Since my first round of grades for MLB free agency were published, many high-profile players signed the massive contracts fans were anticipating. However, many of them went to unexpected places, and a few particular high-profile free agents remain unsigned. Here are the grades for seven more players — five who signed, and two who did not.
SP Robbie Ray: Signed a 5-year, $115 million contract with Seattle
Since Félix Hernández’s prime ended in 2015, the Mariners biggest flaw has been their lack of starting pitching. In addressing that issue, there is no better place to look than the reigning Cy Young Award winner who just so happened to hit the market. With the young hidden core Seattle has and two top prospect outfielders waiting to blossom, Ray is a very boom or bust addition to the pitching staff. He will either pitch like the ace the Toronto Blue Jays got last year or he will revert to the “walk-a-holic” he was in seasons prior. Ray is only 30 and has plenty of innings in his left arm, so for the short term the Mariners netted a big boost to their roster.
SP Kevin Gausman: Signed a 5-year, $110 million contract with Toronto
Fresh off losing Ray to the Mariners, the Blue Jays already locked up José Berríos to a long-term deal and found a better replacement for the departing Cy Young Award winner. Gausman may not strike batters out at Ray’s level but he has been steadier in the last two seasons — he gives up fewer hits, fewer home runs and has a far lower propensity to walk batters. Gausman was the ace of the San Francisco Giants over the last two seasons and his arrival north of the border gives the Blue Jays a three-headed monster in a rotation including him, Berríos and Alek Manoah. This trio will be pitching together for at least the next five seasons, cementing Toronto as a force in the AL East.
2B/SS/3B Marcus Semien: Signed a 7-year, $175 million contract with Texas
This is the one of three sizable moves the Rangers made in just the first few weeks of the offseason — the other two being signings of outfielder Kole Calhoun and shortstop Corey Seager. Despite the fact that this team lost 102 games last season, they’ve already spent over $500 million to improve their roster. Semien does three things very well — he hits for great power, he plays well above-average defense at multiple positions and he is incredibly durable having missed zero games in the last two full seasons. The issue with his contract with the Rangers is the length. Seldom does a 7-plus year deal with a player already in his 30s ends up working out, and Semien will now be getting paid by the Rangers until he is 38. If Texas wins its first title while he’s there, then it will all work out. But otherwise, this is a big risk.
New York Mets: Signed OF Starling Marte for 4-years, $78 million and SP Max Scherzer for 3-years, $130 million
The Mets are finally spending like the baseball world was expecting them to and this will be a combined grade of their two biggest moves. Marte gives the Mets a true leadoff hitter and an elite defensive center fielder. However, Marte is already 33 and will be making almost $20 million in four years from now to play like the player he currently is. The same can be said to an even higher degree for Scherzer who joins the Mets at age 37 with a salary that will net him almost $1.5 million per game. Scherzer keeps proving that age will not slow him down as he finished third in Cy Young voting this past season. But minor health issues may add up and if he gets injured like fellow ace — and now teammate — Jacob deGrom did last year, the Mets will be burning money with his contract. Both deals are flashy and are for great players but come with a lot of risk involved as well.
1B Freddie Freeman (Played with Atlanta from 2010-2021): Remains unsigned
This is another grade that is more of an indictment on a team than a player. Freeman will enter the season next year at age 32, so it’s understandable why any team would be concerned about offering him a deal similar to Semien’s. However, Freeman has missed a total of seven games over the last three full seasons and has averaged a batting average around .300 and an OPS near .900 since 2016. Now that the long-anticipated lockout has begun, Freeman will remain unsigned for weeks or months. Some team will pay up to get him, but he would not look right in another team’s uniform. It’s mind-boggling that the Braves did not sign him before the lockout.
Braves’ Grade: F
Freeman’s Grade: C
SS Carlos Correa (Played for Houston from 2015-2021): Remains unsigned
Correa is undoubtedly the marquee free agent of the off-season. Given that he just turned 27, played in 148 games last season, finished fifth in MVP voting and posted a 7.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) last season, it’s no surprise that he wants the most money. Now that Seager, also a shortstop, signed his 10-year deal with the Rangers worth $325 million, Correa is not likely to settle for less. The only explanations for him not signing yet are that he has simply not come to a decision of where to go or no team has offered the value of Seager’s contract. Despite the fact that he too now has to wait, teams will be begging for his services and will look to lock him up for years to come when the lockout is over.