By Brady Kas
The offseason in baseball has finally arrived. After a summer full of baseball, we have finally crowned a champion. Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves who beat the Houston Astros in six games to win the World Series just a few days ago. However, for myself and many baseball fans across the country and world, the season never stops. Just because the games are done for the year, doesn’t mean we should be done talking about the sport. Although some sports have great free agencies and off-season’s, baseball is by far my favorite. This is where championship teams are made. Let’s look at the Braves for a second. They’re an anomaly in that most of their new, impact players came from deals at the Trade Deadline in July, but in previous off-season’s we can see how the foundation was laid for many teams who won it all. For the Braves, Dansby Swanson was acquired in a trade with the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Charlie Morton, who somehow pitched an inning in the World Series with a broken leg, was signed this last offseason by the Braves front office. To further illustrate this point, before the 2016 season the Cubs signed Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and re-signed Dexter Fowler. As we know, all three played a major role for the team that year. Fowler led off Game 7 with a homerun, Zobrist was named World Series MVP, and Heyward gave the greatest rain delay speech of all time. Without further delay, let’s discuss some important dates surrounding this offseason, some key players, and to end with, I’ll give one player each team should sign this offseason, that could make a difference for their team next year and beyond.
This entire article could be written strictly about this section as there are so many good players available. However, I want to spend this time focusing on one group this offseason: shortstops. One could argue they are the most important player on the field, and they typically have the strongest arm, a good glove, but the bat doesn’t always produce. For the free agent class this year, that could not be any different. While all the players I’m about to list are good defensively, and some have even Gold Gloves, their offense is how they make their money. Here are my top five free agent shortstops this offseason:
- Carlos Correa
- Corey Seager
- Marcus Semien
- Javier Baez
- Trevor Story
Let’s begin with Correa. As much as I hate everything that happened with the 2017 Astros and their trash banging, there’s no doubt he’s the best shortstop on the market this year. At just 27 years old, Correa is looking at a contract probably over $300 million. Listen to the accolades; 2x All-Star, Rookie of the Year, World Series Champion, and 1x Gold Glove winner. He’s just a really good ball player, who will become a very wealthy man this offseason.
Next up: Seager. Corey Seager is somebody who I have always loved, and just enjoy watching him play the game. He’s a smooth 6’4’’ guy, but everything he does on a baseball field just looks effortless. He’s the only left-handed hitter of the five I listed above and has one of my favorite swings in the game. The problem with Seager though is injuries. He’s had Tommy John surgery, hamstring issues, and a broken hand recently. Nobody is perfect, but these injuries are something a front office must consider when deciding to give a player north of $200 million. If I’m paying a position player that much, I need to be able to pencil him into the lineup at shortstop and batting second 150 times a season.
The next guy might not even play shortstop again as he had his best year ever as a second baseman this past year with Toronto, but rumor has it he wants to get back to his natural position. If that’s the case, he would probably be the best option for teams looking for a guy on a shorter contract. At 32 years old, Semien is the oldest of the group. However, that didn’t stop him from being the most productive this year. He put together a 45 homer and 102 RBI season to go along with 39 doubles and 115 runs scored. For his efforts this year, he’ll finish 3rd in the AL MVP voting. Another quick note about Semien, he’s durable. Since 2018, he’s played in 98% of games, including all 162 in 2019 and 2021.
Next up is Javy Baez. Baez is a guy who has given me, my family, and a lot of people I know a lot of really good memories, to go along with some not-so-good memories. The 2016 World Series champion has unmatched passion and enthusiasm for the game and makes the game more exciting. Commonly referred to as “El Mago,” which translates to “The Magician,” Baez makes the impossible possible. Having watched probably 500 of his games, you could also make the argument there’s nobody more inconsistent in the game than Baez. He could go 0-5 with five strikeouts one game and look like he’s never played baseball before. However, in the next game he could go 5-5 with five home runs. Once again, I wouldn’t be surprised. The fielding is even more spectacular. He had some troubles this past year, but the no-look tags, and quick hands are something to marvel about. Even with everything I said, it doesn’t come close to describing Javy. He is hands down, must watch tv every time he steps between the lines.
To conclude the list, let’s talk about another guy out west, Trevor Story. It’s hard to evaluate players who play half their games at Coors Field in Colorado, but you have to think Story should be able to land a decent contract this offseason. He had a slight down year this past year, which is why he wasn’t traded at the deadline, and why he’s this far down the list, but like the other four, the guy’s a stud. He’s a multi-time All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger winner, and has finished in the Top-12 in NL MVP voting the previous three seasons before 2021. Honestly, the biggest questions come from how his game will translate away from Colorado. Take a look at some numbers below, and you begin to get a little concerned.
|Career Stats:||Home Runs||RBI’s||Batting Average||Slugging %|
So, know the question is how do you evaluate and pay the player? Do you pay for the guy that plays in Colorado, or the other guy who plays outside of Coors Field. You have to think Story and his agents want him to be payed as a top-tier shortstop, taking into consideration both home and away stats, but GM’s might be hesitant to give out a long-term contract and big money to a guy like this who has struggled in away games. This could be fascinating to watch.
