MLB Free Agency: Recapping Deals Completed In Days Before Lockout
Max Scherzer, 2021 Season
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With the league-wide assumption being that the owners would lock out the players upon the expiration of the CBA on Dec. 1, teams and free agents scrambled to get deals agreed to and signed. This was a safety measure taken by both parties in case their were any significant changes to salary structures following negotiations.

What it led to was perhaps the most exciting three-day offseason period in league history. Top free agents were switching teams in every direction and big money was being doled out nearly hourly. Now, with the lockout underway and all negotiations and transactions frozen, the best we can do is look back at the madness.

Here, we’ll recap all the crazy storylines from the days leading up to the lockout, specifically where certain free agents signed and for how much money.

Rangers spend $560 million to remake roster

The Texas Rangers have been basement-dwellers for several years now. However, after trading Joey Gallo and some starting pitchers at the trade deadline, they made a commitment to spend money in free agency during the winter. They delivered on that promise in grand fashion.

In just a few days, the Rangers spent $561 million, adding four players to their roster. Starting small, they added former Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Kole Calhoun to a reasonable deal. Then, they signed starting pitcher Jon Gray to a four-year, $56 million contract.

The big headline, though, is the $500 million they invested to remake their middle infield, adding second baseman and 2021 MVP finalist Marcus Semien as well as L.A. Dodgers World Series MVP Corey Seager.

With Semien and Seager, the Rangers are now home to the best middle infield in baseball by a wide margin. And while they’re not quite yet ready to be a playoff team given the other holes in their roster, they are ready to compete at a high level for years to come, and have made things that much more difficult in a suddenly loaded AL West.

Starting pitchers get paid

At one point or another, the Angels were connected to every top starting pitcher on the market, eventually landing Noah Syndergaard in the earlier weeks of the offseason. But before the lockout could get underway, every single one of the other top pitchers found new homes, none of them in Anaheim.

Robbie Ray received five years, $115 million from the Seattle Mariners, adding even more fuel to the AL West fire. Kevin Gausman got a similar five years, $110 million from the Toronto Blue Jays to serve as Ray’s replacement.

Marcus Stroman got three years and $71 million in the final hours on Wednesday from the Chicago Cubs, a surprise given the teams he was originally connected to. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer blew every AAV record out of the water, getting three years, $130 million from the New York Mets. And to a lesser extent, Steven Matz got four years, $44 million from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, the Angels are left with the trade market and middling free agent starters. They have been connected to Luis Castillo, but nothing will be happening on that end for weeks to come.

Tigers find their shortstop

Heading into the offseason, the Detroit Tigers seemed destined to land Carlos Correa from the Houston Astros. However, seeing the cost of a premier, MVP level shortstop, they pivoted away from Correa and ultimately landed on thrilling, but flawed, shortstop Javier Baez.

Baez received six years, $140 million from the Tigers and is now their shortstop of the future. The Tigers used this offseason to go all in, as there’s an argument to be made for them as a playoff team by 2023.

With Baez and Seager off the board, Correa and Trevor Story remain the top two shortstops in the free agent class. They’ll find homes quickly once the lockout is over.

Angels, Dodgers re-up with major free agents

Yes, the Dodgers did lose Scherzer and Seager. However, it can be argued that both got paid far above market value and that L.A. made a prudent decision not to match given the depth on their roster.

But with that being said, both the Dodgers and Angels found a way to get a deal done with each of their top remaining free agents. The Angels agreed to a four-year, $58 million deal with Raisel Iglesias with the Dodgers signed super utility man Chris Taylor to a four-year, $60 million deal.

Both getting similar deals shows how valuable each of them are to their franchise. With Seager gone, the Dodgers need Taylor to provide versatility and allow for different lineup combinations.

Iglesias gives the Angels their staunch closer and — along with Aaron Loup — a dominant back-end of their bullpen.

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