Pending Lockout Forces MLB Free Agents Signing Frenzy

Avery Rosas

The 2021 MLB season is officially over. As soon as the Atlanta Braves recorded the last out of Game 6 of the World Series, every player on an expiring contract were now officially free agents. However, this year has repeatedly shown us that any possibility can happen, and now there’s a new problem to deal with between the MLB Players Association, MLB team owners, and the MLB Commissioner. 

The current CBA, or collective bargaining agreement, is an agreement made between the Players Association and MLB that controls everything from games played, rule changes, to player salary taxes and arbitration, among other widespread topics. This is where it gets tricky. 

The biggest change I’d support is the universal DH, as pitchers don’t provide any value as hitters,” said lifelong Cubs fan and baseball expert James Valentinas, who also hosts a baseball podcast called Drive into Deep Left Field Pod.

With the CBA expiring, the MLBPA and MLB are being forced to make an agreement on all of these things, which has not gone smoothly so far. Their agreement deadline of Dec. 1 has passed, and they have yet to come to an agreement; effectively causing a countdown for teams to be able to sign free agents before a “lockout” occurs and all operations must come to a halt.

But let’s just get straight into it. The biggest names on the market by far this year for position players were shortstops Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien, and first baseman Freddie Freeman. The top pitchers on the market were Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray and Clayton Kershaw along with closers Raisel Iglesias and Kenley Jansen. 

The two New York teams had very different off-seasons up until the lockout. While Yankees were said to be very likely to sign a high tier free agent, they only managed to sign lefty-specialist reliever Joely Rodriguez.

 “My favorite team is the New York Yankees and their off-season was very poor and unexpected,” said sophomore Brennen Rodriguez.

 The Mets, however, had a party in Queens. They and their new multi-billionaire owner Steve Cohen had at least a top 2 off-season, signing center fielder Starling Marte to a 4 year deal, outfielder utility-man Mark Canha to a 2 year deal, third baseman Eduardo Escobar to a 2 year deal, and the best pitcher on the market, Max Scherzer, to a deal that only the richest owner in baseball could afford. 

This year feels like the year they don’t fall flat, with Max Scherzer and Starling Marte being fairly stable additions who add stability to a team with inconsistency throughout,” said Valentinas. “Their success is dependent on their health, as both Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor missed significant time in 2021.”

Scherzer received 130 million dollars over 3 years- a steep price and risk for his 37 year old arm- and will receive an average of 43 million dollars a year. 

“[I believe the] Mets will do better, but will not make the playoffs,” said sophomore baseball player and fan Matthew Yarc.

Another veteran pitching great, Justin Verlander, who’s coming off Tommy John surgery and 2 years between pitching in a major league game, re-signed with the Houston Astros for 25 million dollars on a one-year deal.

Scherzer and Verlander arguably make up 2 of the 3 greatest pitchers of this generation. The third, and best, is Clayton Kershaw, another free agent and the Dodgers most cherished franchise player. He didn’t come to terms on a contract before the lockout however, the Dodgers would be most inclined to have him back and retire as a Dodger. Another aggressive team, however, has different plans.

That team is the perennial last-place finisher, the Texas Rangers. What seemed to be a rebuilding Rangers team came out firing this off-season and has all of a sudden become a real postseason contender in a crowded AL West division. 

With the signings of two top-tier middle infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, along with outfielder Kole Calhoun and starting pitcher Jon Gray, the Rangers went out hunting. 

I felt like it was very surprising because I really thought the Yankees were going to offer [Seager] something and since Semien had already gone, I thought Seager was going to the Yankees,” said Rodriguez.

The pitching market was very active as the deadline was coming closer and closer. The reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray’s 1-year contract with the Blue Jays expired and he was looking for a nice, new contract after the season he put together. 

With the departure of their Cy Young starter and previously mentioned Robbie Ray, the Blue Jays decided to pick up another ace from the reigning NL West champion San Francisco Giants, Kevin Gausman, on a 5 year, 110 million dollar deal.

 Gausman posted a 2.81 ERA in 192 innings in 2021 and knew he was going to look for something better after his Cy Young worthy season.

As far as total pending free agents, nobody had more baggage than the Los Angeles Dodgers with their 11 pending free agents, with 2 of their most valuable players already leaving. As if spoiled with riches, even if the Dodgers lost most of their stars, they’d still be the most talented team in baseball with just a little less horsepower. 

Nevertheless, they so far have re-signed Chris Taylor to a 4 year deal and can be expected to make a considerable impact at the trade deadline. They’re expected to be in the running for Jansen along with the Marlins and also have had talks about being involved with the best player on the market, Carlos Correa. 

All of this, however, depends on the decision of the players and MLB to come up with an agreement during the lockout to ensure both sides agree and can benefit from their new deal, which hopefully won’t take long since baseball fans are eager to get back to their off-season chaos.

 “As a fan, I’m hoping the CBA negotiations are as quick as possible, while returning to traditional baseball rules like 2021,” said Valentinas.