As interesting as Free Agency is, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is what’s going to dominate the headlines this offseason. The players know it, the owners know it, and the fans know it; there will be a work stoppage come Dec. 2nd. So, what is going on with this, and why is it going to lead to a stoppage. One of the main issues here is money. Like every business across the country and across the world, the MLB lost a lot of money over the last two years because of the pandemic. The owners want more money because they weren’t able to have fans in the stands for all of the 2020 season, and for parts of the 2021 season. This is issue number one.
Now from the players side, they’re unhappy about basically everything. Yes, they are concerned about money, but also the communication and respect of Commissioner Rob Manfred has not been good since the Astros cheating scandal. Some issues go back farther than this, but the moment where no players were penalized for their efforts in this scandal really bothered some of the athletes, and they have been outspoken about these issues since.
Another thing that is more recent is the use of sticky substances pitchers can have while on the mound. It had been known for years players were cheating. This was no secret. Was it fair, not necessarily, but was it fair that the Astros cheated, won a World Series, and no players got suspended? No. The players have been untouchable in terms of cheating. This led to pitchers and players bending the rules to find new levels of success. So, in the middle of the season, MLB cracked down on sticky substances. This is really unbelievable to think about. Granted, it did a lot of good, and eliminated the use of illegal substances, but in doing so, it increased the likelihood of injuries for pitchers, and made the sport more dangerous. Tyler Glasnow is a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, and he went a podcast hosted by Chris Rose and Jomboy Media, and talked about how this sudden change affected him, and lead to his season-ending injury. If you’re a baseball fan it’s a must listen, and Glasnow does a great job of detailing how this subtle change was really not so subtle.
In terms of what the league wants, they want to speed up games, which I think is something we all want, but how do we this, while still keeping the integrity of the game. For example, the runner on second base to start extra-innings was something they tried this past year. It didn’t work. They’ve tried pitch clocks, but nobody really seems to notice them. They instituted a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, which I think does some good things, but I don’t think it’s enough. They want to put in the universal DH, and this is something I go back and forth on. There are benefits, but there’s just something about seeing a pitcher hit. Yes, pitchers get hurt too often running the bases, or swinging a bat, but that’s baseball. I’m not against this change and expect the universal DH to be in effect starting next year, but I will miss seeing pitchers like Bartolo Colon smack a home run.
In the end, everybody wants something, and nobody can agree on a solution. The players want a fair game, and a way to keep players healthy. Making this in-season change this past year was not an effective solution. The league office wants to increase the pace of play, and the owners want all the money. Come December 2nd, the baseball world will be put on hold, until an agreement can be agreed upon, which is hopefully in time for a full Spring Training and Regular Season.
Team Wish List:
To conclude this article, I wanted to do a brief write up on every team, and one free agent they should pursue this offseason. My only rule is no duplicates. Some players are going to be at the top of the list for multiple teams, but that’s not as interesting. Let’s dig into it starting with the AL East:
Tampa Bay Rays (100-62): Collin McHugh
This is a good team, and really, they don’t have any holes. They won’t spend any big money in free agency, and after a good year with the Rays, McHugh could be out of their price range. Still, I’d love to see them spend a couple extra dollars and find a way to keep him for next year.
Boston Red Sox (92-70): Kyle Schwarber
This is easy. Kyle from Waltham became a folk hero of sorts in his short time in Boston and fit in perfectly with the team and clubhouse. After coming over at the trade deadline, the Sox should do everything they can to keep him around for years to come.
New York Yankees (92-70): Marcus Semien
It’s time for the Yankees to open their wallets and get back to being the Yankees. They showed they can still spend when they signed Gerrit Cole, but it’s now time to lock down a shortstop. The Yankees can steal him from a division rival and make their team better. This would be a win-win for the Yanks.
Toronto Blue Jays (91-71): Robbie Ray
The favorite for the AL Cy Young Award should stay put this offseason if everything goes right for the Jays. Five of the top six Blue Jays prospects are infielders, so while the loss of Semien would hurt, the loss of Ray would hurt more going forward for this team.
Baltimore Orioles (52-110): Carlos Martinez
Orioles fans, prepare yourself for another year of rebuilding next season. The 2022 season should bring some new prospects, such as Adley Rutschman, but it won’t translate to wins yet. Martinez is a guy who could be a good bounce candidate next season, and the O’s could get him for cheap. If he succeeds you can flip him for a prospect at the deadline, if not, with a cheap contract you could just release him.
