The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series on October 27, and 5 days later the MLB free agency window was open. After the first 5 days of free agency, on November 6, teams could start negotiating with any players available. A reigning batting champ and Cy Young winner could be on the move this year. So, let’s see who truly deserves the
money Bag from MLB franchises for the upcoming 2021 season.
D.J. LeMahieu – Infielder
D.J. LeMahieu is a magician with the baseball bat. A hitting wizard. He’s essential to the New York Yankees lineup. The reigning A.L. Batting Champion declined the qualifying offer from New York and is now an unrestricted free agent.
An almost automatic base hit, D.J. LeMahieu should definitely GET THE BAG.
At age 32, LeMahieu just had a career year, so he will be pricey. But, he’s still worth it. Although he may be on the backside of his prime on the diamond, he’s finished in the top 5 of A.L. MVP voting the past 2 years. D.J. can also play any position in the infield. So, someone needs to back the Brink’s truck up for LeMahieu right now.
Since he’s so versatile on defense, LeMahieu can fill any team’s needs and it’s tough to say where he lands. This is most likely LeMahieu’s last chance at a big contract, so expect a team to sign him long term. The numbers say teams should pay LeMahieu like baseball’s best. Expect north of $23 million a year, maybe even close to $27 million. At that price, if a team gets LeMahieu for 5 years it’s a great deal, even 6 or 7 is solid.
Because LeMahieu doesn’t necessarily need power to succeed, I expect his effectiveness at the plate to remain constant. His greatest asset is hand-eye coordination, and that can carry a player until he’s 40. LeMahieu is a great deal for any team willing to make a splash this offseason. The Yankees have the money, so it makes the most sense for LaMahieu to stay in New York.
Most likely team LeMahieu resigns with: New York Yankees
In the hunt: Any team with the payroll available
Trevor Bauer – Pitcher
The interesting case of Trevor Bauer. Bauer was the former 3rd overall pick in the MLB draft and just had his breakout season in a contract year. The soon to be 30-year-old led the N.L. with a 1.73 E.R.A. and won the Cy Young with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020. It couldn’t have been any better timing.
A great season for sure, but 2020 was the first time Bauer had ever been dominant in the Bigs. In 2019, he was mediocre and had issues in Cleveland that led to a trade. The trade sent Bauer on I-71 South to Cincinnati, to play for the Reds. After the trade, Bauer finished the season with a measly 4.48 E.R.A. More troubling, Bauer had a 6.39 E.R.A. in his 10 games with the Reds following the trade. The 2020 season will turn out to be a multi-million dollar 60-game performance for Bauer.
The reigning N.L. Cy Young Trevor Bauer is NOT WORTH THE BAG.
Pitchers are an interesting position in the world of sports. There are so many guys who have 1 or 2 good years and then just fall off the face of the earth. Just ask Tim Lincecum, Matt Harvey, Johnny Cueto, the list goes on. A pitcher’s fastball velocity could dip, an injury, a slight change in mechanics, pitchers are very touchy for many peculiar reasons. There are very few pitchers who dominate year in and year out on the mound. The ones that do, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, are worth all the money.
Especially considering 2020 was a shortened season, it’s a big risk to lock Bauer up long term. At least see 2 consistent years from the guy before you throw the house at him.
Imagine if COVID-19 happened in 2010, and Ubaldo Jiminez was in a contract year. Jiminez started the 2010 season going 12-1 with a 1.16 E.R.A. through 61 games for the Colorado Rockies. If 2010 ended after 60 games and Jiminez was in a contract year, he would have become one of the highest paid pitchers in the game. Much like Bauer has a chance to do this offseason. As for Jiminez, his career took a turn for the worst, and that 60-game stretch in 2010 was the best fans would see from Jiminez. Bauer could be in the same scenario, a hot 60-day stretch that turns into a lifelong payday.
Bauer will likely sign a contract near $25 million per year for about 6 years, and it could be well worth it, but I think there are too many question marks. He is not worth the bag, he’s worth a solid amount, probably between $15-20 million, but anything more and you could be severely overpaying. One franchise will offer the Bag, but the question is who?
Most Likely team Bauer signs with: Los Angeles Angels
I have no reason to believe the Angels will sign Bauer, but they already have Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. It’s time for the Angels to get some pitching, and Bauer could be the piece they need to make a run with Trout.
In the hunt to sign Bauer: Phillies, Mets, Dodgers, Blue Jays, White Sox, Twins
J.T. Realmuto – Catcher
Finding a great hitting catcher in the MLB is like winning a 10-team parlay. You never expect it to hit, but if it does, it’s the most incredible thing in the world. Realmuto is the winning 10-team parlay.
The 29-year-old backstop has been durable and done nothing but hit throughout his career. A 2-time All-Star, Realmuto has proved he can hit .275 consistently with nearly 30 homers every season. Any team in the league would die for productivity like Realmuto’s out of the catcher position.
J.T. Realmuto should be GETTING THE BAG this offseason.
If a team can get a great-hitting catcher like Realmuto, it almost gives them an edge on the rest of the competition because so few exist.
Many teams are in need, but the New York Mets stand out as a clear winner. The Mets and their new owner, Steve Cohen, will be looking to make a splash this offseason, and Realmuto is a great way to do it. Mets fans have been starved at the catcher position for years, just waiting for the next Mike Piazza to arrive. Maybe Realmuto is the guy.
