It has been a wild week of big-time Major League Baseball free-agent signings, including Max Scherzer to the New York Mets, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to the Texas Rangers, Robbie Ray to the Seattle Mariners, and Javier Baez to the Detroit Tigers. However, all the fun is expected to stop on Thursday – probably for a few months.
At 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire, at which point the owners are expected to lock out the players. It will be baseball’s first work stoppage since the 1994-95 players’ strike. The two sides are nowhere close to a new agreement. While most around the sport believe no regular-season games will be missed, the free-agent and trade market will shut down until there’s a new CBA. Teams are allowed to talk to each other about possible trades, etc., but that’s it.
A number of players have recently said that Dec. 1 isn’t a deadline of any kind, yet the flurry of signings suggests that a number of free agents and their representatives believe otherwise. Last November saw only five free agents sign deals worth at least $1 million — all for one year and none for more than $15 million.
Among the many items being discussed during collective bargaining talks is an expanded postseason format, something MLB has sought for years to increase revenue. The players want the luxury tax abolished and teams to have a salary floor. Both sides seem to agree on having a universal DH going forward.
MLB has made several offers to address some of the MLBPA’s concerns, among them were an increase in the competitive balance tax threshold, the elimination of free-agent draft-pick compensation, a draft lottery similar to the one the NBA employs, the universal designated hitter and an increase of the minimum salary.
Rangers Big Winners So Far
No question the Texas Rangers are the big winners of free agency in spending a combined $500 million on the All-Stars Seager and Semien as well as $56 million on pitcher Jon Gray.
Semien got a seven-year, $175 million contract. Last offseason, the former A’s shortstop opted to sign a one-year deal with the Blue Jays in order to re-establish his market, and the result was a third-place finish in AL MVP voting. Semien hit .265/.334/.538 with 45 homers, a record for a second baseman, appearing in all 162 games. In addition to Silver Slugger honors, Semien also won a Gold Glove in his first year as a second baseman since 2014.
Semien told the Rangers he was fine staying at second base if they were to add a big-ticket shortstop and they gave Seager, the former NL Rookie of the Year and the 2020 World Series MVP, a 10-year, $325 million contract. That deal is the largest in Rangers history, significantly topping the market-shattering 10-year, $252 million contract the team gave Alex Rodriguez in 2001.
No question that Seager is a great player as the 27-year-old.295/.364/.501 with 100 home runs in 609 games from 2016 to 2021 and established himself as one of the sport’s premier offensive shortstops while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he also missed extended time on multiple occasions. Suddenly, Texas has the best middle infield in baseball.
If Seager got $325 million, former Astros shortstop Carlos Correa might get $350, although his market is shrinking with Seager, Baez and Semien off the board.
As for Gray, the Rangers gave him a four-year deal worth $56 million. Since 2016, his first full big-league season, Gray has been among the National League leaders in innings pitched (788 2/3), strikeouts (809) and wins (53). During that time, he’s also posted a 4.54 ERA (108 ERA+). Gray is also a significant upgrade for the Rangers’ rotation, which had the third-worst ERA (5.33) in MLB in 2021.
Outfielder Kole Calhoun also signed with Texas, which has spent more this offseason than any other team in MLB history. Arizona declined their $9 million team option on Calhoun after he slashed .235/.297/.373 in 51 games in 2021. The 34-year-old is considered a qualify defensive right fielder, and slashed .272/.338/.440 against right-handed pitchers, making him a potentially viable platoon option.
Texas won just 60 games in 2021 and is scheduled to open the 2022 season March 31 vs. the Yankees.