MLB Rumors: Latest on Carlos Correa, Michael Conforto and Kevin KiermaierDecember 20, 2021
MLB Rumors: Latest on Carlos Correa, Michael Conforto and Kevin Kiermaier
As baseball teams and fans alike continue to wait out the end of the lockout, rumors continue to trickle out about free agency and trade discussions that were happening amid a flurry of activity last month, and what teams are poised to do once the lockout is lifted.
While a number of big dominoes fell on the offseason market during the month of November, there are still several high-profile players searching for a new team, including Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, Trevor Story, Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto, Clayton Kershaw and Japanese League star Seiya Suzuki.
None of those players can sign MLB deals until the lockout ends, but that doesn't stop the rumor mill from churning.
Ahead we've provided a quick rundown of the latest trade and free-agency rumblings from around Major League Baseball.
Marlins Interested in Michael Conforto
When the lockout ends and the hustle and bustle of the MLB offseason resumes, Michael Conforto will be one of the top hitters left on the free-agent market.
The 28-year-old had a down year in 2021, hitting .232/.344/.384 for a middling 101 OPS+ with 14 home runs and 55 RBI in 125 games, but he has a strong track record of quality production.
He had a career-high 154 OPS+ in 233 plate appearances during the abridged 2020 season, and he slugged 33 home runs in a 3.6-WAR season the year before. He was also an All-Star in 2017 and sports a 124 OPS+ in his seven-year career.
That resume was enough for him to turn down a qualifying offer from the New York Mets, and MLB Trade Rumors predicted a one-year, $20 million contract. A multiyear deal is still a very real possibility, but so is settling for a pillow contract and aiming to rebuild his stock.
One team rumored to be showing interest before the shutdown was the Miami Marlins, according to Joe Frisaro of Man on Second Baseball.
The Marlins have already signed Avisail Garcia to a four-year, $53 million deal to bolster their outfield, but they can use all the help they can get offensively after finishing near the bottom of the league in team OPS (.671, 29th in MLB) and runs scored (623, 29th in MLB).
Carlos Correa's Potential Asking Price
The potential asking price for Carlos Correa began to take shape when fellow top-tier shortstop Corey Seager signed a 10-year, $325 million deal.
At roughly six months younger and coming off a better 2021 season, it stands to reason that Correa would be seeking at least that much for his next contract, and a higher annual value is entirely possible for the two-way standout who posted a 131 OPS+, won the Gold Glove at shortstop and was a 7.2-WAR player this past year.
That assumption on his earning potential appears even more likely with a recent report from Buster Olney of ESPN indicating that he turned down a 10-year, $275 million offer from the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers ultimately pivoted to Javier Baez, inking the two-time All-Star to a six-year, $140 million contract to plug their longstanding hole at shortstop.
Will Correa find someone willing to grant him entry into the $300 million club?
If not, Olney wrote: "If Correa can't find an offer similar to the $300 million-plus agreements of Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager, it's possible that he and the Astros could explore a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual salary—say for $35 million a year—with an opt-out after two years."
His free agency will be one of the most compelling stories to monitor once the offseason resumes.
Rays, Phillies Talked Kevin Kiermaier Trade
The perpetually cost-cutting Tampa Bay Rays have already parted with 2021 All-Star Joey Wendle and arbitration-eligible outfielder Jordan Luplow this offseason, and they might not be finished moving pieces on the trade market.
Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is the team's longest-tenured player, with his MLB debut coming with the Rays back in 2013 after he exceeded expectations as a 31st-round pick in the 2010 draft.
He has racked up 30.7 WAR and won three Gold Glove awards during his time with the team, and he's set to enter the final guaranteed season of a six-year, $53 million contract. His $12.2 million salary in 2022 makes him the highest-paid player on the Tampa Bay roster.
With an infield logjam, top prospect Vidal Brujan could be viewed as the center fielder of the not-too-distant future after playing primarily second base in the minors, and that could make Kiermaier dispensable this winter.
The 31-year-old has never been more than an average offensive player, but the value he provides with his glove is enough to create a market at a position where the pickings are slim. In fact, with Starling Marte signing with the New York Mets, there are no clear-cut everyday center fielders left in free agency.
It's not overly surprising then that the Philadelphia Phillies—who have a glaring hole in center field—have reportedly had discussions with the Rays about a potential trade for Kiermaier, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
The fit seems to make sense for both sides, but don't be surprised if other teams are interested as well.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.