Yes, yes, yes, we’re all excited that baseball is back, but this is only the beginning. The main job is done, but now attention turns back to everything we missed over the last three months — i.e., free agency.
With less than a month to go before the new start of the MLB season (April 7) there are still dozens of free agents who weren’t able to sign before the lockout and now have very little time to negotiate a new contract for the 2022 season.
And these ain’t no-names either. These are absolute difference makers, including multiple former Rookies of the Years, three former MVPs, two former Cy Young Award winners, and several World Champions.
Here’s a quick list of just a few of the big names still waiting for a team to scoop them up:
1B Freddie Freeman
3B/OF Kris Bryant
LHP Carlos Rodón
LHP Clayton Kershaw
OF/1B Kyle Schwarber
RHP Kenley Jansen
SS Carlos Correa
SS Trevor Story
OF Nick Castellanos
OF Michael Conforto
I didn’t even mention Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler — both outfielders on the 2021 World Champion Atlanta Braves; Soler was even the MVP of that series. I didn’t mention Anthony Rizzo, or Seiya Suzuki (international), or Andrew McCutchen, or Danny Duffy, you get the point. There are a ton of players that could have a major impact that were just sitting there, waiting for the lockout to end so they could negotiate a new contract for themselves. Players can report to training camp as early as tomorrow, and while it doesn’t take much time for a ballplayer to get back into the swing of things, every day that goes by without signing a new contract is less time to prep for the upcoming season.
While many of these players were likely in talks with teams prior to the lockout, it’s going to be difficult to just pick up where things left off. There are a lot of new rules in place that could alter player and team negotiations. Increased minimum salaries mean less money to spend on veterans, unless the owners are now willing to pay more, which just won’t be the case for several small-market teams. The implementation of a universal DH creates a new area of concern for roster-building in the National League. The per-arbitration bonus pool adds extra expenses, too. I have no doubt that these players will get paid what they deserve, but teams are definitely going to try to use the new CBA as an excuse to reduce their original offers. With so little time between now and the start of the season, don’t be surprised if some big-name players bite on those smaller-than-expected offers.
Aside from the impending wave of free-agent signings we are about to see, there isn’t much else to dislike. We were told the season wouldn’t start until April 14. Now, it’s starting a week earlier. We were told we weren’t going to get a full 162-game schedule. We are. We were told we likely wouldn’t get an expanded playoff format this year. We are.
There are lots of great things to look forward to, but before the season starts, there are still more than 200 players on the free-agent market who need jobs. We have less than 30 days…get ready for a wild one.