2021 MLB Free Agents: Contract Predictions for Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, More
At some point in the hopefully not too distant future, the baseball world will reopen when the MLB and MLBPA can iron out a new collective bargaining agreement.
Until then, baseball fanatics will have to bide their time thinking of what could be coming in this uncertain future.
A new CBA might move the goalposts on contract negotiations, both in terms of years and annual salary, but assuming that part of the agreement resembles the one previously in place, let's partake in the speculating game and predict how the contracts of the top remaining free agents could take shape.
If you put a baseball to your ear and listen closely, you might hear the beeps of Brinks trucks backing into Carlos Correa's driveway.
His jackpot payday might have been temporarily paused by the shutdown, but as soon as the baseball world resumes activity, the cash register will ring loudly for one of the sport's top shortstops.
He's coming off a season in which he hit .279 with a .366 on-base percentage, 26 homers and 196 combined runs and RBI all while collecting the first Gold Glove of his career. His resume also features a boatload of postseason heroics, highlighted by 18 homers in 79 career playoff games, including five in the Houston Astros' run to the 2017 World Series title.
Correa is the top prize left on the market—an obvious position since he arguably held it entering the offseason—so why not predict a union with history's top spender? The New York Yankees have a glaring hole at shortstop, and their win-now intentions might make it impossible to wait for top prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, who could eventually be awesome and still never measure up to Correa's current form.
Prediction: Correa signs 10-year, $345 million deal with Yankees.
In some ways, Kris Bryant has spent the past few seasons buried beneath his own shadow. That's not necessarily a knock, but more a reflection of just how dominant he was early in his career, when he followed his 2015 Rookie of the Year award by winning the 2016 NL MVP.
The injury bug has bothered him since, but free agency arrived at a fine time this offseason—the current work stoppage notwithstanding. He bounced back from a brutal, injury-riddled 2020 season by launching 25 homers and scoring 86 runs across 144 games with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.
His reliable bat, good-to-great pop and defensive versatility should make him marketable to most teams with holes in their lineup, and it apparently has. Back on Dec. 1, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported the New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners were "among many teams" to express interest in Bryant.
The list of potential landing spots runs deep, but the Mariners might have the most motivation to get something done. Seattle already splurged on ace Robbie Ray to bolster the pitching staff, and now it could turn its sights to a big bat to strengthen its ascending group of young position players.
Prediction: Bryant signs six-year, $150 million deal with Mariners.
If you liken timing for free agents to location for real-estate agents, then the past few seasons for Freddie Freeman shape up as ocean-front mega-mansions.
In 2018, he paired an All-Star trip with his first Gold Glove. In 2019, he earned an All-Star nod and a Silver Slugger. In 2020, he was crowned MVP of the National League. In 2021, he and the Atlanta Braves were crowned champions of the baseball world with the franchise's first World Series title since 1995.
Freeman is as good as it gets at the first base position among this year's free agents, and the Braves should know that better than anyone. That begs the question of why they haven't re-signed him yet, but that might have already been answered.
"Free agent Freddie Freeman was on the mind of every team seeking a first baseman, with Freeman rejecting Atlanta's five-year, $135 million offer, and seeking closer to a six-year, $200 million deal," USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported from the GM Meetings in mid-November. "Yet, you couldn't find a soul who believes Freeman won't be returning to Atlanta."
This staring contest is nothing more than a negotiating tactic, and while it has perhaps lasted longer than Atlanta fans would like, it has yet to change the logical ending to this story.
Prediction: Freeman signs six-year, $175 million deal to stay with Braves.