The MLB lockout has mercifully come to an end after several months of tense negotiations and missed deadlines, with Opening Day set for April 7 -- just four short weeks from today. That means everything that needs to happen between now and Opening Day is going to happen on a very compressed schedule -- and that includes the remainder of free agency.
The free agency pause that the lockout led to left a bunch of the biggest names in the sport without a team. The new CBA leaves us with an altered landscape, with the designated hitter coming to the NL being the most meaningful on-field change you need to know about. That frees up 15 new starting lineup spots for hitters, and hopefully increases the market for at least some of the remaining free agents, many of whom can make a significant impact for Fantasy this season no matter where they sign.
So, with a frenzy about to kick off, I'm looking at where I want the top players to sign. I went to the CBS Sports MLB Free Agent Tracker, took the top 10 unsigned players, and put them on the team that makes the most sense for them – and their Fantasy value. I tried to stick with realistic options – not everyone can or would sign with the Rockies, after all – and specifically teams that have been rumored to be interested in the players.
We'll find out where these guys are signing potentially within the next few hours, but here's where I'd like to see the top free agents sign after the lockout ends, starting with big-time international free agent Seiya Suzuki, who is expected to make the leap to the majors this offseason.
OF Seiya Suzuki
Best landing spot: Blue Jays
Nothing is guaranteed with any player making the leap from Japan to MLB, but there's a lot to like in Suzuki's profile. He's posted an OPS better than 1.000 in three of the past four seasons, with 351 walks to 359 strikeouts (a 16.4% rate). You wouldn't expect him to sustain those numbers in the majors, but a face-plant would be surprising – he's been a better hitter than the likes of Yoshi Tsutsugo or Shogo Akiyama were before they made the leap. The Blue Jays would let Suzuki use his speed on the basepaths, and while Rogers Centre is a pretty neutral offensive environment overall, it remains one of the best parks for homers in the majors. And the Blue Jays offense creates a lot of opportunities for counting stats. He could be what we've hoped Cavan Biggio would turn into.
MIN Minnesota • #4 • Age: 28
The Dodgers have a Corey Seager-shaped hole in the lineup, and with questions about Max Muncy's health and availability, they could really use another big bat. Correa feels like he has a bit of unrealized potential still, especially given how much time he's missed in his career with injuries, but the good news is he's played 93% of games the past two seasons. Correa remains a potential four-category superstar, and the Dodgers are one of the few landing spots available that wouldn't represent a downgrade on his situation in Houston.
Kris Bryant LF
COL Colorado • #23 • Age: 31
Anytime a player is linked to the Rockies, they're going to be the top landing spot for that player. We don't really have a lot of recent examples of the Rockies acquiring a high-end hitter in or near their prime recently, weirdly, with Ian Desmond being the biggest free agent contract they've given out in the past decade. That went very poorly, though injuries played a big part in that. The more promising example might be Michael Cuddyer, who joined the Rockies in 2012 as a 33-year-old coming off a three-season stretch hitting .276/.341/.465; he hit .307/.362/.525 in three seasons with the Rockies despite his own injury issues. Bryant, 30, has hit .266/.360/.485 over the past three seasons, and I think I'd expect something like a .290 average and 35 homers from him playing half his games in Coors Field. At a shallow third-base position, he might be a top-five option.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #5 • Age: 33
Apologies to Scott White, our resident Braves fan, but between their World Series win and the Georgia Bulldogs' national championship win, he can live with the loss. Freeman isn't a player who needs a good park to be one of the best hitters in baseball, but moving to Yankee Stadium for half his games would be a boon. Freeman is darn near a perfect hitter, but if you had to identify one place he occasionally falls short of the elite tier, power is it. That wouldn't be a problem with Yankee Stadium's short right field; according to Baseball Savant, Freeman would have hit 95 home runs over the past three seasons playing at Yankee Stadium, compared to the 90 he actually hit. Freeman wouldn't necessarily see a massive increase in power numbers, but as he ages, landing in a better ballpark might help cover up for whatever slippage might be coming.
Trevor Story 2B
BOS Boston • #10 • Age: 30
It's not even clear if there is mutual interest on a return engagement, but obviously, that's the ideal landing spot. Whether 2021's (relative) struggles were a sign of Story starting to slip or if the trade rumors swirling around him affected him is an impossible question to answer, but we know Coors can cover up for a lot of deficiencies in a hitter's skill set. Leaving Coors wouldn't make Story a non-entity in Fantasy, but he'd certainly need to drop down draft boards, so let's just hope for the status quo to reign.
PHI Philadelphia • #8 • Age: 30
Castellanos enjoyed the breakout we've all been waiting for in 2021, but he did so in the very hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark. To be clear, he wasn't a product of Cincinnati's home park, but it certainly helped. Per Baseball Savant, he would've hit more homers in GABP than anywhere else, but Philadelphia is one of just seven parks where his total wouldn't have been projected to fall, at least. Staying in a hitter-friendly park and likely hitting behind Bryce Harper would make for a pretty nice landing spot for Castellanos, and the Phillies are looking for more help to power a postseason push.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #22 • Age: 34
We know the Dodgers will limit Kershaw's innings, but that might not be the worst thing for him given his elbow issues last season. We also know the Dodgers have a great support system in place for him to succeed, and that's the biggest thing for me. Kershaw probably won't ever be a big-time innings eater again, but he can still be a high-end per-inning contributor when healthy, and we know he's comfortable with the Dodgers and they can get the most out of him. Let's not mess with a good thing.
BOS Boston • #74 • Age: 35
There really hasn't been much reported interest in Jansen at all this offseason, which is a bit surprising given his bounceback in 2021. The Dodgers don't seem likely to bring him back and the Phillies already added Corey Knebel, potentially taking one of the rumored suitors off the board. The Marlins have more pressing needs than closer – as a Marlins fan, I wouldn't be thrilled about spending Kenley Jansen-kind of money on one – but they're an up-and-coming team that figures to play in a lot of close games with their high end pitching staff, so it's not a bad landing spot for Jansen. There'd be zero competition for Jansen, though I doubt he's going to sign anywhere his role will be in doubt.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #48 • Age: 33
Rizzo didn't take off the way we hoped he would when he got traded to the Yankees, but that's not so much a concern for me. They could still use some left-handed pop, and Yankee Stadium should still be arguably the best place for him to hit in the majors with that short right-field fence. It's a great lineup, too, and the Yankees have continued to be linked to Rizzo -- he makes sense if they fall short in their pursuit of Freeman. Obviously, he's a consolation prize if they can't get Freeman, but it might be enough to make Rizzo a top-12 1B.
SF San Francisco • #8 • Age: 29
This isn't the ideal landing spot, but the Marlins are one of the teams that has been publicly linked to him this offseason. Marlins Park is closer to a neutral environment these days than it once was, but it still isn't a great place to hit, unfortunately. And it isn't a great offense to hit in. But, given that we're limiting ourselves to realistic or rumored places, this is the best option available. Finding a multi-year deal may prove challenging for Conforto, so here's hoping we can find a better spot on a prove-it deal. The nice thing about Miami is there's no question he'd be an everyday player, and he'd certainly hit in the heart of the lineup. A bounceback to 30 homers and 100 RBI isn't unrealistic.