Ranking remaining FAs: One man's take

November 27th, 2021

We know that Trade Deadline trades can still make all the difference in baseball. We just saw it with the Atlanta Braves. And it wasn’t just one trade from the baseball boss in Atlanta, Alex Anthopoulos, it was all of them in the end. The acquisitions of Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall made for the most significant Trade Deadline haul in MLB history.

But you know what’s unusual in modern baseball? The big-ticket free agent who immediately becomes a difference maker on the team that ends up winning it all, the way CC Sabathia was for the Yankees in 2009, when they last won the World Series. They hired him to be their ace. He was more of an ace in October than anytime during the season, and the Yankees won World Series No. 27. Sabathia also got plenty of help along the way with Mark Teixeira, another big-ticket free agent acquired by the Yankees during the same offseason.

The Cubs couldn’t have won the World Series for the first time in 108 years in 2016 without Jon Lester, but he had been at Wrigley for a year before the Cubs did finally close the deal. It took Max Scherzer five years in Washington before the Nationals won it all.

So we look now at the current free-agent class in baseball, and wonder which position player or pitcher still out there might change everything for a contender this time around. So here’s a fantasy draft of available players with their age on Opening Day, in order, with a surprising name at the top of my list:

1. Nick Castellanos, OF, age 30

It is rumored that the Giants, who won 107 games without him in 2021, might be in play for Castellanos, who hit 34 homers and knocked in 100 runs for the Reds last season. Putting that kind of bat in the outfield at Oracle Park might get the Giants to the championship next season. Castellano, at 30, is hardly the glamour name in the free-agent draft. On a team like the Giants, he might be the most important. I’d rather have him than any of the shortstops.

2. Robbie Ray, LHP, age 30

There are always questions about 30-year old starting pitchers when they become free agents. But Scherzer was 30 when he left the Tigers, and look what he did for the Nationals. You know who should go after Ray hard? The Mets, especially with the uncertainty about Jacob deGrom and with Noah Syndergaard gone to the Angels. You never want to overpay somebody after the season of his life. But you don’t ignore a Cy Young season like that, either.

3. Freddie Freeman, 1B, age 32

Freeman would make any contender on the planet better, but I think he’s staying in Atlanta. Having said that, he’s a much better fit for the Yankees, and better hitter, than Anthony Rizzo. And still just 32.

4. Scherzer, RHP, age 37

Yup. Still. Even at 37. The Astros think Justin Verlander, his old Tigers teammate, has a lot left in the tank. So, too, does Mad Max.

5. Carlos Correa, SS, age 27

The Yankees need a shortstop. But Yankees fans aren't really keen on the Astros, and he just said that Derek Jeter shouldn’t have won Gold Gloves. Somebody will sign him for big money, despite some history with a bad back. Maybe in the end he’s a guy who helps make a team like the Tigers into a contender, reuniting with old manager A.J. Hinch.

6. Marcus Semien, SS/2B, age 31

At 31, Semien is older than Correa and Corey Seager. He played second base last season for the Blue Jays. In the short term, with young shortstops like Anthony Volpe in the chute for the Yankees, Semien might be a better fit for New York than either Correa or Seager. And he’s already proven he can move off short.

7. Corey Seager, SS, age 28

Former NLCS MVP. Former World Series MVP. The only question about Seager is if he can stay healthy and on the field. He is the most natural fit for the Yankees. But I keep thinking Seager is going to stay with the Dodgers.

8. Javier Báez, 2B/SS, age 29

Things got complicated once the Cubs traded Báez to the Mets, especially after he got his feelings hurt being booed by fans in New York. But he came back after giving the fans the thumbs down sign. Now Báez would be a perfect fit for the Red Sox if they’re willing to spend the money it will take to get him.

9. Kyle Schwarber, OF/DH, age 29

Schwarber more a DH at this point in his career than an outfielder, or a first baseman. But he changed the Red Sox batting order once he was up near the top of it. Schwarber doesn’t just hit home runs. He’s a relentless count worker, great in the clubhouse, a winner. Somebody might get a steal with The Schwarb.

10. Chris Taylor, INF/OF, age 31

I know, I know. No natural position. Thirty-one years old. Lifetime batting average of .261. But Taylor played six positions for the Dodgers, and you’ve seen what he does in October. Said it before: His position is baseball player. What team that fancies itself a winner doesn’t need a winner like this?

By the way? You know what the best part of this is? More than a billion dollars will be spent on the players who comprise this list. And we still might have to wait until the next Trade Deadline for the player -- or players -- who will put somebody over the top in 2022. Fantasy baseball is big fun. The real thing is always better.