The MLB offseason has been tumultuous, with a record-breaking free agency period that saw players switch teams for huge contracts and trades. As the deadline approaches for MLB to announce their new roster rules, it’s time to predict what may happen next.
MLB free agency is a period where all players are allowed to sign with any team without restriction. The “mlb free agency date” is the day that MLB has announced will be the first day of signing.
Kris Bryant’s incredible first three years in the major leagues, when he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2015, was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2016, and had a.946 OPS in 2017, are perhaps best forgotten. That’s OK; we may never see him again. Kris Bryant’s latest incarnation, a power hitter who takes walks and can play up to five positions, is also rather excellent.
When you take away the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, when elite players all around the league had to adjust to a totally new environment, Bryant has an OPS of at least.834. He appeared in almost 140 games in all but one of them. Bryant has 11.1 FanGraphs wins above replacement from 2018 through 2021. Thirty-nine position players performed better, but just two are free agents: Freddie Freeman and Trevor Story.
Bryant isn’t flawless, but he can dramatically improve any team. His defense isn’t exceptional at any of the positions, but his skill set allows him to be competent at all of them. He’ll be in his 30s soon, but the short duration of his next deal — ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel forecasted five years for $90 million — may alleviate some of the back-end concerns.
Bryant made a strong comeback in 2021. He hit.265/.353/.481, was named to his fourth All-Star squad, had a FanGraphs WAR of 3.6, and started at least 10 games at five different positions (first base, third base, left field, center field and right field, plus he even made one late-game appearance at shortstop). Bryant, who turns 30 next month, will be one of the most sought-after players available when Major League Baseball’s offseason returns. And his adaptability gives him a lot of alternatives. The following are five teams that seem to make the most sense.
Milwaukee Brewers, No. 5
This is, admittedly, a pipe dream. Bryant hasn’t been connected to the Brewers, mostly because they are unlikely to be able to pay him. Only once has their Opening Day salary surpassed $105 million, in 2019, when it surpassed $122 million, only to be slashed by almost 20% the following time a complete season was played in 2021. They’re already budgeted for somewhat more than $110 million in 2022.
Signing Bryant, on the other hand, may make them the greatest club in the National League.
With Bryant at first base, Rowdy Tellez, who has a park-adjusted OPS of just 5% better than the league average in 275 career games, may be moved to designated hitter or a part-time job, depending on how the rules change in the future. He gives third baseman Luis Urias more flexibility and relieves some of the pressure on 35-year-old center fielder Lorenzo Cain, but the broader picture is what matters here.
The Brewers have the strongest rotation in baseball, a devastating bullpen, and a solid lineup that could use a little more power. Bryant and Christian Yelich have the potential to be a formidable duo. However, a mid-market club would have to pay two players more than $50 million per year on a long-term basis, with Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff’s salaries rising all the time. Cain received the Brewers’ greatest free-agent contract, a five-year, $80 million agreement inked in January 2018. Matt Garza had previously received $50 million in 2014. At the very least, it’s worth fantasizing about.
4. The Red Sox of Boston
It’s past time for the Red Sox to behave like the Red Sox once again. Since dealing Mookie Betts two offseasons ago, they’ve been unusually conservative, spending a total of $22 million on three back-end starting pitchers (James Paxton, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill). The Red Sox, on the other hand, could use a big bat, especially a corner outfielder who could help the rest of the order by confining Enrique Hernandez to two positions: second base (where Christian Arroyo can cover him if necessary) and center field (where Hernandez can spell Jackie Bradley Jr. against left-handed pitching).
Bryant would be a good match in left field and may possibly get time at first base, where Bobby Dalbec, a right-handed hitter, is expected to start after hitting 25 home runs in his first complete season. To stay up with the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays in baseball’s deepest division, the Red Sox need a move like this. And, certainly, they have the financial means to do so. Bryant’s deal would likely cost the Red Sox close to $200 million in 2022, but the team is capable of navigating those waters. Their only substantial financial obligations beyond this season will be to Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers.
