While MLB might be in a lockout right now, there are plenty of talented free agents waiting to be signed once it is lifted. Whether they are pitchers or position players, these 10 guys can step into a franchise immediately and help them make a strong playoff push.
10. Carlos Rodon
Position: Starting Pitcher
The 29-year-old lefty was a shining star in the 2021 White Sox rotation, posting a 2.37 ERA and finishing the regular season with a 13-5 win-loss record. Not to mention his no-hitter against Cleveland early in the season.
Injuries, specifically shoulder injuries, plagued Rodon late in the season. On top of that, this has been Rodon’s first All-Star caliber season since debuting in 2015, and it came with noticeably fewer innings pitched than other starters who had success in 2021.
He also struggled in his first career playoff appearance, being chased out against Houston after just 2.2 innings and ending as the pitcher of record on the losing side.
In 2021, Rodon undoubtedly let it be known that he is an arm to be reckoned with. The big question, however, is can he stay healthy and consistent?
9. Anthony Rizzo
Position: First Base
Anthony Rizzo is coming off what has been back-to-back below average seasons. He suffered from the same monkey wrench that every player suffered from in 2020, hitting just .222 over 58 games.
However, in the first full season post-pandemic, he improved his batting average to .248 between the Cubs and Yankees. His power numbers were still in decline from previous years, though.
Anyone who’s watched Anthony Rizzo knows what he can do when he’s playing at his full potential. As recently as 2019, he hit .293 with 27 homers and 94 RBI.
Over the years, Rizzo has proven himself to be a consistent power hitter and a more than a solid defender. For teams looking for a reliable first baseman who’ll come cheaper than Freddie Freeman, Rizzo is a good option.
8. Trevor Story
Trevor Story was a real missed opportunity at the 2021 trade deadline. Even he was surprised and frustrated that the Rockies didn’t deal him elsewhere. At the time of the deadline, Story’s numbers were uncharacteristically low as he was hitting just .240 with 13 homers through 88 games.
He stayed put in Colorado and ended the season by improving his batting average to .251 and finishing with 24 homers and 75 RBI. From 2017 through 2019, Story was a force at the plate, hitting at least 24 homers and driving in at least 80 runs in each of those seasons. He also hit .291, .294 and .289 in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.
While Story has played in a ballpark that is skewed towards hitters, he’s also an excellent defender. A change of scenery is just what the slugging shortstop needs, and he’d be an excellent pickup for any team looking for a five-tool shortstop.
7. Clayton Kershaw
Position: Starting Pitcher
He’s hands-down the greatest pitcher of the 2010s and a generational talent. His numbers were also very impressive to begin the new decade as he went 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA in the shortened 2020 season, and won his first World Series ring to boot.
Kershaw saw his first significant dip in production of his entire career in 2021, going 10-8 with a 3.55 ERA with his lowest number of innings pitched in a full season since his rookie year, due to injury. He’ll also be turning 34 next month.
Other than that, there’s no reason for teams who can spend on starting pitching not to go after Kershaw. His career speaks for itself, and he’s still got some good years ahead of him.
Signing Kershaw to a three or four-year deal would be relatively low-risk considering the kind of pitcher you’d be getting for your money.
6. Kyle Schwarber
Position: Left Field and Catcher
Schwarber went on a surge this past season, specifically in June. In June alone, Schwarber went 28 for 100 with 16 home runs and 32 RBI. His success in June accounted for exactly half of his 32 regular season home runs in 2021.
After his trade to Boston, he hit .291 over 41 regular season games. He only hit .204 in the postseason, but had a home run in every series, including a towering shot in Boston’s Wild Card victory over the Yankees.
He only appeared in 113 regular season games in 2021, but Schwarber showed that he’s an offensive powerhouse just as he did in 2019. Now that the designated hitter has officially been made universal, he’d be a great asset for any team looking to add a consistent power bat.
5. Kenley Jansen
Positions: Closer/Relief pitcher
Kenley Jansen has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball since the 2013 season. Since that time, he’s recorded at least 28 saves every season, with the exception of 2020. He’s 34 years old but recorded 38 saves in 2021 and pitched masterfully in the postseason.
Jansen is easily the best remaining free agency relief pitcher, and the Dodgers would be wise to hang onto him. Any team who needs bolstering their bullpen and can spend should be ready to try and sign Jansen as soon as the lockout is over, though.
4. Nick Castellanos
Positions: Third Base and Right Field
Nick Castellanos is an exceptional hitter and is coming off what is easily the best season of his career. His 2021 slash line is .309/.362/.576. To add to that, he also hit 34 homers and drove in an even 100 runs.
When he was traded to the Cubs in 2019, he hit .321 in 51 games with them. While his defense is not nearly as impressive, of the remaining FA’s, Castellanos had arguably the best 2021 campaign from a purely offensive standpoint.
3. Kris Bryant
Positions: Third Base, Outfield, and First Base
Bryant is an MVP who brings an intangible spark. His trade from the Cubs to the Giants at the deadline rocked the baseball world, and he didn’t disappoint in San Francisco.
He hit .265 between his time with the Cubs and Giants in 2021, homering 25 times and driving in 73 runs in 144 games, and received his fourth all-star nod. He also shined in the NLDS against the Dodgers, hitting 8 for 17 in 5 games before the Giants fell to L.A.
Bryant may not have had the offensive season Castellanos did, but he’s a proven MVP who can play practically anywhere on defense and do so with ease.
2. Carlos Correa
This may come as a hot-take, but Carlos Correa is not the number one ballplayer on this list. He had the best 2021 WAR, and both his offensive and defensive numbers are impressive, but the controversy surrounding him makes it hard to put him at number one. He’s a consistent ~.275 hitter and is well above-average when it comes to defense.
However, the headache that would come with having Correa on your ballclub cannot be overlooked. He was a key member of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in which he and Jose Altuve both seemed to show little remorse for their role in.
He also made ridiculous comments about Derek Jeter’s defensive abilities over the offseason, potentially torching a chance at signing with the Astros’ newfound rival, the Yankees.
Correa will get signed and paid by someone no matter what. He’s an exceptional ballplayer and a top five shortstop after his impressive 2021 season.
However, he is going to demand a LOT of money, and for who you’d be paying for, it seems that any team looking at Correa as an option at shortstop may be able to avoid the stress by signing Trevor Story instead.
Position: First Base
Freddie Freeman is not only the best player remaining as a free agent right now, he’s also a top 10 position player and hands down the best active first baseman in baseball.
His 2021 slash line was .300/.393/.503, and on top of that, he had an incredible playoff campaign, hitting .303 over 16 postseason games and helping to lead the Atlanta Braves to victory in the 2021 World Series.
He’s also hit at least .295 for six straight seasons and was National League MVP in 2020.
The Braves would be beyond foolish to let him go as he is the linchpin of Atlanta’s offense. Not to mention his defense which is exceptional.
The Yankees seem like Freeman’s other most likely destination next to Atlanta. Whichever team signs him will be getting the top first baseman in baseball right now, and one of the best active position players.
Join our Discord to leave a question or comment regarding this article. We have sports fans talking betting all day — every day! JOIN THE DISCORD NOW AND QUALIFY FOR PRIZES & BETTING SWAG!