This offseason promises to be wild in many different ways, but in the world of free agency, the place will be full. Future Hall of Famers, shortstop everywhere, all those ex Puppies. Anyway, there will be a bit of everything.
But these final weeks of the season will make a big difference for certain free agents. They have the opportunity, in the final stretch and in the playoffs, to present the best possible cases for them. Here are the players who can win real money in the next month if they register a successful season closing.
1) Javier Báez, SS / 2B, Mets (28 years old)
It’s fair to say that Javier Baez has had, well, a tumultuous tenure with the Mets. But since the thumb down controversy, it’s been downright fantastic. He’s hitting .422 in September and slugging .778. Sure, there are only two walks (and 11 strikeouts) in that group, but that’s just Javier Baez’s entire experience. Mets fans were angry that they had only seen the downside of having Baez on their team; Over the last month, they have seen the rise. Even if the Mets don’t make the postseason, Baez, if he continues like this, can move up the ranks of shortstop free agency… and maybe even be a stealthily smart player.
2) Kris Bryant, 3B / OF, Giants (29)
Does anyone remember that Bryant had a pretty terrible 2020? (Hey, we didn’t all do it!) The irony of Bryant’s highly publicized battle over his free agency status is that if he had made it to free agency when he wanted to, after his lousy 2020 season, rather than after this one. fabulous 2021, you probably would have made less money than you do now. If the Giants can hold out to win the NL West and avoid that Wild Card Game, Bryant could be their best position player in the postseason and have plenty of opportunities to show the suitors, once again, why it can be. count on him in October. Waiting a year turned out to be the best possible situation for Bryant, surprisingly.
3) Nick Castellanos, OF, Reds (29)
Castellanos doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of MVP consideration, but it’s worth noting that he has a chance to lead the National League in both batting average and total bases and could well lead his team in the postseason. That will be key: getting the Reds into that NL wild card game and maybe doing something great once he’s there. But Jesse Winker, the Reds outfielder with whom he shared All-Star status, was injured, and it is Castellanos (along with Joey Votto) who has had to carry them. He’s also a spark for any team that hires him, assuming he gets out of his contract, which everyone assumes will happen, something that will be even more apparent as the Reds enter the postseason.
4) Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (26)
Correa has finally been healthy and efficient all season, and he could end up with the most lucrative contract of any free agent this winter given his age. He has also been a force in the playoffs in the past and will have ample opportunity to do so again. Let’s not forget: he has postseason starts on two consecutive Octobers, between 2019 and 2020.
5) Kevin Gausman, RHP, Giants (30)
Gausman was a quiet Cy Young candidate for a time, but he’s backtracked a bit in recent weeks, though his team clearly hasn’t. That 1.73 ERA in the first half has turned to 4.55 in the second half, although his strikeout rate has risen. (The ticket rate has, too, which could be the problem.) He’s still the alleged Game 1 starter for the team with the best record in baseball, which will get him as much attention as possible. Nobody will care about the second half if, in the postseason, he pitches like he did in the first half.
6) Zack Greinke, RHP, Astros (37)
Greinke has only pitched in one World Series (for the 2019 Astros). That’s kind of surprising, right? He’s been on so many great teams, and he’s been so fantastic to them, you’d think he would have sneaked in at least one other appearance. He has pitched for four different teams in the postseason – the Brewers, Dodgers, D-backs and Astros – during his 18-year career, making 19 postseason starts with a respectable (but barely dominant) 4.22 ERA.
But he’s going to do more this postseason, now as a future Hall of Famer and potential number one starter for a team that will be booed like crazy wherever he plays and is eager to shut up everyone who hates him. Greinke has never had a Madison Bumgarner-style postseason where he’s the centerpiece of it all. It sure would be something special to see him have one this year.
7) Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (27)
Corey Seager is one of the best free agent shortstop on the market, and a great way he’s been showing it is by staying that way despite one of the game’s other best shortstop, Trea Turner, being traded to his team but then transferred to second base. Seager continues to do what he’s done as long as he’s healthy, and while his health is going to be a concern to any team that hires him, and it could be the Dodgers, every game he plays is a reminder of how sublime a talent he is.
And in case you’ve forgotten: this was the World Series and National League MVP last year, so he’s certainly proved his worth in the postseason. The more time the Dodgers spend in October, the more Seager shines … and the more he raises his shares.
Will Leitch / MLB.com