MLB Free Agency Explodes As Lockout Begins

Joe DeBari
Sports Writer

When the clock struck midnight on December 2nd, Major League Baseball entered its first lockout in 26 years. The CBA that MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed upon in 2017 expired and the owners of the 30 teams and the leaders of the MLBPA were not able to agree on a new one in time. Unfortunately, this was to be expected as concerns among how MLB was handling the league grew amongst the players throughout the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Now that MLB has implemented a lockout, free agents are not able to sign with any of the 30 franchises and the teams are not allowed to trade players amongst each other. Since the lockout was expected as the calendar grew closer to the end of the previous CBA, teams moved quickly this offseason to address needs and sign some of the biggest free agents before the lockout began.

This off-season was well known for the past few years as having one of the richest free agent shortstop markets the league has ever seen. Five elite shortstops all entered free agency following the end of the World Series; Javier Baez, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Marcus Semien. Teams who have been looking to get back in contention as well as the five teams losing these shortstops had all expressed interest in signing these players before the lockout began to give their fans something to be excited about. Three of the five shortstops signed, with Correa and Story the only ones heading into the lockout not knowing where their futures lie. Baez signed with the Detroit Tigers; a team that had been heavily linked to Correa due to his connection with their manager AJ Hinch. Hinch managed Correa’s Astros for several years taking them to two World Series and winning one in his tenure for the Astros while also making the postseason several other times. So, it was surprising when Detroit signed Baez, a World Series winner himself in 2016 with the Chicago Cubs, instead. Although, Correa is eventually expected to sign for a much bigger contract than the six years and $140 million that Baez got.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers made big waves by signing the other two major shortstops, Seager and Semien. Like Detroit, Texas has been in a rebuilding phase for the past few years and were a bottom dweller in the standings with lots of money to spend. Semien had played second base in 2021 for the Toronto Blue Jays but has played shortstop for the majority of his career. So, when he signed with Texas on Sunday for 7 years at $175 million, many assumed he would be Texas’s shortstop of the future. But that changed on Monday, when Texas signed Seager to a 10-year, $325 million contract. It completed what should become one of the best middle infields in baseball with the 2020 World Series MVP Seager at shortstop and Semien, who’s finished in the top 3 of AL MVP voting in both 2019 and 2021, at second base.

Carlos Correa, despite being one of the biggest names this offseason, is still without a team headed into the lockout (Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Correa and Story will both look to find new teams when the lockout is finished. Correa could end up back to the only team he’s ever played for in Houston while Story could return to his only franchise, the Colorado Rockies. The New York Yankees have expressed interest in both shortstops and had expressed interest in Seager while the Boston Red Sox have been reportedly looking to move their star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to third base to make room for one of these top free agent shortstops. Boston had been talking to Baez before he signed with Detroit. Correa and Story are not the only major free agents who didn’t sign contracts before the lockout. Freddie Freeman, who has been the face of the 2021 champion Atlanta Braves, was negotiating with Atlanta to return and play first base once again for the team he’s played all 11 years of his career with. Freeman has also received interest from the Yankees, Toronto, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kris Bryant, who played with Baez for the Chicago Cubs for several years, is also a stud third baseman in free agency and had received interest from the San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, and Colorado among others but did not sign a deal before the lockout.

The New York Mets knew the lockout was coming and made sure to improve their roster as much as they could while they had the opportunity. They signed one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball, Max Scherzer, to a huge 3-year deal while also bringing in free agent center fielder Starling Marte. The Tigers and Rangers both added to their big offseasons by adding starting pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Jon Gray, from Boston and Colorado, respectively. A few major starting pitchers found new homes with former Blue Jays ace and 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray joining the Seattle Mariners while the Blue Jays signed his replacement Kevin Gausman from San Francisco. The Dodgers brought back Chris Taylor after losing Seager and Scherzer in free agency. There were a few extensions signed as well with Jose Berrios (Toronto), Sandy Alcantara (Miami Marlins), and Wander Franco (Tampa Bay Rays) also signing longer contracts to stay with their respective clubs long term.

No one knows how long this lockout will last which is why so many free agents signed in such a short period of time this past week. Fans of Major League Baseball are hoping that the owners and players can come to an agreement for the future of the sport and so top players like Correa, Story, Freeman, Bryant, and Clayton Kershaw among others can negotiate with teams again and decide where to play in 2022 and beyond.


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