Major League Baseball has shifted gears following an exciting postseason as their offseason is underway, and free agency is the point of every team's focus. With a loaded class of free agents ready to figure out their next steps, this year's MLB Free Agency period could be one of the craziest this league has witnessed in a long time. Here's what you should expect in the following weeks and months.
What To Expect During 2021 MLB Free Agency
There's going to be a battle royale over the top available pitchers
Reports of the demise of starting pitchers were exaggerated. Although teams increasingly turned to their bullpen during the postseason, it’s clear that front offices still place a premium on starting pitching; Justin Verlander (one year, $25 million), Noah Syndergaard (one year, $21 million) and Eduardo Rodriguez (five years, $77 million) have all inked lucrative contracts since free agency began in earnest last week.
As such, it’s possible that the market for starting pitching will be reset this winter, especially considering that Robbie Ray (the 2021 American League Cy Young winner) and Max Scherzer (the best pitcher of the last five years) are still available. No pitcher will be able to match the $324 million mega-deal that Gerrit Cole signed in 2019, but Scherzer seems poised to become the first pitcher in baseball history to receive an annual salary worth more than $50 million.
Correa's market could only be one team based on expectations
When stars of Carlos Correa's caliber become free agents, they naturally attract a great deal of attention and fanfare. Unsurprisingly, Correa headlines this year’s free-agent class, coming off a season in which he produced more than seven wins above replacement.
Although Correa has spent his entire career as a major part of the Houston Astros’ infamous almost-dynasty, the Detroit Tigers have emerged as the favorite to sign the 27-year-old infielder. Beyond having the financial wherewithal to offer the $300+ million contract that Correa rumored to want, the Tigers have one key advantage over Correa’s other suitors: A.J. Hinch, the ex-Astros manager who won the World Series with Correa in 2017. If there's anything that talks as loud as money, it's connections.
The Seattle Mariners will go on a shopping spree
Coming off their winningest season in 18 years, the Seattle Mariners could be major players in free agency, eager to end their 20-year postseason drought, the longest in all of American professional sports. Despite notching 90 victories last season, the Mariners have glaring holes in their lineup, most notably in their middle infield.
Fortunately, this offseason boasts a historically great crop of shortstops and second basemen. Beyond Correa, All-Stars like Corey Seager (the 2020 World Series MVP), Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, and Chris Taylor. This offseason is the perfect opportunity for the Mariners to make the leap from a good team to a great one.
The Yankees will make a splash
No matter how many times the Yankees’ brain trust says that they’re constrained by the punitive luxury tax and that they’re committed to maintaining a flexible, relatively low payroll, it’s hard to take them at face value. After all, they’re the Yankees—they haven’t won 27 rings because of their fiscal responsibility. In this light, the Yankees have been linked to several marquee free agents even while publicly avowing that they won’t make a big splash.
What’s more, the situation of the Yankees’ current roster almost necessitates a big move. This is an incredibly talented team, yet one that’s too flawed to be a true contender. In particular, the Yankees need an athletic middle infielder—like, say, Correa or Seager or Semien or Story or Baez— who can stabilize their shaky defense and juice their enfeebled offense.