Grading the Early MLB Free Agent Signings

Story posted December 3, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Daniel Mader

The past few years, the MLB offseason has been a drag, with big-name players waiting for months to sign somewhere. Some have even waited to sign as late as the end of Spring Training. 

However, the stove was red hot this offseason right off the bat, due to the looming lockout that started December 2 when the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) expired. 

It could take months for MLB players and team owners to find agreement on a variety of issues. There are no transactions during a lockout, so many free agents scurried to find a deal in the first few days of free agency.

With a lot of the top names already off the board because of this, we’ll look at two deals that made sense and two that could end badly, based on both fit and the contract. 

Like: AL Cy Young lands in Seattle

The Mariners won 90 games last season, a mark that would usually get most teams a wild card berth at worst, but they fell just short in the Wild Card race. 

Behind a solid offense, Seattle lacked a clear number one starter throughout the year. The signing of Robbie Ray, last season’s AL Cy Young, to a five-year deal worth $115 million addressed that problem.

The AL West will be very competitive next year, but Seattle has another strong chance to end their 20-year long postseason drought behind Ray. 

Don’t Like: Max Scherzer Gets Big Bucks from Mets

Max Scherzer is a generational pitcher, multiple-time Cy Young award winner and a guy all 30 teams would love to have. 

He is also 37 years old, coming off a postseason where he claimed his “arm felt dead,” which he attributed to mismanagement of his postseason innings. 

New York gave him a boatload of money anyway, playing on the upside rather than his age. It’s a boom-or-bust deal on a massive scale.

Scherzer still likely has some gas left in the tank, but giving him a whopping $130 million over three years (the highest AAV in MLB history) has big-time potential to bite the Mets later as he reaches age 40. 

Like: Javier Baez inks deal in Detroit

Detroit didn’t have quite enough for a playoff run last season, but the team has certainly made improvements, as they had their best winning percentage since 2016 (.475). 

Now is the time for the Tigers to pounce on big-fish free agents, to push their team over the top into postseason contention. By signing Javier Baez for six years, they did just that. 

While Detroit’s starting rotation and bullpen are solid, they needed a big bat to add to the lineup this offseason. Baez, despite his heavy strikeout rates, can be a two-way piece to build around in their ascension. 

Don’t Like: Rangers’ Middle Infield Commitments

The Rangers lost 102 games last season and ranked dead last in team OPS.

Signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien on large contracts makes no sense, at least in the short term. This team is still years away from contention. There is no knock on either player here, but the timeline and fit for Texas is what is baffling. 

Signing two position players can rarely win you twenty to thirty more games in baseball, no matter how good those players are.

If they had picked one over the other, preferably Seager due to his age and superstar status, the issue would not be as large. However, they committed $500 million to Seager and Semien limits the Rangers’ financial flexibility down the road. 

The other four teams in the AL West will remain competitive next year. Maybe Seager and Semien will help take Texas to the playoffs a few years from now, but this team is not ready yet. 

Daniel Mader is a second-year student majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact him, email dbm5725@psu.edu.