MLB Free Agency Big Board: Top 25 Remaining Players on the Market Post-Lockout

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured Columnist

MLB Free Agency Big Board: Top 25 Remaining Players on the Market Post-Lockout

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    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a new CBA on Thursday, opening the door for a wild four weeks of free-agent signings ahead of Opening Day on April 7, pending ratification.

    November featured a flurry of activity before the Dec. 2 lockout, and after three months of transactions being frozen, free agency could once again open up Thursday night and bring another whirlwind of action.

    Back on Sept. 10, we published our initial rankings of the top 25 free agents of the 2021-22 offseason. Fifteen of those players have already signed new contracts, including Corey Seager (No. 2), Marcus Semien (No. 4), Max Scherzer (No. 6), Robbie Ray (No. 8) and Kevin Gausman (No. 10).

    Players are ranked based on expected impact, earning potential and recent performance.

           

    *Editor's Note: This article originally published on Dec. 7.

Nos. 25-21

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    Andrelton Simmons
    Andrelton SimmonsDavid Berding/Getty Images

    25. IF/OF Brad Miller (Age: 32)

    Miller saw time at first base, second base, third base, and both corner outfield spots last season while finding his way into 140 games with the Philadelphia Phillies. He posted a 107 OPS+ with 20 home runs in 377 plate appearances, and his mix of power and defensive versatility makes him a useful addition to any team's bench.

         

    24. OF Andrew McCutchen (Age: 35)

    The 2013 NL MVP is no longer the superstar player he was in his prime, but he still posted a 109 OPS+ with 24 doubles, 27 home runs and 80 RBI in 2021 while playing in 144 games. His defense has declined (-7 DRS, -11.6 UZR/150) to the point that he now fits best as a DH, so a universal DH announcement would boost his market.

       

    23. LHP Tyler Anderson (Age: 31)

    Anderson signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates last offseason and posted a 4.35 ERA in 103.1 innings before he was traded to the Seattle Mariners at the deadline. The 2011 first-round pick finished with a 4.53 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 167 innings, and he's a solid candidate to chew up innings at the back of a team's rotation.

         

    22. SS Andrelton Simmons (Age: 32)

    Simmons was a non-factor at the plate last year with a .223/.283/.274 line and 57 OPS+ in 451 plate appearances, but he remains a standout defender (15 DRS) at a premium position. He will be an attractive short-term stopgap for teams who miss out on Carlos Correa and Trevor Story.

        

    21. OF Tommy Pham (Age: 33)

    After an injury-plagued 2020 season, Pham returned with a middling .229/.340/.383 line and 103 OPS+ in 155 games, tallying 24 doubles, 15 home runs and 14 steals. He was a 20/20 performer and 3.9-WAR player as recently as 2019, so there is some intriguing upside on a short-term deal.

Nos. 20-16

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    Yusei Kikuchi
    Yusei KikuchiEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    20. RHP Ryan Tepera (Age: 34)

    Armed with a cutter/slider hybrid that generated an elite 50.6 percent whiff rate, Tepera put together the best season of his career in 2021. In 65 appearances between the Cubs and White Sox, he posted a 2.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 with two saves and 22 holds.

        

    19. RHP Collin McHugh (Age: 34)

    A starter for much of his time in Houston, McHugh served as a valuable bulk reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2021. He worked 64 innings in 37 appearances and went 6-1 with a 1.55 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and a 74-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

        

    18. LHP Andrew Chafin (Age: 31)

    One of baseball's most effective left-handed relievers in 2021, Chafin logged a 1.83 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with five saves and 22 holds in 71 appearances. He was effective against both right-handed hitters (.196 BAA, .551 OPS) and left-handed hitters (.170 BAA, .473 OPS), and he's several years younger than the other top relievers still on the market.

          

    17. OF Eddie Rosario (Age: 30)

    The 2021 NLCS MVP hit .271/.330/.573 for a 131 OPS+ in 33 games after he was traded to the Atlanta Braves following a disappointing start to the year in Cleveland. He has a 32-homer, 109-RBI season on his resume a few years ago, and his strong postseason makes him an appealing target for teams looking to add some pop.

          

    16. LHP Yusei Kikuchi (Age: 30)

    An All-Star in 2021 thanks to a 3.48 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 98.1 innings during the first half, Kikuchi regressed badly after the break, struggling to a 7.11 ERA over his final eight starts. The Mariners declined an option that would have triggered a four-year, $66 million extension, and he'll likely need to rebuild his value on a one-year, prove-it deal.

