6 Bold Predictions for the 2021-22 MLB Free Agency
The 2021 MLB season showed us that anything can happen. Following a season-ending injury to Ronald Acuna Jr., who could’ve imagined the Atlanta Braves would win the World Series.
Now, it’s time to focus on free agency. It’s a deep class and there is bound to be one or two surprising signings. Let’s see if I can identify any of them.
Here are six bold predictions for the 2021-22 MLB free agency.
Max Scherzer Returns to Los Angeles But Not With the Dodgers
After off-field allegations forced Trevor Bauer to miss the second half of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers felt they needed to make a move to upgrade their rotation.
That’s when they acquired Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals. Scherzer was already having a strong season, but it got even better with the Dodgers.
Here are his numbers in 11 starts.
- 1.98 ERA
- 0.82 WHIP
- 8 walks
- 89 strikeouts
I’m sure that stretch helps Scherzer’s chances for winning a fourth Cy Young award. It also put him in prime position to earn another big contract.
The Dodgers would like to re-sign him, but I have to imagine they’ll prioritize bringing back Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager. It’s likely that they won’t be able to keep up with another team in a bidding war.
That other team is the Los Angeles Angels.
They are the reason the Angels have made the playoffs once in the last 12 seasons. That’s unacceptable when your offense features the best player of this generation.
In addition to Mike Trout, they have Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, Justin Upton, and Jared Walsh.
Ohtani had a great season in 2021, but he was their only starting pitcher with an ERA under 3.70. The Angels need to pair someone else with him.
Scherzer is 37 years old, but he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Plus, the Angels can’t continue to waste Trout’s prime. I can’t imagine he slows down anytime soon, but you don’t want to wait until he’s 33 or 34 to have a playoff team.
Adding Scherzer will give Los Angeles an elite one-two punch.
Carlos Correa Reunites With an Old Friend in Detroit
Despite all the off-field turmoil and controversy, the Houston Astros made it to their third World Series in five years. They couldn’t finish the job, and it’s possible their “core four” played their last game together.
Last offseason, the Astros watched George Springer leave in free agency. It seems likely they’ll do the same this offseason with Carlos Correa.
Correa is coming off arguably the best season of his career.
- 148 games
- .279 batting average
- 104 runs
- 26 home runs
- 92 RBIs
- 75 walks
Outside of batting average and RBIs, those all marked career highs. The 26-year-old is the top free agent this offseason. He should land a massive deal as he enters his prime.
Could that deal come with the Detroit Tigers?
Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs since 2014 and has been in a rebuild for the last few years. Last season, we finally saw them take steps forward with a 77-85 record.
Rebuilding allows you to build your team through the minor leagues. However, I believe you need at least one established star to take your team to the playoff level. That’s where Correa comes in.
Last season, Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman were the Tigers best hitters. With all due respect to those players, they aren’t moving the needle.
Willi Castro was their primary shortstop. Check out what he did in 125 games.
- .220 batting average
- 9 home runs
- 38 RBIs
- 23 walks
- 109 strikeouts
Tigers’ manager A.J Hinch was with Houston from 2015-2019. That familiarity should help Detroit’s chances of landing the star shortstop
Detroit is on the right path, but they won’t be legit contenders until they land an established star. Correa is that star.
Cincinnati Reds Upgrade Their Bullpen With Kendall Graveman
The Cincinnati Reds second-half surge nearly earned them a spot in the playoffs. Nonetheless, they still had a respectable season at 83-79.
Cincinnati’s offense was clearly the strength of their team. Behind the core of Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, and Jesse Winker, Cincinnati finished fourth in the NL in runs scored. Castellanos himself had one of the best hitting performances of the season.
Pitching was a big issue, in particular their bullpen. Check out their numbers.
- 4.99 ERA (27th)
- 1.38 WHIP (21st)
- 92 home runs (29th)
- 282 walks (23rd)
As the league continues to change, teams are becoming more and more reliant on their bullpen. A strong one will go a long way towards making the postseason.
Also, most great teams rely on a strong closer to close out games. Cincinnati didn’t have that last season. They almost had a closer by committee, as four pitchers had seven or eight saves. None of those pitchers had an ERA under 4.20.
Graveman spent the first half of the 2021 season with the Seattle Mariners. In 30 games, he had 10 saves with a 0.82 ERA and 0.70 WHIP. The Houston Astros acquired him for the stretch run.
Houston opted not to use Graveman as their closer. His ERA slipped after allowing four runs against the Mariners but overall, he was a reliable pitcher.
In the playoffs, Graveman allowed two runs in 11 innings. He also had four walks and 11 strikeouts.
That versatility to go back-and-forth between closer and reliever makes Graveman more valuable. The Reds need a reliable option on the backend. That’s exactly what they’ll get in Graveman.