Most likely team Realmuto signs with: New York Mets
In the hunt to sign Realmuto: Phillies, Yankees, Astros, Rays, Dodgers
George Springer – OF
As a 3-time All-Star, teams should be salivating over George Springer. He’s spent most of his time batting leadoff for the Houston Astros, and now he could provide that much-needed spark to another team’s lineup.
George Springer should GET THE BAG.
The Astros outfielder has had some minor injury issues, but nothing that should prevent him from a big pay day. Springer’s best seasons came in 2017 and 2019, when he finished 13th and 7th in MVP voting, respectively. Although those seasons may be tainted, in 2020, Springer proved he can still get it done without the trash can banging.
His .265 batting average and 14 homers in the shortened season reassured general managers he is worth the bag. Springer has a legitimate shot at a 50 home run season, and a team could lock him up for seemingly the rest of his career this offseason.
As for what team will give Springer that offer, it’s tough to say. Although Springer declined the Astros qualifying offer, Houston will be sure to throw another offer Springer’s way. But, the Astros won’t be the only bidder for the all-star outfielder. The Mets are going to be in contention for any free agent this year with Steve Cohen driving the bus. The Cardinals desperately need some help in the outfield. The Braves could be looking for a long-term replacement for Marcell Ozuna. Really any team that’s in contention for a title should take a look at Springer.
Expect Springer to potentially sign a deal worth around 8 years and $175 million.
Most likely team Springer signs with: Atlanta Braves
In contention to sign Springer: Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Mets, White Sox, Diamondbacks
Charlie Morton – Pitcher
The would-be pitcher of game 7 in the World Series is on the free agent market. One problem. He’s 37 years old.
Charlie Morton pitched and won game 7 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros. He also only allowed 1 run in 3 postseason starts, before losing game 3 of the World Series. Had the Tampa Bay Rays won game 6 of the World Series, Morton would have been back on the bump for game 7. Morton’s postseason dominance earned him one more pay day, but who will sign the check?
Charlie Morton is another risky play that could pay off big dividends for a team, but he should NOT GET THE BAG.
Morton was an average pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates to begin his career. Then, he landed with the Houston Astros in 2017 and had 3 of the best seasons of his career. Morton is now on the wrong side of 35. But in 2020, he showed he still has a great curveball and can be effective when teams need him most. He might only have 1 or 2 years left, but for a team missing a piece in their starting rotation, he could be the perfect fit.
The Rays should try and resign him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they let him go. The Rays place high value on their relievers, and they may be out of the running for Morton after they declined to pick up their club option for Morton. Considering his age and outstanding recent performance, it will be intriguing to see how much money teams are willing to offer. Someone will likely overpay.
Most likely team to sign Morton: Minnesota Twins
In contention to sign Morton: Padres, Phillies, Red Sox, Cardinals, Brewers, Angels
Marcell Ozuna – Outfielder
Marcell Ozuna just had a career year in a contract year. There’s no better feeling for a player, and now Ozuna is ready for his pay day. On a 1-year contract, Ozuna hit .338, and led the N.L. with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. Finishing 6th in MVP voting, Ozuna bet on himself when he signed with the Braves, and it’s about to pay off.
However, Ozuna is NOT WORTH THE BAG.
Ozuna was just an above-average slugger before 2020. The 30-year-old is known for his hot streaks, and Ozuna was on fire for the entirety of the shortened season. Great for Ozuna, but I am worried a team will now severely over pay for him.
The Braves paid him $18 million to play in Atlanta, and I think that’s what he’s worth. However, based on the numbers from 2020, Ozuna could get paid with baseball’s best, near $30 million per year. If a team pays that much for Ozuna, they will deeply regret it. Ozuna will most likely go in the $24-$26 million range, and even that is a little high. Ozuna’s defense isn’t great, so look for him to make the jump to the A.L. next season.
Most likely to sign Ozuna: Cleveland Indians
In contention to sign Ozuna: Red Sox, White Sox, Mariners, Cardinals, Brewers
Free agency is an exciting time, and has the ability to change the entire landscape of the M.L.B. Mookie Betts is a prime example. The Dodgers landing Betts seemed to be the piece that put them over the hump to win the 2020 World Series. Will another MLB team find their missing link this offseason?
The high-priced guys like LeMahieu and Bauer will steal the headlines, but the low-key signings could be the difference maker for a team. There are many mid-level players on the market this year that could just need a change in scenery to kickstart their engines. Relievers never get any of the praise, but the Rays recently showed what a couple bullpen signings could do for a team.
An asset is only as good as the price a team is willing to pay for it. Yea, Ozuna and Bauer might be great, but if a team overpays for them, it could prove to be a bad decision down the road. A team might not sign anyone this year. But, that could be to their benefit if all the players on the market are overpriced.
Expect teams with new owners and general managers to make early splashes, but free agency isn’t won or lost in the first few weeks. There are always marquee players that hold out until opening day, or even later, and baseball free agency really never stops. As general managers are busy on the phones, fans will just have to sit back and see where the chips fall. It’s time to see who gets the bag this MLB offseason.
Other Notable Free Agents:
- Carlos Santana – 1B/3B
- Justin Turner – 3B
- Didi Gregorius – SS
- Marcus Semien – SS
- Michael Brantley – OF
- Masahiro Tanaka – SP
- Liam Hendricks – RP
- Brad Hand – RP