Chicago White Sox (93-69): Carlos Rodon
The lefty was magnificent for Chicago this past year; however, the team did not offer him a Qualifying Offer. Is there something to this story that we don’t know about yet? Maybe, but in my opinion, he should be their priority this offseason.
Cleveland Guardians (80-82): Avisail Garcia
Cleveland needs outfield help, but the question is how much how are they willing to spend to get that help. There are other players available here, but I don’t think the Guardians (that’s going to take some getting used to) will meet their asking price. Garcia still may be too much, but at some point, you have to spend in order to get value from a position.
Detroit Tigers (77-85): Carlos Correa
Tigers’ fans rejoice. Your team is close. The next step for their franchise is getting a proven star, and I think they get that this offseason with Correa. He has history with their manager A.J. Hinch, and they have a need for a shortstop. This makes too much sense not to happen.
Kansas City Royals (74-88): Zack Greinke
Greinke started his career here, so why not end it in KC too. The Royals have some studs in their starting rotation but could use a veteran to lean on. Greinke is not the ace he once was, but he can still be a good big-league pitcher. He’s reliable, and can eat innings every five days, and that’s what this staff needs.
Minnesota Twins (73-89): Anthony DeSclafani
Like a lot of teams, the Twins need starting pitchers. DeSclafani had a big bounce back year with the Giants after a rough 2020 season with the Reds and will be a popular man this offseason. If the Twins want to get back to competing for a divisional crown next year, they’ll need DeSclafani and more.
Houston Astros (95-67): Trevor Story
I first saw this prediction in an article I read recently from the New York Post, and I love it. Story will cost significantly less than Correa and would fill that hole seamlessly. He’s from Texas and wants to win. This could be a perfect fit. We know the team has made significant offers to Correa, so they’re willing to pay, but Story is a perfect back-up for the Astros.
Seattle Mariners (90-72): Kris Bryant
We’ve been hearing rumblings about this now for a while, but it seems like the Mariners are going to be big players for KB this offseason. Long time third baseman Kyle Seager is a free agent, and Bryant could slide in there, but could also play some outfield. For a young team, this would a be a huge get.
Oakland Athletics (86-76): Andrew Chafin
The bullpen was a major issue for the A’s last year, however, it looks like they could be beginning a rebuild there in Oakland. Multiple players are reportedly on the trading block, and it looks like they’ll try to slash their payroll again. Chafin seemed like a good fit after he was acquired from the Cubbies at the trade deadline, but if Oakland tears it down, both parties may go their separate ways.
Los Angeles Angels (77-85): Marcus Stroman
The Angels seem to have the same problem year-in, and year-out. Their starting rotation just isn’t good. They could go with a few different guys, but the bottom line is they need starting pitchers. They have arguable the two best players in baseball in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, so hopefully Stroman can help them take the next step and reach October baseball next season.
Texas Rangers (60-102): Corey Seager
Similar to Carlos Correa, this is another one that just makes too much sense. We’ve heard now for a while that the Rangers are high on him, and Seager has a previous relationship with their manager from their time together with the Dodgers. The Rangers might have to overpay to get him, but in the end, I think Seager begins next year in Texas.
Atlanta Braves (88-73): Freddie Freeman
This has to be the easiest decision of the offseason. The World Series champs should hand Freeman a blank check, and make sure he spends the rest of his career in Atlanta. Don’t try and be cute with the offer, pay the man what he’s worth, and move on. While Acuna is the star, Freeman is the unquestioned leader of this organization.
Philadelphia Phillies (82-80): Raisel Iglesias
The Phillies bullpen last year was awful. It was one of the worst in the league, and it’s what ultimately cost them a playoff spot. Iglesias is the top closer available this offseason and should be at the top of a lot of teams list, but the Phillies need him the most. If not him, Kenley Jensen is another option here, but they need to remake this bullpen this winter.
New York Mets (77-85): Javier Baez
Javy played well for the Mets after being acquired at the deadline, and he’s best friends with Francisco Lindor. Owner Steve Cohen wants to spend money, and Baez would love to take it. They got off to a rocky start with the thumbs down situation, but in the end, I think he re-signs with the team this offseason.
Miami Marlins (67-95): Jorge Soler
Nobody’s stock rose more in the postseason than probably Jorge Soler’s. The World Series MVP could be out of the Marlins price range, but they need outfield help, and someone who can hit for power. Soler can be that player. His price is definitely higher than it was three months ago, but the Marlins could snag a guy who led the league in home runs with 48 in 2019 for a reasonable price.
