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MLB Rumors: Justin Verlander, Carlos Correa Among Players Expected to Hit Free Agency

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 2, 2022

Justin Verlander (Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

MLB executives reportedly predict "one of the best free-agent classes in recent memory" with several high-profile players planning to use opt-out clauses in their contracts to hit the open market.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported Thursday it's a group that includes New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander, Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts and San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Carlos Rodon.

Those players with options in their contracts for 2023 are expected to join a star-studded free-agent group also slated to include New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner.

Having so many notable names available in free agency will represent the first major test for MLB's collective bargaining agreement.

The league and the Players Association came to terms on a new CBA in March following a 99-day lockout. One of the biggest concerns raised by the union throughout the process was the "artificial restraints on free agency."

That came after the free-agent market became sluggish in recent years, which was basically a two-pronged problem.

On one hand, teams with the talent to contend were trying to avoid reaching the league's Competitive Balance Tax, MLB's version of a luxury tax, and opted for cheaper depth options.

On the other, a fair number of clubs fully embraced tanking, so they had no interest in signing free agents who would add significant payroll when the World Series wasn't a realistic target.

It left a small number of teams to compete for most of the market's biggest names, which led to long free-agent stays and contracts below expected value.

Initial returns from the new CBA were promising. Over $1 billion was spent on player contracts in the first 10 days after the deal was announced.

So now the focus shifts to this winter, where the money should once again be flying around if the CBA is working as intended for the players.

DeGrom and Verlander are two of the generation's best pitchers and could command salaries in the same ballpark as the $43.3 million starting pitcher Max Scherzer received from the Mets last offseason, which is the current highest salary in MLB, per Spotrac.

Hitters like Judge and Turner should also break the bank in the new CBA environment. The Yankees slugger has recorded 51 home runs so far in 2022, which is 15 more than any other player, and the Dodgers infielder is one of the sport's most well-rounded players.

The likes of Bogaerts, Correa and Rodon may not quite match the salaries of those top four, but they're also in line for lucrative contracts of their own.

All that said, if this year's free-agent market fails to live up to expectations in terms of team spending, grumblings about the CBA will likely begin anew.

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