Nos. 15-11

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    Jorge Soler
    Jorge SolerIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    15. RHP Kenley Jansen (Age: 34)

    After losing his longstanding hold on the closer's job during the 2020 postseason, Jansen rebounded with a 2.22 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.2 K/9 and 38 saves in 43 opportunities in 2021. The Dodgers appear ready to move on after signing Daniel Hudson and with Blake Treinen poised to take over ninth-inning duties.

         

    14. OF Michael Conforto (Age: 28)

    Conforto posted a career-high 154 OPS+ while hitting .322/.412/.515 in 233 plate appearances in 2020, but he hit just .232 with a 101 OPS+ and 0.8 WAR in 125 games this year, and his contact metrics were not pretty. Age and track record make him the market's most obvious candidate for a one-year pillow contract, though he turned down a qualifying offer to begin the offseason.

         

    13. DH Nelson Cruz (Age: 41)

    If the universal DH is implemented, Cruz could come out of the lockout as one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. Still going strong at the age of 40, he had a 130 OPS+ with 32 home runs and 86 RBI in 2021. With 449 career home runs, a two-year deal would give a team an opportunity to sign on for a major milestone.

        

    12. RHP Zack Greinke (Age: 38)

    Greinke is a future Hall of Famer, and he was still rock solid in 2021 with a 4.16 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 171 innings of work. However, his age and a 17.2 percent strikeout rate that was his lowest since 2005 make him a risky target for anything beyond a one-year deal.

        

    11. OF Jorge Soler (Age: 29)

    Two years removed from setting the Kansas City Royals single-season home run record with 48 long balls, Soler was hitting .192 with a 76 OPS+ when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves at the deadline. The change of scenery worked wonders. After posting a 128 OPS+ with 14 home runs in 55 games down the stretch, he caught fire in October and won World Series MVP. There's not a bigger boom-or-bust bat on the market.

10. OF Seiya Suzuki

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    Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    The Hiroshima Carp had just posted Seiya Suzuki a few days before the lockout was implemented, which froze his 30-day clock to negotiate a deal with an MLB team. Once the lockout is lifted, teams will have roughly three weeks to nail down a deal with the best Japanese outfielder to come stateside since Hideki Matsui.

    The 27-year-old hit .317/.433/.636 with 38 home runs in 2021, and he is a career .309/.402/.521 hitter in 4,132 plate appearances over nine seasons in the Japanese League.

    He has more walks (259) than strikeouts (237) over the past three seasons, and he is also a three-time winner of Japan's version of the Gold Glove award, giving him a well-rounded profile that should allow him to make an immediate impact.

    The San Diego Padres gave KBO standout Ha-Seong Kim a four-year, $28 million deal last offseason, and Suzuki should far exceed that contract, with MLB Trade Rumors predicting a five-year, $55 million pact.

9. OF/1B Kyle Schwarber

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    Kyle Schwarber went from non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs at the start of last offseason, to being a first-time All-Star with the Washington Nationals, to playing first base for the first time in his professional career with the Boston Red Sox in the postseason.

    Now he's looking to find some job security after agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal last winter.

    He hit .266/.374/.554 for a 148 OPS+ with 32 home runs and 71 RBI, showcasing a more well-rounded approach at the plate while drawing walks at a 13.6 percent clip and striking out at a manageable 27.0 percent rate.

    He is seeking a three-year, $60 million contract, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

8. LHP Carlos Rodon

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    Injuries have plagued Carlos Rodon throughout his career since he was selected No. 3 in the 2014 draft, and the Chicago White Sox non-tendered him last offseason after he struggled to a 5.74 ERA in 42.1 combined innings in 2019 and 2020.

    He ultimately made his way back to the South Siders on a one-year, $3 million deal, and he pitched his way into the No. 5 starter spot with a strong spring.

    The 6'3" southpaw threw a no-hitter in his second start of the year and put together a dominant first half with a 2.31 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 89.2 innings, but shoulder fatigue limited him to just 43 innings after the break. He finished with a 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 132.2 innings and checked in fifth in AL Cy Young voting.

    Despite those impressive numbers, his long track record of injuries will likely limit his market to short-term offers.

7. 1B Anthony Rizzo

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    A staple in the middle of the Chicago Cubs lineup for the better part of a decade and a four-time Gold Glove winner at first base, Anthony Rizzo was shipped to the New York Yankees as part of the North Siders' summer fire sale.

    He finished with a 111 OPS+ and 48 extra-base hits in 141 games, and beyond his on-field production, the intangibles he brings to a clubhouse further add to his value as a potential offseason addition.

    The Cubs offered Rizzo an extension believed to be in the four-year, $65 million range that he rejected before the start of the 2021 season, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago.

    His market likely won't fully take shape until after Freddie Freeman makes his free-agency decision, and Oakland Athletics trade candidate Matt Olson is also a factor to consider on the first-base market.

