Assessing FA market after wild weekend

November 29th, 2021

As the clock ticks toward Wednesday night, club executives and player agents alike have been working tirelessly to get free agents signed to new deals prior to the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That meant a flurry of activity on Sunday, including deals for Kevin Gausman (five years, $110 million with the Blue Jays), Jon Gray (four years, $56 million with the Rangers) and Avisaíl García (four years, $53 million with the Marlins).

Those moves will help shape the next few seasons, but it was another deal that could prove to be the most impactful on this year’s market.

Marcus Semien agreed to a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Rangers, becoming the first domino to fall in this winter’s vaunted free-agent shortstop market. What will the move mean for the rest of the shortstop class? Let’s take a look at that question and a few others as we examine the state of the market heading into the new week:

What will Semien’s deal mean for the shortstops?
The industry-wide expectation has been that Semien would do very well in free agency following a stellar 2021 season that saw him finish third in American League Most Valuable Player voting for the second time in three years.

But while most believed the 31-year-old would find a healthy five-year deal, the idea of Semien landing a contract that will take him through his age-37 season seemed far-fetched. That’s precisely what he did, agreeing to a seven-year deal that will pay him an average of $25 million per season.

According to a source, the Mariners had been trying to get a deal done with Semien, but Seattle was offering five years. Once the Rangers pushed their offer to seven years, a deal came together quickly.

If a 31-year-old can land a seven-year deal, it’s reasonable to believe that the other four premier free-agent shortstops -- all of whom are between 27 and 29 -- could sign for at least seven years and as many as 10.

Remarkably, the Semien deal doesn’t take Texas out on the other shortstops, as a source said the Rangers remain engaged with both Corey Seager and Trevor Story. Semien played second base last season for the Blue Jays, so the idea of pairing him with one of the other free agents is appealing to a Rangers team looking to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2016.

One executive predicted that Seager would be the next of the shortstops to sign, while two others tabbed Javier Báez as the next to land a deal. Báez is being pursued by myriad teams, including the Tigers and Mets -- more on New York in a moment -- and could make a decision as early as Monday.

The one missing piece from this shortstop equation is Carlos Correa, the consensus No. 1 free agent this offseason. Correa doesn’t appear ready to sign before Wednesday, which isn’t a surprise given that he’s looking for a 10-year deal in the range of Francisco Lindor’s $341 million contract.

Is Scherzer to the Mets a done deal?
After a wild weekend of rumors, Max Scherzer and the Mets agreed to a three-year, $130 million deal on Monday, per a source. The contract also includes an opt-out after the 2023 season. When the deal is finalized, it will represent the highest average annual value for a deal in MLB history at $43.3 million.

The Mets, who were spurned by Steven Matz last week, spent Friday bolstering their lineup with the additions of Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha, but adding Scherzer is the biggest move of Billy Eppler’s first few weeks as general manager. It's a seismic deal for the franchise, as the deal is the fifth largest in team history by total dollars.

Adding a three-time Cy Young winner in Scherzer to a rotation that includes two-time winner Jacob deGrom gives the Mets a devastating one-two punch.

The Rangers and Marlins are big spenders!
We knew the Rangers were going to be players in free agency this winter, but Texas went on a Mets-like spending spree Sunday, handing out $236.2 million to Semien, Gray and Kole Calhoun -- and as we mentioned before, the Rangers aren’t finished.

The Marlins didn’t spend quite as much as the Rangers, but by agreeing with García and extending right-hander Sandy Alcantara with a five-year, $56 million contract, Miami spent $109 million in the two deals. The Marlins had tried to bring back Marte before the Mets outbid them, and while Nick Castellanos is a great fit for Miami, a source said he’s seeking a seven- or eight-year deal, likely taking him out of the Marlins’ price range.

Still, seeing teams that haven’t made the postseason in a while get aggressive in free agency (add the Tigers into that category, too) has been refreshing – and there will likely be more to come.

Why the sudden rush?
Although the CBA isn’t set to expire until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday night, a final flurry of deals could take place on Monday. According to multiple executives, it takes about 48 hours for a team to hammer out contract language and get the player’s physical completed once the terms of a deal are agreed upon.

“Monday could feel like the Trade Deadline,” one executive said.