The Detroit Tigers have agreed to sign free-agent shortstop Javier Baez to a six-year $140 million contract.
The soon-to-be 29-year-old was a key cog in the Chicago Cubs lineup that bucked a 108-year championship drought. He also finished second in the 2018 MVP race after posting career highs in nearly every offensive category.
Throughout his eight-year career, Baez has established himself as an elite and flashy defender. In 2020, his stellar play led to the Gold Glove award. Tigers fans can also expect Baez to continue wreaking havoc for the opponent on the bases.
He’s also, however, still a free swinger. In 2021, Baez led major league baseball in strikeouts while also ranking 3rd in strikeout percentage. The Cubs sent their star infielder to the New York Mets just before the July trade deadline, where a new approach led to a reduced strikeout rate and increased walk rate.
Tigers fans had been loudly clamoring for Carlos Correa since the 2021 regular season. Yet, this move should not come as a surprise. General Manager Al Avila and owner Chris Illitch have already been on record saying they do not wish to pay a single player $300 million, and they didn’t.
At $140 million, the Tigers are still in the market for another bat or arm. Utility extraordinaire Chris Taylor is still available, in addition to left-handed slugger Kyle Schwarber.
On a larger budget, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Nick Castellanos wouldn’t be the most unrealistic moves in the world for a team that once boasted Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Verlander all making over $20 million annually.
This move sets the Tigers up to begin their next championship window. Young phenoms Riley Green and Spencer Torkelson are expected to be lineup mainstays for the 2022 campaign. Pitchers Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize will also be off of any pitching restrictions.
The current CBA is set to expire Wednesday, which will likely freeze any further free agency deals for the time being.
The Cincinnati Reds face déjà vu all over again with starting pitcher Luis Castillo. Odds are, the Reds learned their lesson the last time they were in this position with an ace starting pitcher from the Dominican Republic by the name of Johnny Cueto.
Hence the sudden flurry of trade rumors surrounding Castillo. Big-market media mouthpieces may promote these trade rumors, but any trade of Castillo is unlikely to happen until July. Part of the reason for that trade timeline is the subpar 2021 season that Castillo had with the Reds. He finished with a 3.98 ERA and 1.364 WHIP in 187+IP. It took an ace-like second half in 2021 for Castillo to lower his ERA to sub-4.00.
Reds’ ownership under Bob Castellini has faced almost this exact same dilemma before. It really is déjà vu all over again. The Reds have two starters in Castillo and Tyler Mahle headed for free agency in two years. Castillo is headed into his age 29 season in 2022. It’s age 27 season for Mahle in 2022.
Cueto and starting pitcher Homer Bailey presented the same dilemma for the Reds in the mid-2010s. Therein lies the déjà vu for the Reds. Cueto was headed into the last year of his extension in 2015 at age 29. Bailey would’ve been free agent eligible in 2015 at age 29, but the Reds made a fateful decision.
The Reds responded by inking Bailey to a 6yr./$105M contract in 2014 in his last arbitration year. The deal included a team buyout option in the last year, making it a 7yr./$125M deal on paper.
Those numbers conjure too much bad déjà vu for the Castellini clan to offer Castillo anything comparable to the Bailey deal. Bailey was an unmitigated disaster. He signed the deal in his age 29 season. His first year was solid enough, then the wheels fell off. Over the next four years, Bailey had a 6.25 ERA in just 46 starts. His merciful end in Cincinnati produced a 1-14 season in 2018 with a 6.09 ERA.
All of which is why the Cincinnati Reds will likely stand pat on Luis Castillo for at least the first half of 2022. Same for Mahle, who has paled in comparison to Castillo at GABP (5.09 ERA and 1.398 WHIP in 221 IP).
The Detroit Tigers have signed left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez.
The former Red Sox pitcher inked a five-year deal with a player option after the second year. With incentives, the deal is valued at up to $80 million.
Rodriguez has been a model of consistency in his big league career, coming off another 30+ start season. In 2019, he finished sixth in the Cy Young award race, where he posted a career-high 203.1 innings.
As a result, the Red Sox will receive a compensatory draft pick, in addition, the Tigers will surrender their third-highest draft pick in 2022.
Where does he fit in the Tigers rotation?
Even with the innings limits removed from Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize, Eduardo Rodriguez will likely find himself anywhere between 2-4 in AJ Hinch’s rotation.
His repertoire includes a fastball that will sit around 93 mph, which he compliments well with a changeup around 85 mph, a cutter at 88 mph, and a slider at 82 mph.
