Major League Baseball franchise owners ended the offseason in December, when they voted unanimously to lock down players and trigger the league’s first work stoppage since 1994-95. While the lockout is in effect, teams are unable to negotiate with free agents, leaving the fate of Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman and others to be determined at a future date, when the league and MLB Players Association ratified a new collective agreement.
While it may be some time before these players put their pens on paper, that doesn’t mean we should refrain from making crazy guesses about their eventual contracts. Indeed, below you will find our best stabs at the pacts that each of the top 10 remaining free agents will sign once the lockout is lifted and business picks up. (Remember, this exercise is for entertainment purposes only and as such should not be used to shame us when the estimates turn out to be totally inaccurate.)
1. Carlos Correa (No. 1 on the top 50 list): 10 years, $ 330 million
As far as we are concerned, the beacon of Correa’s contract is the 10-year pact worth $ 325 million that Corey Seager signed with the Texas Rangers before the lockout. Correa is the better player in our opinion, based largely on his perceived likelihood of staying in the shortstop position over the long term. Correa’s camp reportedly turned down a 10-year offer worth $ 275 million, so we’re going to guess that they have a similar point of comparison in mind. As such, we’ll guess that Correa ends up edging out Seager to the tune of a 10-year deal worth $ 330 million.
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2. Kris Bryant (# 3 on the Top 50 list): 6 years, $ 180 million
It’s harder to make a good comparison for Bryant, in part because there are only a few players who have the defensive versatility to stand in third or center. Could Bryant receive something along the lines of Marcus Semien’s contract? Semien, for those who have forgotten, signed with the Rangers for seven years and $ 175 million before the lockout. Maybe Bryant ends up taking fewer years at a slightly higher average annual value, putting him somewhere around, say, six years and $ 180 million.
3. Freddie Freeman (# 5 on the Top 50 list): 5 years, $ 160 million
It’s as surprising to us as it is to you, dear reader, that Freeman and the Atlanta Braves didn’t come to a deal when the owners voted to end winter. The expectation around the league is that the Braves will eventually make a deal. Freeman reportedly turned down a five-year offer worth $ 135 million, giving him a head start on the five-year $ 130 million extension Paul Goldschmidt signed with the St. Louis in 2019; Freeman would like six years and $ 180 million. The two parties will likely divide the difference. Our guess: five years, $ 160 million.
4. Trevor Story (# 11 on the Top 50 list): 6 years, $ 140 million
It’s fair to have reservations about Story’s arm strength and her long-term defensive home. But this winter has turned out to be generous to high-end mid-level players, be it Seager, Semien or even Javier Báez, who signed with the Detroit Tigers for $ 140 million over six years. If we had to guess, Story would get a similar deal – maybe six years, $ 140 million on the nose.
5. Nick Castellanos (# 14 on the top 50 list): 5 years, $ 115 million
Castellanos can really hit; he just can’t do much on the defensive end. Boston Red Sox designate forward JD Martinez signed a five-year contract worth $ 109 million ahead of the 2018 season. It’s not hard to predict that Castellanos will receive a similar contract, can -being five years and 115 million dollars, to become the daily DH of a lucky team.
6. Seiya Suzuki (# 15 on the top 50 list): 4 years, $ 64 million
With the exception of Shohei Ohtani, who was subject to the MLB limit on international amateur free agent salaries, there hasn’t been a hitter of this caliber coming from Japan in a long time. Suzuki looks certain to reverse the three-year, $ 21 million contract that Shogo Akiyama received from the Reds ahead of the 2020 season. Will he threaten six characters? Uh, probably not. We’ll go for four years, $ 64 million, but it’s hard for us to say if it’s too aggressive or not enough.
7. Clayton Kershaw (# 16 on the top 50 list): 3 years, $ 80 million
Kershaw is a difficult pitcher to pin down. The most similar talents in the market – that is, pitchers with rich careers and risk of injury – have signed contracts worth three years and $ 130 million (Max Scherzer) and two years and $ 50 million (Justin Verlander). Kershaw isn’t actively coming out of Tommy John surgery, like Verlander, so we’re going to err on the side of the assault with a three-year, $ 80 million estimate.
8. Kenley Jansen (# 20 on the top 50 list): 4 years, $ 64 million
The Los Angeles Angels appeared to be establishing the relief market when they signed a four-year pact worth $ 58 million for Raisel Iglesias. Jansen is a few years older than Iglesias, but we believe his decorated record will earn him a richer contract. He might not match the five-year, $ 80 million contract he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, but what about something like four years and $ 64 million? dollars?
9. Anthony Rizzo (# 22 on the top 50 list): 2 years, $ 40 million
Rizzo is a somewhat polarizing free agent: he’s a 32-year-old first baseman with 109 OPS + over the past two seasons and back issues. Regardless, he receives a lot of credit for his defense and leadership at the clubhouse. It only takes one team to believe in what Rizzo brings to the table (and / or his underlying ball-tracking data) for him to land a richer deal than the three-year pact of a worth $ 50 million that José Abreu signed last offseason. We’re going to go a little lower: two years, $ 40 million.
10. Michael Conforto (# 23 on the top 50 list): 5 years, $ 80 million
Conforto has just had a declining attacking season, which makes it more difficult to determine exactly how the teams will appreciate it. With that established, we used two factors to formulate our estimate: 1) Conforto declined the New York Mets one-year qualifying offer; and 2) Avisaíl García signed a four-year deal with the Miami Marlins worth $ 53 million. Unless Conforto played his hand badly, we think he’s looking at something like five years and $ 80 million.