Winter is here and the negotiation game is on.
But just because it will take a while for owners and players to come up with some sort of resolution to end the lockdown, that doesn’t mean we have to stop discussing what could / should happen when the sport finally resumes.
Because when you do, and teams can sign free agents and trade again, you’ll see a flurry of activity. It’s probably going to be a lot of fun, honestly, to watch free agents sign contracts and watch teams trade one after another. After all, what else are the main office guys going to do during the lockout besides planning their reassembly strategy?
So, we’ll break down division by division what’s on the agenda for the 30 teams, starting with the home of the reigning World Series champions, the National League East.
Braves fans, intoxicated by the thrill of winning that unexpected World Series, wanted only one little thing from the front office after the championship: to bring back fan favorite Freddie Freeman, the local baseball hero. The main office did not make that happen. And now the Dodgers, with their deep pockets and plenty of motivation after losing lineup left-hander Corey Seager, signed with Texas for $ 325 million, they need a left-handed slugger in the lineup to replace him. Hey.
Seriously, bring Freddie back. I posted a photo of World Series product prices from Atlanta, and a video showing the super long queue wandering around The Battery, and I felt like at least half of the responses were a variation of “Well there’s no excuse for not bringing Freddie in with all that new money! “If the Braves let Freeman go, this will be the shortest World Series honeymoon since the Marlins’ layoff sale after the 1997 World Series title.
Something tells me the Braves don’t want Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter, Luke Jackson and Will Smith to pitch more than 100 innings from the bullpen, so the need to add another established starting option is strong. Three of Atlanta’s top four postseason outfielders are free agents; Are you going to bring back Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario and / or Joc Pederson? Speaking of outfields, is Marcel Ozuna, who was deemed to have served his domestic abuse suspension by MLB, in Atlanta’s plans for 2022?
New York Mets
As New York native Larry David would say, the Mets’ first month of the offseason was “pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.” They hired the best pitcher on the market, Max Scherzer, and the best center fielder on the market, Starling Marte. They added outfielder Mark Canha and versatile infielder Eduardo Escobar. Losing Noah Syndergaard was a bit embarrassing, he said he basically had no news from the Mets, but the team recovered very well.
They’ll have a manager hired before the lockout ends, right? Yes. Of course. Probably. A healthy tandem of Scherzer and Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation would be amazing, and Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco are 3-4 big. However, I can’t have many good options, and adding another established starter to the mix that includes Tyler Megill and David Peterson among others would help.
How do the Mets view Escobar? Is he a full-time starter at third base (with Jeff McNeil at second), or is he a player who has near-full-time PA rebounding in multiple positions? If that’s the case, finding a free-agent hitting bat at third base (Kris Bryant?) Would be a huge improvement.
The Phillies had the NL MVP (Bryce Harper) and NL Cy Young voting runner-up (Zack Wheeler) leading the way in 2021, but they still missed the playoffs. Again. And aside from signing Corey Knebel to the bullpen, the front office didn’t do much to convince Philadelphia fans that 2022 will be different.
At the moment, Harper is the only established outfielder. The Phillies declined their options on Andrew McCutchen and Odubel Herrera (neither surprising) and they have a ton of fourth / fifth outfielders in those positions right now. They need an outfielder and they need a mid-level bat and Kyle Schwarber is still out there. It makes perfect sense (especially if / when the designated hitter makes it to the National League in 2022 and beyond). If defense is the priority, maybe make a deal with Tampa Bay for Kevin Kiermaier?
At least a dozen new relievers, obviously. Who will play shortstop in 2022? Didi Gregorius is under contract, but had an OPS + of 71 and a bWAR of minus-0.8. Three other players watched at least 10 games at shortstop and had the following on-base percentages: .282, .297, .306. It’s safe to say that there is room to improve performance from that point.
The best move of the offseason was signing Sandy Alcantara to an extension that will keep him at the club (unless there is a trade, of course) until at least 2026, with a club option for 2027. Alcantara went unnoticed for the season. last, but it was very, very good, both in the limitation of runs and in the innings. They also signed a needed puncher (Avisail Garcia) and improved their defense behind the plate (Gold Glove winner Jacob Stallings). Oh, and they traded in for Joey Wendle and Louis Head and expanded the club’s cornerstone, Miguel Rojas.
Even if they didn’t do anything significant after the lockout, the Marlins estimate they’ll be better in 2022 than 2021. But signing Garcia was only part of the answer, but not the full answer in the lineup (or outfield). They really could use another bat roaming the lawn in the gardens.
Pitch, especially the bullpen. Same as most teams.
They traded pretty much everyone they were able to trade before the July 30 deadline, so they’re probably through. They signed infielder Cesar Hernandez, who is a solid piece of the puzzle.
The Nationals have to address the pitching staff. They need starters and they need relievers. They have a lot of in-house options, of course, but not a lot in the way of reliable producers. They probably won’t compete for the best remaining arms, won’t compete for the playoffs in 2022, barring some kind of minor miracle, but the Nats feel like a great destination for pitchers looking to rebuild their value next season. then re-enter the free agent market after 2022.
And Ryan Zimmerman? The franchise icon has indicated that he wants to play in 2022, but will that happen in DC?