Rodriguez is a strikeout savant who is coming off posting his career-best strikeout rate (10.6 per nine innings) while also among the league’s best at limiting hard contact. In addition, he also had the lowest walk rate of his career (2.7 per nine innings).
The lefty is poised to be a veteran presence in the young Tigers rotation despite being only 28 years old. He and Matthew Boyd are the most tenured starters on the Tigers…for now cough Justin Verlander.
This move is the Tigers’ second of the offseason after they traded for two-time Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart on November 3rd.
Tigers’ GM Al Avila has previously identified the strong need at improving the starting pitching this offseason, even placing it as a top priority.
Despite Tigers fans’ strong desire to hand a blank check to Carlos Correa before any other moves are made, this should come as no surprise after witnessing the Tigers select eight pitchers in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Correa is one of the safest free agent signings ever. At the end of a 10 year deal he will only be in his age 36 season and he has shown a lot of improvement in his defense, durability and hitting entering his prime. He is a future Hall of Fame talent and has an impressive track record and postseason numbers and any team would benefit by adding him. Every team should be in on him but I like a reunion with AJ Hinch.
Seager has established himself as a big splash as well this year, coming back healthy from some injury woes. He is probably a little below Correa in talent and may have to move to third base eventually but any contender looking for a huge piece should be in on him. The Yankees have a ton of infield questions and Seager would solidify their infield immediately.
3. SS Trevor Story: St. Louis Cardinals, 8 years, 245 million
Story is uber-talented as well in this crop of shortstop though a bit older than the others he has the most tools with his speed and consistent defense. The worry for him is leaving Coors. His offensive production may take a hit but the bottom line is Story has a good swing and he should actually improve upon a down season in 2021.
The Coors hangover effect means his numbers at home will get worse but his road numbers should improve and he should put up production in a way similar to Nolan Arenado did. A lot of teams could be in on him too including the Rangers.
4. 3B Kris Bryant: New York Mets, 6 years, 170 million
Bryant is a great middle of the order bat. There are questions about how he may age and he doesn’t have one elite skill but he has pop and a great bat. He could fill a role like he did for the Giants last summer. The Cubs could look strongly into bringing the fan favorite back but the Mets make a lot of sense, as do the Phillies. He will make a team a lot better during the front end of whatever deal he signs.
5. 1B Freddie Freeman: Atlanta Braves, 6 years, 160 million
The consistent, sweet-swinging first baseman won’t be leaving Atlanta. It sounds like a deal will get hatched out sometime this month for Freddie and he will continue to be an All-Star in Atlanta.
6. SS Marcus Semien: Toronto Blue Jays, 5 years, 125 million
Semien has actually been one of the best middle infielders in baseball since 2019 in WAR. He has positional flexibility too and the power he showed is legit. I don’t think Toronto can afford to lose him. He will have many suitors if he doesn’t.
7. SP Max Scherzer: New York Yankees, 2 years, 62 million
Max should be highly in demand because while I wouldn’t say he is at his peak right now, he hasn’t declined a ton. You know exactly what you’re getting in the strikeout heavy ace. The Dodgers will want to try hard to keep him, but any contender on the brink of success could greatly benefit.
8. SS Javier Baez: Chicago Cubs, 8 years, 225 million
Baez has his concerns as far as getting on base and making tough outs on the basepaths by being overaggressive at times but he has power, versatility and is the most exciting player in baseball you could argue. Even in a slump he still can help a team with his glove and speed. The Mets will try to keep him at second/third but the Cubs can offer him shortstop/third and familiarity and I think they want to bring back one of their stars.
9. SP Robbie Ray: Los Angeles Angels, 4 years, 95 million
Ray had a breakout year and was one of the best pitchers in the AL. He is also the K/9 leader for any qualified player ever. His command could be iffy and his track record isn’t spotless but he could provide a top of the rotation arm for many teams and any team who needs a starter should be in on him. Ultimately, I think he will sign with the Angels who badly need starters.
Stroman seems to me as the safest option on the market. He is a borderline ace and will pitch a solid amount of above average innings for the team he ends up with. If he has a solid defense behind him, it will make him all the more better. You can see how successful he has been though throughout his career.
11. SP Justin Verlander: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, 28 million plus incentives
I think Verlander has some risk but likely will rebound well from his Tommy John. I think the Tigers are the perfect match as he can lead the staff of young arms and they can benefit from him. He could help a team on the brink of success or who already has made the playoffs.
