2022 MLB Free Agency: One spot requirement for each playoff team
As the calendar turns to October, the shortcomings of the best baseball teams become more apparent. The dearth of high-line talent is detrimental in the postseason. Vulnerabilities are exploited.
Now is the chance for the best MLB contenders to fix any weaknesses, build on their success and retain the players that gave them the chance to win the title.
With the free agency getting started, here’s one stand every breakout team needs.
RELATED: MLB’s Top 30 Free Agents Ranking
Los Angeles Dodgers: shortstop
In the free agent category, Trea Turner will be one of the most sought after – and the most expensive. The Dodgers will have to break the bank to keep the fast 29-year-old, who just became the first short man in franchise history to score 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a single season. His fWAR 6.3 ranked him third among all shortstops in the Major League, making him one of the most valuable players of his position in the sport.
Shortstop and promotion start – hey, Clayton Kershaw – will be among the Dodgers’ top priorities this off season. A flurry of dodger odds will soon affect the level of the major leagues, but not at a short stopping point. If Turner leaves, free agency will likely provide the answer unless the Dodgers feel comfortable bumping into second base Gavin Lux to Shortstop, where he started 50 games in 2021. Extension talks with Turner were brought up once the regular season began, but the East Coast has yet to Citizens are excluded from the possibility of residing in Los Angeles.
“Who knows what’s going to happen, but I’d love to be here,” Turner told FOX Sports in August. “That’s the first step, to be here, and for sure I can see myself playing here.”
Atlanta Braves: shortstop
The Braves find themselves in a similar situation, as their first short-term team hits the free agency. Dansby Swanson enjoyed a career year when he was 28, not only cutting .277/.329/.447 with 25 points on home but also driving all the short stops defensively with 21 points above average. He earned his first All-Star nod and a Gold Glove in the process. Local produce could very well return to Atlanta.
If he doesn’t, the Braves can continue their youthful movement if they feel the apprentice von Grissom is ready. The 21-year-old average player caught fire out of the gate in his debut season—the one he started at High-A—while playing mostly second base for injured Ozzie Albies. Grissom was primarily a short stopping point across the system, although it would be a huge gamble and a defensive cut for the Braves to put all their eggs in the 2019 Round 11 selection basket.
Philadelphia Phyllis: shortstop
Given the breadth of options available in the center, let’s stay here for a moment. The Phillies will be looking to build on the exciting postseason by adding in-place pieces, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them engage in a short free-agent craze. They’ve turned down their team’s $17 million option for second baseman Jean Segura, and while they can still sign the 32-year-old veteran for a lesser deal, it opens up space for another midfielder.
Bringing in a short-term star could allow junior Bryson Stott to make the transition to second base, as he made 41 of 118 starters this year and has come out better than he did in the short layover, both outside above average and defensive drills saved.
Another area of focus should be the same area they tried to address on the deadline – hum. Takeover Deadline David Robertson is now a free agent along with Corey Nebel, Brad Hand and Zach Evelyn, who turned down his mutual option. A lot of that money could go towards lengthening the squad, but after a post-season period in which Jose Alvarado and Ceranthon Dominguez were forced to take on a heavy load, the Velez duo should get some… rest this season.
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St. Louis Cardinals: catcher
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Cardinals have to make some decisions behind the board. Yadier Molina has just ended his extraordinary 19-year career, and after a season in which the Cardinal finished the year well below the substitution level in position (-0.7 fWAR), it seems likely that they will scout a free agency to find an immediate answer behind a plate.
St. Louis have inside options in 2016 with seventh-round Andrew Kneisner picking potential 22-year-old Evan Herrera, but the former has a 0.579 OPS over parts of four major league seasons and the latter may not be ready to take the reins after making his debut. In the major league in limited action.
San Diego Padres: first base
With Bullpen superstar Robert Suarez in the post-season and shortstops Craig Stammen and Pierce Johnson (and possibly Nick Martinez, who has a player option) coming to market, San Diego will also have to replace the veteran and two mid-season acquisitions at first base.
Bader’s longest-serving Will Myers, whose option with the club was recently rejected, will be entering free agency. So do Josh Bell and Brandon Drury. After a season in which National League candidate Mane Machado carried the Padres attack into the playoffs, adding pop at first base should help lighten the burden on Machado and Juan Soto.
New York Mets: start promoting
The Mets could use more slugs beyond the strength of Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Escobar, but their immediate need is to spin. Aside from Max Scherzer, there isn’t much certainty at first, as Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker all arrive for free agency.