6. LHP Clayton Kershaw

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    Will future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw sign a new contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and return to the only big-league team he's ever known?

    For the first time, that's a legitimate question rather than simply a formality.

    The left-hander made just 22 starts in 2021 and spent the postseason watching from the sidelines with forearm discomfort, but he was still effective when healthy, posting a 3.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 121.2 innings.

    The Dodgers certainly have room to upgrade their current projected rotation of Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney and David Price, but other teams will be circling the best pitcher left on a fast-moving market.

    Don't sleep on Kershawa Dallas, Texas nativejoining former teammate Corey Seager on the up-and-coming Texas Rangers.

5. OF Nick Castellanos

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    Nick Castellanos opted out of the final two years and $34 million of a four-year, $64 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds after putting together a career year in 2021.

    The 29-year-old was an All-Star for the first time in his nine big-league seasons, hitting .309/.362/.576 for a 136 OPS+ with 38 doubles, 34 home runs and 100 RBI. He also tallied a career-high 3.2 WAR, finished 12th in NL MVP voting and won Silver Slugger honors.

    The biggest knock on him throughout his career has been his defense, and while he was still a below-average defender in 2021 (-7 DRS, -1.9 UZR/150) it was no longer to the point of being a significant drain on his overall value.

    That said, he's another player whose market will benefit from the universal DH.

4. 1B Freddie Freeman

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    It is difficult to imagine the World Series champion Atlanta Braves letting their homegrown face of the franchise sign elsewhere this offseason.

    After winning NL MVP honors in 2020, Freddie Freeman was one of baseball's most productive offensive players once again this year, hitting .300/.393/.503 for a 133 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 31 home runs, 83 RBI and an NL-leading 120 runs scored.

    He hit .304/.420/.625 with five home runs and 11 RBI in the postseason and finished ninth in NL MVP balloting while taking home Silver Slugger honors for the third straight year.

    The sticking point in negotiations has been Freeman seeking a sixth year, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. He reportedly turned down a five-year, $135 million offer in November, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and the window remains at least cracked for another team to swoop in and steal him away.

3. 3B/OF Kris Bryant

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    Atlanta Braves fans will no doubt scoff at Kris Bryant being ranked ahead of Freddie Freeman, but the fact that Bryant is three years younger and offers the defensive versatility to play both corner infield spots and all three outfield positions makes him a more appealing free-agent target overall.

    Bryant was a 3.3-WAR player in 2021, posting a 124 OPS+ with 32 doubles and 25 home runs while playing double-digit games at third base (55), left field (48), right field (39) and center field (19).

    He has dealt with some nagging injuries in the past, but he has consistently performed at an All-Star level when healthy, and he played 144 games while avoiding the injured list in 2021.

    A nine-figure deal seems likely with Scott Boras as his agent and a solid track record of production, and it remains to be seen how serious the San Francisco Giants are about trying to re-sign him after acquiring him as a rental at the deadline.

2. SS Trevor Story

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    Even in a down year by his standards, Trevor Story was still a 4.2-WAR player who posted a 103 OPS+ with 34 doubles, 24 home runs and 20 steals in 142 games.

    He eclipsed 6-WAR and logged back-to-back 30-homer, 20-steals seasons 2018 and 2019, then led the NL with 15 steals while posting a 120 OPS+ during the shortened 2020 campaign before slumping a bit during the first half this year.

    The Rockies inexplicably held onto him at the trade deadline and he finished the season strong, but his considerable home/road splits remain a red flag hanging over his free-agent stock.

    • 2021 Home: 307 PA, .296/.365/.515, 34 XBH, 20.2 K%
    • 2021 Road: 288 PA, .203/.292/.426, 29 XBH, 26.7 K%

    Guys like DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado have performed well after posting dramatic splits of their own at Coors Field, and Story's dynamic mix of power, speed and defense give him a balanced enough skill set to roll the dice on a long-term deal.

1. SS Carlos Correa

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    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    The 10-year, $325 million deal Corey Seager signed with the Texas Rangers and the 10-year, $341 million extension Francisco Lindor inked with the New York Mets last offseason will both be target marks to beat for Carlos Correa.

    The No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft racked up a career-high 7.2 WAR in 2021, trailing only Shohei Ohtani (9.1), Zack Wheeler (7.7) and Marcus Semien (7.3) among all MLB players.

    He hit .279/.366/.485 for a 131 OPS+ with 34 doubles, 26 home runs and 92 RBI, and he also led all shortstops with 21 Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop while capturing Gold Glove honors for the first time in his career.

    After battling injuries early in his career, he played in 206 of 222 games over the past two seasons. With his age, two-way production and stellar postseason track record, Correa looks poised to become baseball's next $300 million man.

        

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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