12. OF Nicholas Castellanos: Chicago White Sox, 4 years, 80 million
He is a below average fielder but one of the better hitters in baseball. If the White Sox got him their line-up would be dangerous, but I’d watch out for the Padres too. He could already fit in the middle of any contenders line-up though and may be one of those senaky signings that helps a teams run production a lot. Plus he can DH some days in the AL.
13. SP Kevin Gausman: Toronto Blue Jays, 4 years, 85 million
The Giants finally put together Gasuman’s pitch mix after years of promise and solid pitching. He should be able to hold down his newfound stuff and become a dependable number two starter in most cities. I think the Jays will be heavy on him as they need some reliable pitching to go with their mix of young arms and veterans.
14. SP Carlos Rodon: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, 63 million
Rodon was a high draft pick who was always solid but unspectacular. That changed last year but the one big thing was that he still didn’t hit a ton of innings pitched. In today’s game though that shouldn’t be as big of a problem as it was in years past if he can give you 150 solid innings. Last year he had about 1 WAR for every 27 innings he pitched, which is very impressive.
15. OF Starling Marte: New York Mets, 3 years, 60 million
Marte’s calling card is his speed and while he is on the wrong side of 30 and he may not steal 40 bases a ton more seasons, he can still be a quality corner outfielder who can hit at the top of the order with power and be a true table setter for a team as he gets on base.
16. UT Chris Taylor: Texas Rangers, 4 years, 70 million
Taylor got buried on the Dodgers but he is a pretty solid player, one from the Zobrist academy of ballplayers. A contender could keep using him as a swiss army knife or he could step in as an above average regular for any team. He was in a slump but came back on in the play-offs and the list of offers he gets will likely be long.
17. OF Mark Canha: Milwaukee Brewers 3 years, 55 million
Another greatly underrated player and WAR darling, Canha has improved since he was a Rule 5 pick for the A’s since 2015 and can do a little bit of everything. He a teams dream player that they can insert into the line-up and count on major production. The Brewers definitely need someone like him to boost their team even more after their early exit.
18. 1B Anthony Rizzo: Boston Red Sox, 4 years, 75 million
Rizzo probably isn’t worth as much as he thought going into free agency as his overall numbers have taken a dip. He is still an above average player though who fits into the middle of a good teams order. He looks like a .280, 25 homer bat still. The Red Sox need a natural first baseman badly and Rizzo should fill production lost by Schwarber.
19. SP Clayton Kershaw: Los Angeles Dodgers 3 years, 65 million
Kershaw has had some rough seasons dealing with injuries. The Dodgers are among the deepest teams in recent memory though and Kershaw is still a marvel, though not a Cy Young contender, at this point. The Dodgers can afford to let their franchise icon hopefully give them 170 innings for a few upcoming seasons and those will be better than most guys they could feasibly get.
20. SP Eduardo Rodriguez: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, 60 million
Rodrgiuez seemed to have bad luck last year as his Outs Above Average on Baseball Savant showed him as the unluckiest pitcher on defense. He has been a middle of the rotation anchor on a World Champion and can also miss some bats. He is a very good get. I think the Mariners will try and snatch him up to help out their pitching staff, an era that needed the most help last year.
