By Adam Greene
With the deadline for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement looming in two days’ time, free agency is presented with quite a few unknowns. How willing will players be to sign? Will we see massive $300+ million contracts given to the game’s elites as we have in the past? Which teams are going to be more enticed to save money this year and spend in the future? All of these questions have emerged with the Major League Baseball Players Association and front office executives constantly exchanging new CBA proposals.
With a lockout, all transactions around the league will be automatically stopped. No trades, no signings. Teams will still need to think about positions they’ll need to address before the season starts though. That being the case, here are four teams that will have to satisfy some spots across the diamond come Spring Training.
San Francisco Giants - Corner Infielder
The reigning NL West champs and team with the best record in the league will have some restructuring to do. Longtime catcher Buster Posey has announced his retirement, Evan Longoria is entering his age 36 season, and Kris Bryant is now a free agent. The Giants got a boost when Brandon Belt accepted his one-year $18.6 million qualifying offer, but the overall consensus around the team is that they’ll need to bring in another corner infielder. Without much flexibility on their 40-man roster, there are some financial obstacles they’ll need to navigate.
The obvious answer is to bring back Kris Bryant. He is a leader and can carry a clubhouse, but that comes with a high price. He’ll be looking for a contract worth well over $100 million, for the better part of the next decade. They need to bring in new pitchers with Kevin Gausman and Johnny Cueto electing free agency, so dishing out that large of a contract might not be in their best interest if they want to get a few more mid-high level starters like they did when re-signing Anthony Descalfani. Where does that leave them? A corner infielder with a veteran presence like Kyle Seager to complement that of Longoria would suit the team nicely. While they won’t bring as much star power to the lineup compared to Bryant, they aren’t too expensive but bring years of experience with them.
San Diego Padres - Outfield
The Padres had a disappointing end to their 2021 campaign. Coming into the season with high expectations, they performed up to them in the first half but had a disastrous second half after entering the All-Star break 53-40. Wil Myers is still under team control yet his companion Adam Frazier was just traded to Seattle for a couple of prospects. Behind Myers, the outfield bench is lacking. Bringing in a solidified outfielder to retain some of their depth should be a top priority this offseason, with the previous one succeeding in building their rotation and locking up Fernando Tatís Jr. long-term.
This doesn’t have to be and isn’t going to be a massive contract. A two-to-three-year deal with an above-average AAV is all they need to bring in an outfielder that’ll add some pop to an already elite lineup. Nick Castellanos comes to mind after an impressive 2021 season. Michael Conforto is another viable option even though he struggled last season, but has proven he can be a productive outfielder. Adding either of these bats would fill the hole the Padres seem to have in terms of depth in their outfield.
New York Yankees - Shortstop
It’s going to happen, there’s almost no workaround here. The New York Yankees need a new shortstop. Gleyber Torres has moved to second base indefinitely, Gio Urshela will be manning third, and DJ Lemahieu is slotted at first. It seems more than likely they’ll be moving on from Luke Voit, but this leaves an opening at short. Like always, we know the Yankees are willing to spend - and spend a lot. It’s no secret they have their eyes on Corey Seager and Carlos Correa, two superstars in their own right. It’s pretty safe to say either of these guys would significantly benefit New York, but there are a few other possibilities.
What I wouldn’t do if I were the Yankees is sign Trevor Story. His high swing-and-miss wouldn’t help a team that already has Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo in the lineup. They could look at someone like Jonothan Villar or Andrelton Simmons, someone to fill in short-term for a year (maybe two) until top-prospect Anthony Volpe is major league ready. Now, this isn’t what the fans are looking for, but they’ll eventually have to make a decision if they’re banking on this free-agent class for a SS or not.
Boston Red Sox - Starting Pitcher
Coming off of a deep playoff run few saw the Red Sox making, Boston finds themselves looking to rebuild their starting rotation going into 2022. Eduardo Rodríguez moved onto Detroit and Garrett Richards’ option was declined, leaving only Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale locked into the rotation. There is no doubt the pitching staff will take on a new look next season, so now the Sox have to determine if they want to make a splash in the free-agent market. Marcus Stroman could easily slot in as #3’s behind Eovaldi and Sale, or they can go the route they recently went with Michael Wacha and bring in a less-expensive, higher-risk pitcher.
Alex Cobb or previously mentioned Gausaman fit this description, and can be trusted to go out and toss four to six innings every time they pitch. Not to mention, former rival and newly crowned AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray is a free agent as well. Would Boston be willing to pay him and create a “big three” in their rotation?
Time will tell what happens for the free-agent market, trades, teams, and potential lockout, but no matter what there’s going to be a lot of moving pieces before baseball returns.
Adam Greene is a high school senior in Longmeadow, MA, and a diehard Boston sports fan. Follow him on Twitter at @aj_greene1015.