The Mets have the financial backing to return most or all of those group property should the property choose to do so. Steve Cohen wasted no time in beginning the process of returning free priority customers, as he has already reportedly approached Edwin Diaz on a five-year, $102 million deal.
Jacob deGrom may be one of the most dominant shooters in MLB history, but he has only made 156.1 combined rounds in the past two seasons due to injuries. (Getty Images)
Houston Astros: first base
The Astros won’t have much time to clean up the last bits of confetti before turning their attention to free agency. As they showed in the post-season, there aren’t many shortcomings on the list, especially with the promotional staff. Offensively, they will still have Yordan Alvarez, Jeremy Peña, Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuff, Alex Bregman & Co. to continue to raise their offensive strong in 2023. But they can continue to add more pop at first base, as they finished last in the MLS at War 2022.
Veteran Yuli Gouriel has held the position for most of the year, posting an below-average 84 OPS+ for the season before upping his game in October. He is set to become a free agent, while acquisition deadline date Trey Mancini – who has struggled in his short tenure at the Astros – has a mutual option for 2023.
Cleveland Guardians: Energy
No, “strength” is not an attitude. But really, it’s not about where the sluggishness comes from and more about finding a way to add it to the lineup. The Guardians built their attack on a high contact rate, ranking 7th in hit average and 29th in home runs with the fewest hits in baseball. Outside of Jose Ramirez, Josh Naylor and Andres Jimenez, there were no more than 11 players on the Guardians squad. As they find, this is a tricky way to get around during October.
Specifically, Guardians can stand to add more pop behind the board or to supplement Naylor at first base. Despite Cleveland’s high rate as a team, its hunters combined to spread a dismal .178/.265/.265 slash as a group. It seems likely that Josh’s brother, highly regarded detective, Bo Naylor, will be ready to help prepare the dish sometime in 2023 after mashing 22 Double-A and Triple-A hams this year. However, the Guardians will want to add more proven strength in free agency to take the momentum off a top-flight title in four years.
New York Yankees: Aaron Judge
Again, true, a person is not a position. But no player enters free agency and means more to his team’s success than the 62-year-old. Getting him back should be a top priority for the Yankees. They tried to extend the judge’s tenure in the spring, offering a seven-year deal worth $213.5 million which the star turned down. The extension was proposed before one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history was published.
The asking price has gone up, and the Yankees’ focus should be on fulfilling the 30-year-old’s demands, especially given how the offense has moved to a division title down the extension. Judge, the only center Yankees player to finish the race in the top 50 baseball in fWAR, and mid-season possession Andrew Benintendi are both free agents, highlighting the Yankees’ need to strengthen their playing field.
Seattle Mariners: the second rule
After their first playoff appearance in 21 years, the Mariners only need to look at their last game in the post-season to see where they’re spending their money this season. The Seattle Marathon season ended with 18 runs in which the Mariners failed to score one. Their massive throw carried them through a magical season, and Luis Castillo’s extension should boost rotations for years to come, but their attack ranked 28th in the bigs in hitting average, 16th in the base percentage and 17th in the slow percentage.
The Mariners could look to be promoted at second base – they ranked 28th in the war this season – as veteran Adam Frazier arrives at free agency, although there aren’t as many obvious options available in the position as there are at Shortstop, which is held by J. B Crawford. Jan Segura and Colten Wong are among the top two base players. Jurickson Profar also has experience in the position, although he has not played full time on the site since 2019.
Tampa Bay Rays: first base
Like the Mariners, the Rays rode their berth to the after-season berth. They ranked 17th in batting average, 20th in base percentage and 25th in slowdown percentage. They simply had no offense to take a deep run in October and could use some extra pop in a free dealership, especially off the left side of the board—their left-handed had a 0.630 OPS this year—and in corner spots.
Toronto Blue Jays: start throwing and left-handed racket
Speaking of left-handed hitters, the Blue Jays don’t have them. Because the abuse was as strong as they had, the right hand was extremely heavy. Raimel Tapia and Cavan Biggio were the only left-handed hitters to have played in over 50 games, and each had an OPS of less than .700. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Blue Jays catch another in free agency while also cementing a rotation with a great deal of uncertainty behind aces Kevin Gusman and Alec Manoah.
Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. Previously he was Dodgers Editor for digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @Rowan Kavner.
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