Other Notable Free Agents
21. OF Kyle Schwarber: Rays, 2 years, 28 million
22. OF Michael Conforto: Giants, 1 year, 21 million
23.SP Noah Syndergaard: Mets 1 year, 18 million
24. 1B Brandon Belt: Giants 3 years, 50 million
25. SP Steven Matz: Braves, 2 years, 27 million
26. RP Raisel Iglesias: Padres, 3 years, 42 million
27. RP Kenley Jansen: Angles, 2 years, 26 million
28. SP Jon Gray: Giants, 3 years, 60 million
29. DH Nelson Cruz: Twins, 1 year, 10 million
30. 3B Eduardo Escobar: Phillies, 3 years, 38 million
31. SP Anthony DesClefani: Rangers, 2 years, 30 million
32. SP Zack Greinke: Padres, 1 year, 16 million
33. OF Avisail Garcia: Guardians, 2 years, 24 million
34. RP Kendall Graveman: Astros, 3 years, 27 million
35. OF Jorge Soler: Rockies, 2 years, 26 million
36. OF Eddie Rosario: Cubs, 1 year, 10 million
37. 3B Kyle Seager: Yankees, 2 years, 28 million
38. SP Yusei Kikuchi: Twins, 2 years, 25 million
39. RP Corey Knebel: Red Sox, 2 years, 18 million
40. SP Alex Wood: Rays, 1 year, 13 million
41. RP Mark Melancon: Phillies, 1 year, 9 million
42. RP Collin McHugh: Dodgers, 2 years, 22 million
43. C Yan Gomes: Marlins, 3 years, 30 million
44. SP Michael Pineda: Astros 1 year, 13 million
45. SP Alex Cobb: Phillies, 2 years, 21 million
46. SS Andrelton Simmons: Athletics, 1 year, 5 million
47. RP Yimi Garcia: Giants, 2 years, 13 million
48. RP Andrew Chafin: Giants, 2 years, 12 million
49. 2B Jonathan Villar: Reds, 1 year, 4 million
50. OF Andrew McCutchen: Padres, 1 year, 7 million
51. OF Joc Pederson: Royals, 1 year, 9 million
52. SP Danny Duffy: Giants, 1 year, 6 million
53. RP Adam Ottavino: Phillies, 2 years, 10 million
54. RP Ryan Tepera: White Sox, 1 year, 5 million
55. RP Archie Bradley: Blue Jays, 1 year, 5 million
56. RP Michael Lorenzen: Nationals, 2 years, 10 million
The 2021 Major League Season has concluded with the Atlanta Braves winning their first title since 1995. Now, it’s time for all 30 teams to strategize and figure out their needs during a hectic offseason. Below are my top 25 MLB free agent predictions this offseason.
Carlos Correa – SS: There is not a better MLB Free Agent available on the market than Correa. He is in line for a huge payday that will likely lead him away from the Astros. As of last night, the Astros have offered him a five-year contract worth $160 Million. Aside from the Astros, other teams that are showing interest include the Rangers, Tigers, Twins, and Yankees.
Prediction: Detroit Tigers sign Correa to 10 years, $310 Million
Corey Seager – SS: This free agent class is the year of the Shortstops and Seager is next on that list. When healthy, he is another one of the premier Shortstops in Baseball but that’s his only issue – staying healthy. Still, for his production and impact on your team, he is most certainly worth the money.
Prediction: New York Yankees sign Seager to 7 years, $240 Million
Kris Bryant – 3B: There are no questions about it – the Giants will be aggressive this offseason and will try to re-sign Bryant. The issue is, they will not be the only ones aggressive in signing Bryant. He will be patient in the signing process but will have no shortage of suitors no matter how long he takes. Prediction: Texas Rangers sign Bryant to 7 years, $260 Million
Trevor Story – SS: One of the more underrated Shortstops in the game, Story had another excellent year in Colorado. Story is from Irving, TX and all signs point towards the Rangers and Astros. With the Rangers predicted to get Bryant, it’ll be interesting to see if they sign Story as well. Prediction: Houston Astros sign Story to 6 years, $180 Million
Max Scherzer – SP: In terms of length, Scherzer will not get the best deal due to his age but he will certainly get a nice AAV. Scherzer posted a sub-1.00 ERA down the stretch and proved to be a high-level player. Rumor is Mike Trout is convincing the Angels to go after Scherzer hard.
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels sign Max Scherzer to 3 years, $120 Million
Robbie Ray – SP: The likely Cy Young winner is on the market in Robbie Ray. He bounced back in a big way and almost helped lead Toronto to the playoffs. The Blue Jays will have some serious competition for Ray.
Prediction: San Francisco Giants sign Robbie Ray to 5 years, $125 Million
Freddie Freeman – 1B: The star of the World Champion Braves, this is one free agent staying home for sure. He deserves the big payday he is due and will most certainly receive that.
Prediction: Atlanta Braves re-sign Freddie Freeman to 5 years, $130 Million
Clayton Kershaw – SP: Dodgers didn’t extend a QO to Kershaw, but don’t worry he will be back in L.A.
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers re-sign Clayton Kershaw to 2 years, $80 Million
Marcus Semien – SS/2B: After a rough pandemic year, Semien bounced back big with 45 Homers in 2021. Semien’s ability to play both middle-infield spots and offensive prowess will be valuable to any team interested in him.
Prediction: San Francisco Giants sign Marcus Semien to 5 years, $120 Million
Kevin Gausman – SP: After struggling to start out his career, Gausman bounced back in a nice way for the Giants. He’s in the running for the NL Cy Young award which should reward him with a big payday.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies sign Kevin Gausman to 4 years, $90 Million
Marcus Stroman – SP: Stroman received a qualifying offer from the Mets and capitalized big time. His best year yet, Stroman should be a top priority for the Mets this offseason.
Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Marcus Stroman to 4 years, $85 Million
Javier Baez – SS/2B: Led the league in strikeouts but still had a nice slash line down the stretch in New York. Baez and Lindor would like to play together, and I think the Mets make that happen.
Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Javier Baez to 4 years, $88 Million
Nick Castellanos – OF/DH: Castellanos opted out of his remaining deal with the Reds in hopes of a big contract. His defense leaves a lot to desire but his bat is one of the best in the league, making him a better fit in the AL.
Prediction: Texas Rangers sign Nick Castellanos to 4 years, $80 Million
Starling Marte – OF: Started the season on the IL but ended up with a nice slash line and led the league in stolen bases. Despite his age, can still make a high-level impact on a contender.
Prediction: Boston Red Sox sign Starling Marte to 3 years, $65 Million
Noah Syndergaard – SP: He’s pitched two games in the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. There are questions surrounding his value but no doubts about his talent.
Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Noah Syndergaard with Qualifying offer
Kyle Schwarber – OF/1B/DH: Having one of his better seasons yet, Schwarber played himself to a multi-year deal. He is limited in terms of position, with his best fit being at DH. Maybe we see universal DH come into effect sometime in the near-future.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies sign Kyle Schwarber to 3 years, $60 Million
Carlos Rodon – SP: After being non-tendered last offseason, Rodon bounced back in a big way and pitched himself into the Cy Young conversation. Unfortunately, his injury history knocks him down his list as he dealt with arm fatigue down the stretch in 2021.
Prediction: Chicago White Sox re-sign Carlos Rodon to 2 years, $34 Million
Justin Verlander – SP: Recovered now from Tommy John Surgery, Verlander is ready to pitch after missing all of 2021. There will still be plenty of suitors looking to add the veteran righty to bolster their rotation.
Prediction: Detroit Tigers sign Justin Verlander to 2 years, $40 Million
Chris Taylor – UTIL: A very Ben Zobrist-like player, Taylor provides a ton of value as a Utility guy. He had an outstanding postseason once again and is in line to get nice contract for once.
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays sign Chris Taylor to 4 years, $52 Million
Michael Conforto – OF: After a down 2021, it’ll be interesting to see what Conforto’s market will look like. Once rumored to be a $100+ Million player, Conforto’s value plummeted. He is still one of the better fielders in the Outfield and has a ton of talent in his bat.
Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Michael Conforto with Qualifying offer
Anthony Rizzo – 1B: Rizzo didn’t have his traditional year on Offense, but he still produced well enough and offers you consistency in his health. He wants to be back in Pinstripes next year, according to a family member close to him.
Prediction: New York Yankees sign Anthony Rizzo to 2 years, $26 Million
Brandon Belt – 1B: If Belt were to leave the Giants it would be a huge surprise.
Prediction: San Francisco Giants re-sign Brandon Belt to 2 years, $24 Million
Raisel Iglesias – RP: He’s been one of the better relievers in Baseball over the past couple years. The Angels could obviously use him and will want him back but Iglesias will have a lot of interest.
Prediction: Seattle Mariners sign Raisel Iglesias to 3 years, $30 Million
Kenley Jansen – RP/CL: Jansen bounced back in a big way in 2021 after struggling for a couple years. He is still one of the more dependable Closers in Baseball and will be a suitor for contenders around the league. Prediction: Los Angeles Angels sign Kenley Jansen to 2 years, $30 Million
Jon Gray – SP: The Rockies didn’t extend a Qualifying offer to Gray, making him an immediate free agent. Gray has a lot of talent who was in a bad situation in Colorado. He won’t be costly so he will be sure to have a good bit of interest.
Prediction: Washington Nationals sign Jon Gray to 3 years, $33 Million
Others who missed cut:
Nelson Cruz – DH: Seattle Mariners sign Nelson Cruz to 1 year, $11 Million
Eduardo Rodriguez – SP: Boston Red Sox re-sign Eduardo Rodriguez to 3 years, $27 Million
Eddie Rosario – UTIL: Atlanta Braves re-sign Eddie Rosario to 2 years, $14 Million
Kyle Seager – 3B: New York Yankees sign Kyle Seager to 2 years, $10 Million
Avisail Garcia – OF: Seattle Mariners sign Avisail Garcia to 2 years, $14 Million
Seiya Suzuki – OF: Chicago Cubs sign Seiya Suzuki to 2 years, $10 Million