Around this time last season, we predicted the outcome for what is our current free agent period. This year, we are exploring a deeper and more exciting future free agent class.
These are just ten free agent predictions, but the class is deep enough to explore more options beyond the ten that are listed.
10. Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw is probably the easiest free agent prediction of next year’s class. He is currently set to hit the market, but this free agency seems to be similar to what Derek Jeter’s free agent period was in 2010. This may come to a battle of how many years and for how much, but I don’t see the Dodgers letting their ace go. Even in his declining years, Kershaw could wind up using the market as leverage to get a few more dollars out of his upcoming contract. Still, I expect for it to be for at least three years.
Prediction: Clayton Kershaw remains with the Dodgers on a three-year, $70 million deal
9. Justin Verlander
Verlander will be 39-years old entering the 2022 season. He pitched in just one game last season before going down with an injury and could spend the entire 2021 season rehabbing. A team like Detroit could spend some money on the veteran on a one-year deal to end his career. He is likely going to experience a drastic pay cut from his $33 million annual salary, but we could use Cole Hamels’ $18 million deal with Atlanta last season as a baseline. Would Verlander want to return after Tommy John surgery for a lower salary?
Prediction: Justin Verlander signs a one-year, $18 million contract with a mutual option in 2023 with Detroit
8. Zack Greinke
It might seem odd that I glossed over a return to Houston as an option for Verlander. The Astros will have their hands full next offseason. In addition to Verlander, they will also have Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Zack Greinke hitting the open market. While the Astros might make a move on Verlander, it’s more likely that they would bring back Greinke. A poor season from Greinke this season could potentially see the Astros shift their focus elsewhere, but if he delivers another stellar outing, they will certainly look to bring him back. Greinke will certainly garner interest elsewhere, but the Astros might be willing to overpay to keep him.
Prediction: Zack Greinke returns to Houston on a two-year, $45 million deal
7. Max Scherzer
Scherzer can be lumped in with the previous three free agents mentioned. He is getting up there in age, but he could add to a team looking to contend. As much as I want to believe the Washington Nationals would be the team to keep him, it truly depends on their performance in 2021. If the Nationals find themselves with another ring or at least come close, I don’t believe they would consider bringing Scherzer back. The case would be different if they weren’t tied up to paying Stephen Strasburg $35 million annual salary.
That leaves Scherzer on the table for other contenders to consider. Teams that are looking for some stability in their rotation such as the Toronto Blue Jays may find it worth signing Scherzer to a short-term deal. The New York Yankees could also be an option, depending on how Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon perform this season. However, I do believe there is one potentially surprise team who will pick him up.
Prediction: Max Scherzer signs with the New York Mets on a one-year, $20 million deal
6. Corey Seager
Much like the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a reputation of taking care of their stars for the long run. Just this past offseason, they locked up Mookie Betts in a 12-year, $365 million deal. Clayton Kershaw is set to wrap up his 3-year, $93 million deal. It would be a reasonable assumption to believe he will be kept as well. The Dodgers would have zero issue opening up their checkbook for Francisco Lindor, should he hit the market without an extension. It might make more sense for the team to bring back Seager. Since they did just re-sign Betts to a major contract and they would like to pay some of their other stars in due time, one would expect them to go the cheaper route with Seager. He is one of the league’s best shortstops, but barring a number of extensions, he will arguably be the fourth or fifth-best option to hit the market. In addition, staying with the Dodgers ensures him playoff baseball each October.
Prediction: Corey Seager returns to the Dodgers for four-years, $100 million with an opt out after the second year
5. Carlos Correa
Correa is hitting the free agent market at the wrong time. Without getting into the controversy that surrounds his name, he has been relatively inconsistent. His talent is undeniable, but as deep as the shortstop class is this upcoming season, he may be forced to take a shorter contract similar to what Didi Gregorius took with the Philadelphia Phillies last season. The 26-year old has only played above 110 games once in his career since his 2015 debut. For now, until Correa proves otherwise, he enters free agency as a question mark with baggage.
Prediction: Carlos Correa re-signs with the Astros on a two-year, $50 million deal
4. Javier Baez
While I wouldn’t argue Baez as the best shortstop in the game, he is certainly near the upper echelon. There is no doubt that the Cubs will be in the running to bring him back. One would suspect Baez to command a lucrative payday. Age is still on his side, as he’ll be just 29-years old at the time of his free agency. Unlike Seager and Correa, this will be an opportunity to score a long-term contract. The Cubs will likely want him back, but it’s reasonable to question just how much they’d be willing to commit to him and whether or not he would be content with finishing his career in Chicago. The Cubs have taken care of him during the years he was under team control for the team, so I’m sure he will take the club seriously. However, temptation could lure him away.
The Detroit Tigers were rumored to be big buyers for the past free agency period, but we didn’t quite see that yet. They have been in rebuilding mode for a few years, but most of their prospects appear primed to graduate.
Prediction: The Detroit Tigers sign Javier Baez on a 9-year, $290 million deal
3. Trevor Story
The future of Story in Colorado appears to be coming to a close, according to the rumor mill. Aside from last year’s shortened season, he has finished with a near .300 batting average all five seasons, including 134 home runs. The New York Yankees have been heavily linked to Story through trade rumors. While Story could be a great fit for Yankee Stadium, I wouldn’t expect the team to give up the necessary assets to bring Story to New York. The team’s infield is currently set with Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit. It would likely take Urshela or Voit to struggle this season for the front office to consider moving on.
Prediction: Philidelphia Phillies Sign Trevor Story to a eight-year, $210 million deal
2. Freddie Freeman
It is hard to believe that it has been seven years since a 24-year-old Freddie Freeman inked an eight-year, $135 million deal. Freeman has earned his contract and is due another payday. The Braves would be smart to pursue and keep the beloved first baseman. He must also feel a strong sense of wanting to stay on the only team he has ever played for. Considering the bargains they are getting with Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, Atlanta has the option to overpay here. The unfortunate truth, however, is Freeman will be 32-years old. For a young team like the Braves, would they really outbid another suitor?
Prediction: Freddie Freeman signs a six-year, $200 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels
1. Francisco Lindor
One way or another, the New York Mets have previously found a way to ruin their chances of being taken seriously for years. However, ever since new majority owner Steve Cohen, the energy seems to be different. Acquiring Francisco Lindor without mortgaging their future was a step in the right direction. Retaining the 26-year old would help cement them as a legitimate threat. I don’t see Cohen letting Lindor slip through his fingertips. Combine that with the fact that most big markets may find their hands full, Lindor could cash out with the Mets.
Prediction: New York Mets lock up Lindor on a 12-year, $335 million deal