3. The Giants of San Francisco
The first month of the offseason passed, and a slew of top-tier starting pitchers — Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and Kevin Gausman — went unsigned. Instead, the Giants went with a prudent approach to filling their several rotation gaps, bringing back Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani while also acquiring Alex Cobb. Following Buster Posey’s unexpected retirement, the Giants may choose to keep Joey Bart at catcher, thinking that he may develop into a big league regular while Curt Casali serves as a backup. A reunion with Bryant may be the Giants’ greatest option for acquiring impact players, at least in free agency. There are worse-case scenarios.
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With the Giants down the stretch, Bryant was solid but not terrific, batting. In 51 regular-season games, he hit 262/.344/.444 with seven home runs and six stolen bases. It’s a tiny sample size, but he started at third base and all three outfield positions during that period. The Giants are known for their adaptability, and they excel at optimizing matchups across the board. Bryant’s presence raises the stakes even higher, particularly if the new collective bargaining agreement includes a universal designated hitter. He can fill in for Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt in the corner infield — both of whom will be free agents next offseason — and he can contribute to an outfield that includes Mike Yastrzemski, LaMonte Wade Jr., Darryl Ruf, and Steven Duggar.
He’s also a right-handed power hitter for the middle of the order, something the Giants desperately need.
2. Mariners of Seattle
Despite a minus-51 run differential, the Mariners’ three-year reconstruction culminated in a dramatic stretch run in which they won 19 of their last 29 games and finished the season with 90 victories, coming two games short of ending a two-decade playoff drought. The Mariners may have performed over their skill level in 2021, but they think they are approaching a true contending window and have been waiting for this summer to strike. A late-November deal for free agency second baseman Adam Frazier and, more importantly, a $115 million splash on American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray demonstrated this. However, the Mariners need more offense. And, before the owners of MLB shut out the players, they were highly tied to Bryant, which makes sense.
Following Kyle Seager’s departure, the Mariners face a gaping void at third base. Bryant is an ideal match in that spot, enabling players like Ty France and Abraham Toro to rotate in and out of quasi-bench duties. Bryant can also step in at first base if Evan White continues to struggle offensively. Bryant can also help relieve some of the strain on the Mariners’ top outfield prospects, Jaren Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, the latter of whom seems to be on track for a 2022 debut. Last season, the Mariners had the fourth-lowest OPS in the majors, and their only proven big league hitters are Frazier and Mitch Haniger. They’ve been connected to Trevor Story, Matt Chapman, and Seiya Suzuki in the past, and all of them are available once the summer begins, but Bryant makes just as much sense.
The Philadelphia Phillies are the first team in the league.
Bryce Harper made it plain when he signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies in February 2019 that he intended to bring top players to Philadelphia. Enter Bryant, Harper’s travel-ball pal from Las Vegas who also happens to share an agent. Here’s how it works: The Phillies’ farm system isn’t very strong, and their salary is significantly skewed toward the top. In the foreseeable future, the company may have to undergo another lengthy overhaul. As a result, it must do all possible to maximize on its present core in order to win now, a task made more difficult by the fact that the division includes both the reigning World Series winners (the Atlanta Braves) and baseball’s top spenders (the New York Mets).
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Bryant seems to be more of a need than a luxury for the Phillies at this moment. Alec Bohm, the team’s primary third baseman, with a.247/.305/.342 slash line in 417 plate appearances during his age-24 season in 2021. And, although the Phillies would benefit from more patience with their previous No. 3 overall selection, having Bryant as insurance at that position would be a huge plus. In the interim, Bryant can spend the most of his time in left field, where the Phillies have been without a clear starter since Andrew McCutchen’s departure in the winter. He can also assist in the middle, which is another weak spot.
The Phillies will pay Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Zack Wheeler, and Aaron Nola a total of more than $210 million over the next two years. That’s a lot of money, but there are some very talented athletes. To win with them, the Phillies will need additional aid.
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The “top 20 mlb free agents 2022” is a list of the top 20 players in MLB free agency. The list includes players from the 2019 season and beyond.
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