Washington Nationals (65-97): Dellin Betances
Hear me out. The Nationals are not going to be good next year. They are in the early stages of a rebuild, so we shouldn’t expect much from them next season. With that being said, why not take a swing on a guy like Betances. He missed basically all of this past year with a shoulder injury, but if the former 4x All-Star is healthy, why not give him a shot. Your bullpen has not been very good recently, and if he succeeds you can trade him at the trade deadline next summer. He’s not going to cost a lot, so there isn’t a big risk financially, so I say give him a look.
Milwaukee Brewers (95-67): Kyle Seager
The first question here is would Kyle Seager be willing to leave Seattle, the only team he’s played with in his career. The second question is whether the Brewers would be willing to meet his asking price. If both of the answers are yes, I think this could be a perfect marriage. The Brew Crew need some help in the corner infield positions, and Seager would provide that. He’s a veteran leader, who should fit right in with the team after a bounce back season this past year and should strengthen this already deep team.
St. Louis Cardinals (90-72): Danny Duffy
Is Danny Duffy healthy? That’s the question that has to be answered before he signs anywhere this offseason, but if he is, I think he could be a good fit for the Red Birds. He was having a really good year this past year with the Royals before suffering an arm injury, and that’s what cost him his season. St. Louis would be taking a risk here, but I think it could work out well for both sides if he is indeed healthy.
Cincinnati Reds (83-79): Nick Wittgren
The Reds look to be cutting payroll, so that’s why I think Wittgren would be a good fit for them. He struggled this past year with the Indians but has had a very productive Major League career so far. If the Reds are trying to compete for a division crown next year, I think he could be valuable, and if they are rebuilding, I think he’s a good, cheap option.
Chicago Cubs (71-91): Nicolas Castellanos
As a Cubs fan, I would love to see either Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, or Schwarber back with the Cubs, but I don’t see that happening. I’m hoping it does, but I’m preparing for when it doesn’t. Tom Ricketts, the owner of the Cubs, and Jed Hoyer, the President of Baseball Operations, have said they have money to use this offseason, and want to compete next year. Starting pitching was definitely an issue this past year, and they’ll probably prioritize that position first this offseason, which is the right thing to do. However, why not bring back a fan favorite in Castellanos. We know he loves the city, and the city loved him. Bring him home Jed.
Pittsburgh Pirates (61-101): Johnny Cueto
The Pirates won’t be very good next year. That’s no secret, and they need a veteran pitcher who can eat innings for them while their young guys develop. Cueto might have other offers, and Pittsburgh would probably be towards the bottom of his preferred list, but the Pirates just need to add some depth to their rotation. Any cheap, veteran pitcher would work here, but does anybody want to go to Pittsburgh? Prepare for another long season Pittsburgh fans.
San Francisco Giants (107-55): Kevin Gausman
With the news of Buster Posey retiring, one might think of catcher as a must this offseason, but top prospect Joey Bart deserves to start the season as the big-league catcher. Gausman has been incredible for the Giants since coming over before the 2020 season, and San Fran. should do everything they can to keep him around. He won’t be cheap, but he should be at the top of their list.
Los Angeles Dodgers: (106-56): Max Scherzer
Talk about good deadline deals. Scherzer was dominant in LA. The future Hall-of-Famer will have plenty of suitors this offseason, but something tells me he stays in Dodger blue. Don’t be surprised if Scherzer signs a three-year deal and retires as a Dodger at the end of his contract.
San Diego Padres (79-83): Mark Melancon
If I had to guess, I would say the big move the Padres make this offseason comes from a trade. Maybe they trade away Eric Hosmer, or somebody else, but that’s where I see them being the most active this winter. For free agency, Melancon was a good pickup for them last year, and the Padres should be interested in bringing him back. Expect minor tweaks in free agency, as they try to solidify their team through trades this winter.
Colorado Rockies (74-87): Chris Taylor
I saw this idea from an article on MLB.com, and I find it intriguing. I don’t believe Taylor will end up playing for the Rockies, as he will have plenty of contenders trying to get him this offseason. But if the Rockies make a substantial offer, would he take the money over playing for a contender? It’s an interesting question, but the Rockies need some more outfield depth, and Taylor would provide that for them.
Arizona Diamondbacks (52-110): Tyler Anderson
Similar to the Pirates, the D-backs are going to struggle again next year. Their prospects are still a couple years away from making an impact, but they need help with their rotation. Anderson is a veteran pitcher who could help eat some innings, and hopefully take some stress off their bullpen. Really, Arizona needs help everywhere, and the rotation is just the beginning of the needs.
To wrap things up, the offseason has begun already with coaching changes and a few free agent signings, but in the meantime watch some basketball or football, and enjoy everything the offseason brings. Remember, even if your team will struggle this year, championship teams are built years in advance. So as small as some of these moves look, you never know how they’ll look in six months, one year, five years, or ten years down the road.