a few weeks, but the market largely remains untouched. Only one big-name free agent, Charlie Morton, has been signed.
The way things turn out really depends on a few teams. The most important team to look at resides in Flushing, New York. With new ownership, the Mets appear to be one of the few teams that will spend money this offseason. It is also important to look at teams such as the Indians, Cubs, and Astros. These are three teams that could help dictate the market by trading potential pieces such as Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, and Carlos Correa.
Looking into New York, it isn’t apparent what the Mets will do this offseason. They have been tied to Lindo trade talks and the biggest free agent names with needs in the pitching rotation, center field, and catcher. If the Mets are willing to spend the money, they will be fits for a multiple of the top names.
The other teams, especially the Indians, their role this offseason is where they will send Lindor. It is almost certain that they are going to trade him before opening day, but what contender is going to pay the price.
The Cubs and Astros now are also in similar situations. They have a lot of players they’ll need to sign next year so rumors have swirled about trading Bryant and Correa.
Without knowing where Lindor, Bryant, and Correa will end up if they are traded, here are predictions for the top free agents this offseason
The reigning NL Cy Young winner is the best pitcher on the market and is the target of almost every contender. Bauer has said in the past that he wants to sign one-year deals, but he is open to a multi-year deal.
The way the pandemic has affected the market, it’s tough to see Bauer signing for less than three years. Teams are not going to want to commit for less than that.
It may seem too obvious, but all the signs are pointing to Bauer signing with the Mets. He has come out and publicly praised the new ownership of the Mets and both sides have talked about how they are a good fit for each other.
Joining the Mets in the Bauer sweepstakes will likely be the Reds, Yankees, Twins, Red Sox and Angels.
I see Bauer commanding over $25 million per year but it seems like the slow market will keep him under the Stephen Strasburg number of $35 million per year. This is a financial commitment that some of these teams may not be able to take on after the losses from 2020.
Prediction: Bauer to the Mets; 3 years/ $90 million
The top catcher is expected to cash in this year despite the pandemic. He has come out and said he wants over $200 million.
Elite offensive production from a catcher is very difficult to find. Adding Realmuto’s defensive prowess with his offense makes him a hot commodity. There aren’t many teams who aren’t going to pick up the phone for Realmuto.
The Mets are expected to be in the running for just about every big-name free agent, but especially Realmuto with a need at catcher. But with Sandy Alderson running baseball operations, spending that much money on a 30-year-old catcher with an injury isn’t necessarily in their plans.
As many have been pointing out, the Twins with Joe Mauer and the Giants with Buster Posey, giving a catcher big contracts that extend into their mid-to-late 30’s may not be the best move.
The Phillies gave up a lot to acquire Realmuto from the Marlins, including Sixto Sanchez. Ultimately, the Phillies will be willing to spend the money to bring their all-star catcher back. I think that most teams will be willing to pay close to the Paul Goldschmidt number of five years for $130 million. The Phillies could offer a higher number to avoid losing the asset they spent so much on.
Prediction: Realmuto to the Phillies; 5 years/ $150 million
Springer brings to the table everything that a team asks for in an elite center fielder. He plays good defense and hits at an elite level. He boasts the combination of speed and power that teams drool over.
The former Astros center fielder is going to be the main priority for the Metropolitans. With a glaring need in center field, the Mets can finally solidify a position that has been relatively vacant for the last six years. Springer also brings postseason and championship experience, something that the Mets currently lack.
There will be a lot of teams in the mix for the star center fielder, but Springer will be the Mets top priority. New owner Steve Cohen and Alderson have said that they are going to look more towards the players than the price tag. With a player like Springer, who fits the Mets biggest need, they will be willing to give the Connecticut native a little bit more than other teams.
Prediction: Springer to the Mets; 5 years/ $140 million
The Yankees had no idea that LeMahieu would turn into “The Machine” when they signed him, but the prized utility infielder provides gold glove caliber defense at second base and he proved that his offense is sustainable outside of Coors Field.
New York would love to bring back their MVP candidate, but with big contracts already on the books and players like Aaron Judge set for a pay raise and other players set for big contracts soon, general manager Brian Cashman has some big decisions to make, including whether or not they can keep LeMahieu.
With that said, it is likely that the Yankees were heavily affected by the pandemic season, arguably more than any other team. But they will still likely have deep enough pockets to retain LeMahieu.
If LeMahieu doesn’t return to the Bronx, the most likely landing spot for him could be in the nation’s capital. The Nationals went from world champions to the last place in the NL East, largely because of the loss of their best hitter, Anthony Rendon. They can fill part of the void left by Rendon with LeMahieu, and hopefully, prospect Carter Kieboom can blossom and contribute in 2021.
LeMahieu would be a perfect fit in Washington, but the Yankees likely do whatever it takes to keep “The Machine” in the Bronx.
Prediction: LaMahieu to the Yankees; 3 years/ $68 Million
Ozuna, like LeMahieu, bet on himself and it is going to pay off this offseason. After signing a one-year deal with the Braves, Ozuna thrived, as one of baseball’s best hitters in 2020. Unlike LeMahieu, Ozuna can only play one position though and that is left field.
Ozuna’s season last year might have made him an indispensable piece for the Braves, who let Josh Donaldson walk after a terrific season in 2019. The odds of losing another bat and keeping the offense trending up is unlikely. Atlanta was just one game away from reaching the World Series with the lineup they had, so they really should try to keep Ozuna, especially if the designated hitter remains in the National League past 2020.
If the defending NL East champions can’t retain Ozuna, the Red Sox are probably the team most likely to land the slugger. Ozuna’s defense isn’t great but he could play left field in Fenway Park with ease and he can DH when J.D. Martinez’s contract expires. His bat could also help ease the pain of losing Mookie Betts a little bit.
The White Sox, Rangers, Twins, and Padres will also likely join Ozuna’s bidding, but he will most likely remain in Atlanta, especially if the DH stays in the National League.
Prediction: Ozuna to the Braves; 4 years/ $80 million