Free agency is not as fun as the regular season, but for a baseball nerd like myself it’s pretty dang close. I love reading about contract negotiations and the game’s top free agents signing big deals and changing teams. Seeing how MLB clubs decide to spend their offseason is crucial for a franchise’s success, and if your general manager is serious about making sure your ballclub is a World Series contender they won’t have much sleep in these winter months. It’s time to look forward and stock up the cabinets and do everything you can to make sure your team wins ballgames next season and beyond.
This Friday Five counts down the best MLB players available on the free agent market, and you might wonder why Marcus Semien isn’t on this list. Semien is definitely a top five free agent in this class (I’d rank him third) but I don’t have him on here because A) you probably already know about him if you’re a Blue Jays fan, and B) I’ll do a separate breakdown in another article outlining what moves the Jays should make this offseason and give an in-depth analysis on the reasoning behind bringing back Semien. Bottom line, the dude is gonna get paid and he deserves it after the numbers he put up this year. But if you don’t follow much baseball outside of the Jays this Friday Five will give you the lowdown on who are the best players available to sign a new deal this winter.
#5: Kris Bryant (3B/OF, 29 yrs old)
— MLB (@MLB) August 11, 2021
I’m a huge fan of Kris Bryant. He was drafted by the Jays in 2010, but he decided to go to college instead and became the third overall pick three years later. Bryant was a stud with the Chicago Cubs, winning Rookie of the Year and then MVP as he helped bring the franchise their first World Series title in 108 years, breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat (one of the funniest, and at one point for Cubs fans traumatizing, sports stories you’ll ever hear). KB was a huge pickup for the San Francisco Giants at this past trade deadline as he became the focal point of the batting order for the club that finished the season with the best record.
Kris Bryant taking Trevor Bauer deep 5 years ago today will never get old. pic.twitter.com/7PPGOOteh0
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) October 30, 2021
Maybe I’m just stuck in the past, but I feel like people are sleeping on Kris Bryant. Even though he hasn’t been a superstar in recent years the way he was when he first came on the scene, he’s still put up consistent above-average numbers aside from 2020. But that year doesn’t really count. Bryant mashes fastballs and I like his defensive versatility as he can play both corner infield positions and the outfield. I still think he has at least 3-4 years left of his prime which lines up well for teams whose championship window has opened. He’s a guy who I’d want on my team as a leader who knows how to win, and I think the Jays should talk to Scott Boras, who represents KB, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and now Semien and see if they can get a deal done.
#4: Max Scherzer (SP, 37 YRS OLD)
3K career strikeouts for Max Scherzer 😤
The 19th player ever in MLB history 🔥
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 12, 2021
Mad Max is our generation’s Nolan Ryan. He’s been one of the best pitchers in the game since he got here, having won the Cy Young award for being the best pitcher in his league three times and had a seven-year streak where he finished in the top five in voting. Not only does Scherzer have a nasty pitching arsenal but I imagine he’s one of the scariest dudes to face when batters step into the box. He is a badass mofo, a true gamer in every sense of the word. The stories of how scared his new Dodgers teammates and coaches were to approach him in the dugout on start days were hilarious. The guy’s intense but he loves to have a good time.
Max Scherzer is feeling good. pic.twitter.com/T1rsAI2O3H
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) October 7, 2021
At 37 years old, Scherzer won’t be signing a monster contract. But this Friday Five counts down the best free agents available, not the ones who are gonna make the most on the open market. I can see a team inking Mad Max to a 3-year, $60 million deal and I think that’s a fair price for a guy who can still shove. Even if he isn’t part of the future, Scherzer is a guy I’d want on my team. I just hope he doesn’t sign with the Yankees or Red Sox.
#3: Corey Seager (SS, 27 YRS OLD)
I mean, it’s not often you’ll see a young, World Series MVP at a prime position hitting the open market. Corey Seager has been nothing short of a superstar dating back to the shortened 2020 season, having posted a .915 OPS and 145 OPS+ this year albeit missing two months with a broken hand. Seager was a key piece of the Dodgers’ World Series run and is gonna get PAID this winter.
Corey Seager was quietly one of the best players in MLB after returning from the IL on 7/30:
🔥 .335 BA (6th)
🔥 .417 OBP (3rd)
💪 .592 SLG (11th)
🔥 169 wRC+ (7th)
— Doug McKain (@DMAC_LA) November 5, 2021
Corey Seager, when healthy, might be the best shortstop in all of baseball. The problem I have with him is that he’s been a bit of a walking band-aid. Will injury concerns mitigate how much he gets on the free agent market? Probably not. But that’s why I have him only third because if I’m paying a guy that much money I want him to be able to play every day. The Dodgers had enough depth to make do while he missed time, but that’s not a luxury every team has. I see him going back to LA.
#2: Freddie Freeman (1B, 32 YRS OLD)
Freddie Freeman World Champion.
What a moment. pic.twitter.com/m0DQTyN3GP
— MLB (@MLB) November 3, 2021
I’m surprised the Atlanta Braves are letting him get to free agency. Freddie Freeman has been their franchise cornerstone for over a decade, where he’s been maybe the greatest first baseman in the game. He’s an everyday player, suiting up in over 90% of his team’s games in nine of his eleven full big league seasons, and he’s put up incredible offensive numbers year after year. Freeman’s a lifetime .295 hitter with six top-10 MVP finishes in his last nine seasons, winning the award last season when he put up a .341 batting average and 1.102 OPS. That’s bonkers.
— MLB (@MLB) November 1, 2021
A lot of people would have Seager above Freeman when ranking this MLB free agent class. He doesn’t play a premier position and might have his best years behind him, but I can see Freeman age gracefully and have an even better back nine to his career than Joey Votto. Freeman is as consistent as it gets, he is as well-rounded of a hitter you’ll find on the left side, and he’s a guy you want in your clubhouse leading a young team. The Braves don’t win the World Series without him, and they’d be foolish to let him go somewhere else this Winter. But the man better get paid what he’s worth.
#1: Carlos Correa (SS, 27 YRS old)
Whether you like him or hate him, as perhaps the most controversial, villainous figure of the Houston Astros, Carlos Correa is a stud. I knew about this guy before he was drafted first overall in 2012 and he has panned out better than just about any one-one in MLB history. This season, he set a career-high in long balls and walks and posted his lowest strikeout rate, while playing elite defense at shortstop where a guy his size is considered a giant at the position. Correa also came up clutch several times to secure the AL pennant for the ‘Stros.
— MLB (@MLB) November 1, 2021
At his age, Correa is gonna get the biggest free agent deal this offseason. He’ll be a MVP candidate for seasons to come and should command a 10-year deal in the $300M range as he’s in the stratosphere of Trout, Harper, and Machado who got similar long-term contracts. Every team that doesn’t have a top-five shortstop is gonna want to sign Correa, but only those willing to make their pockets deep will have a real chance.
Be on the lookout for my article next week where I’ll lay out what the Toronto Blue Jays need to do this offseason. If they make the right moves this winter they can become a legit World Series contender.