At 30 years old, Graveman should be reliable for a few more years. Cincinnati shouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger on signing him.
The San Francisco Giants Overpay to Keep Kevin Gausman
The San Francisco Giants were the biggest surprise of the 2021 season. They crushed their preseason win total by finishing with an MLB best 107 wins.
When you exceed expectations, it has a lot to do with individual players overperforming. One of those players was Kevin Gausman.
Gausman was basically a journeyman when he joined the Giants in 2020. In seven seasons, he never had an ERA under 3.50.
In 2021, Gausman came flying out of the gate. He allowed one run or fewer in 11 of his first 12 starts. That led to him making the all-star team with a 1.73 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 18 starts.
However, Gausman’s numbers dropped off following the all-star break.
- 15 starts
- 4.42 ERA
- 1.37 WHIP
- .276 opponent batting average
He allowed two or more runs in 11 of his 15 starts. A big difference from his first-half success. Even with the struggles, the 30-year-old appears to be in line for a big deal. One I think the Giants should be weary of.
Maybe it’s just me, but this seems like a classic case of a player having a career season in a contract year.
San Francisco only has one starter under contract next season. Because of that, I imagine they’ll make re-signing Gausman a top priority.
Marcus Stroman and Robbie Ray could be quality options. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind taking a shot on Justin Verlander. He continues to recover from Tommy John surgery, but the 38-year-old is battle-tested and the kind of pitcher you can trust.
Gausman will have suitors and will likely land a big deal. It might be a mistake for San Francisco to give him a big contract.
The New York Yankees Don’t Land One of the Top Shortstops
How many offseasons go by without the New York Yankees making at least one big signing?
The Yankees offense was a big disappointment in the first half of the 2021 season. With players like DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton, they scored the eighth fewest runs before the all-star break.
They moved up to 13th post-all-star break, but that still wasn’t where they expected it to be.
One of their biggest weaknesses was the shortstop position. Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, and Tyler Wade were a few players that spent time there. Offensively none of them made a major impact.
There are plenty of elite shortstops available in free agency. Take a look at the top options.
- Carlos Correa
- Corey Seager
- Trevor Story
Marcus Semien and Javier Baez primarily play second base, but they could also be an option.
With those three players available, there’s no way the Yankees don’t land one, right? Well, let’s look at the situation.
Right now, New York needs a shortstop, but it won’t last for long. Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza rank first and third in the Yankees farm system, respectively. They both happen to play shortstop.
Both players should reach the majors in 2023. LeMahieu is under contract through 2026, so second base isn’t an option.
It makes more sense for them to find a short-term option. They tried to acquire Aldrelton Simmons at the trade deadline and could bring him in on a one or two year deal.
Knowing the Yankees, a big price option might be too appealing to pass up. However, it might be smarter to trust your farm system and spend your money elsewhere.
Chris Taylor Will Be the Biggest Value Signing of Free Agency
Utility players like Chris Taylor are hard to find. Last season, Taylor played at least 20 games at four different positions. He also made the all-star team for the first time in his eight-year career.
On offense, he hit .254 with 20 home runs and 73 RBIs. He also had 13 stolen bases.
That versatility is valuable to any ball club. Taylor’s ceiling is lower than players like Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. When it comes to production and potential, Taylor can make as big of an impact as one of those guys.
No one is signing Taylor to a $300 million deal. Honestly, I can’t imagine he receives over $100 million.
Ben Zobrist was the ultimate utility player in the mid-2010s. In 2016, he landed a four-year, $56 million deal. Chicago Cubs fans know exactly how big of an impact a player like that can have.
Check out his numbers from the 2016 World Series.
- 10/28 (.357 batting average)
- 2 RBIs
- 3 walks
- 4 strikeouts
Zobrist won World Series MVP after having the game-winning hit in Game 7.
I’m not saying Taylor will win World Series MVP next season, but he has what it takes to take a fringe contender into the playoffs.
It seems like the Los Angeles Dodgers would love to have him back. If not, watch out for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Philadelphia looked into signing utility man Kike Hernandez last season. Hernandez went on to have 20 home runs and 60 RBIs with the Boston Red Sox. I have to wonder if the Phillies will push harder this time.
Taylor should draw a lot of interest in free agency. He’ll have the opportunity to choose where he plays next season.
Looking Ahead to MLB Free Agency
This free-agent class is one of the deepest in recent memory. Shortstop is the top position with Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story leading the way.
Those players along with a few more are going to receive a big contract. Which players or teams will surprise people?
Typically, bettors will have the option to bet on where the top free agent will sign. Make sure you check out the top MLB betting sites to place your bets.