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Our annual MLB free agent piece breaks down notable players from each position group, highlighting their expected path toward the open market, a calculated valuation, and a likely projection for their next contract.

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Starting Pitchers
Max Scherzer SP • 37 • LAD Calculated: 1 yr, $35M ($35M AAV)
Likely: 2 yr, $68M ($34M AAV)

He’s most likely on his way to Cy Young #4, and potentially World Series #2, so anyone who thought the Dodgers were picking up “just another arm” have already been proven wrong. Scherzer’s already cashed in plenty, so this next contract will be much more about fit & contention than dollar signs, but he’ll still find a few of those as well. Scherzer & Kershaw's contracts will be directly impacted by Trevor Bauer's roster status. If his legal issues keep him on the restricted list, the Dodgers will free up $34M of tax space in 2022. We'll slot Scherzer into that space.

Robbie RaySP • 30 • TOR Calculated: 5 yrs, $90M ($18M AAV)
Likely: 5 yrs, $100M ($20M AAV)

A late Blue Jays surge could prove financially effective for Ray, who’s far exceeded his $8M salary in 2021. Ray’s 6.3 WAR is second among pitchers to only Zach Wheeler, as are his 220 strikeouts. He’s heading for a 5 year, $90M contract in our system right now.

Clayton Kershaw SP • 34 • LAD Calculated: 3 yrs, $95M ($31.6M AAV)
Likely: 2 yrs, $60M ($30M AAV)

Impossible to imagine Kershaw playing in another uniform, and Trevor Bauer’s uncertainty likely furthers that statement. The 34 year old projects to his current AAV - $31M, but a few nagging injuries could really supress his ability to get to that $30M mark.

Kevin Gausman SP • 31 • SF Calculated: 5 yrs, $110M ($22M)
Likely: 3 yrs, $60M ($20M)

Gausman turned some heads when he accepted the $19M qualifying offer, and his production has slipped a bit in the second half, but he’ll hit the open market with plenty of steam. He’s bringing Darvish type numbers to the table, & a $22M valuation.

Marcus Stroman SP • 31 • NYM Calculated: 4 yrs, $84M ($21M AAV)
Likely: 4 yrs, $100M ($25M AAV)

With injuries across the Mets' rotation, Stroman has been one of the steadier arms in the NL, playing out a $19M qualifying offer in the process. He’s looking at a multi-year guarantee at a slightly higher price this winter, valuing in the $21M range right now.

Carlos Rodon SP • 29 • CHW Calculated: 4 yrs, $96M ($24M)
Likely: 5 yrs, $100M ($20M AAV)

The White Sox will have plenty of mouths to feed over the next few years, but to think about where Rodon was just 6 months ago versus today is remarkable. Chicago non-tendered him last winter, eventually bringing him back late in the game on a $3M deal. He’s now worth $24M a year in our system based on age & production. Is a jump that high likely? Probably not. But he’s the perfect candidate to benefit from playing for a great team in a contract year, and be overpaid by a not-so-great team that winter.

Noah Syndergaard SP • 29 • NYM Calculated: 7 yrs, $204M ($29.1M AAV)
Likely: 3 yrs, $60M ($20M AAV)

For now, there are plenty more question marks than answers with Noah. Will the Mets slap a $19M qualifying offer on him? Will he need to take a small “prove-it” deal before he cashes in? A healthy Noah values just north of $29M in our system, but it’s highly unlikely any team goes full boat this offseason. Is there potential value here? The Astros/Lance McCullers situation (5 years, $85M a year after surgery) could be a model for the Mets to use.

Relief Pitchers
Kenley JansenRP • 34 • LAD Calculated: 2 yrs, $20M ($10M AAV)
Likely: 2 yrs, $20M ($10M AAV)

Jansen’s teetering between a legitimate closer and a less-used setup man as he approaches free agency. Even if teams view him as the former, he’ll be hard pressed to find a contract north of $10M per year, which is where he currently projects in our system.

Craig Kimbrel RP • 33 • CHW Calculated: 3 yrs, $27 ($9M AAV)
Likely: 3 yrs, $30M ($10M AAV)

The White Sox hold a $16M club option for 2022 ($1M buyout), and his performance in August gives us no reason to believe they even consider exercising. That could change quickly in the postseason.

Raisel IglesiasRP • 31 • LAA Calculated: 3 yrs, $45M ($15M AAV)
Likely: 4 yrs, $64M ($16M AAV)

Iglesias has certainly done his part since coming to LA, and he’ll hit the market as potentially the best closer available. He’ll be eyeing Liam Hendricks’ $18M per year deal in Chicago, though he’s projecting in the 3 years, $45M range for us right now.

Yan GomesC • 34 • OAK Calculated: 2 yr, $15M ($7M AAV)
Likely: 2 yr, $12M ($6M AAV)

With Travis D’Arnaud extending in Atlanta, Gomes becomes the top potentially available catcher this winter. Gomes is finishing up a 2 year, $10M contract, and with D’Arnaud locking in $8M per year over the next two seasons, shouldn’t be in line for too much of a pay raise next season - if any. He projects to 2 years, $15M right now.

Buster Posey C • 34 • SF Calculated: 2 yrs, $22M ($11M AAV)
Likely: 2 yrs, $20M ($10M AAV)

After back-to-back tough seasons, Posey had a bounce back campaign in 2021, and his Giants are atop the league heading toward October. It could be the perfect swan song for the former #5 overall pick should SF get this to the finish line. Either way, it’s hard to imagine his $22M club option being exercised. There’s a $3M buyout to move on. When Yadier Molina was 34 years old, he scored a 3 year, $60M extension in St. Louis. Posey feels much more detached from this Giants roster than Yadi (still) does to the Cards, but a smaller version of those numbers could be in play here.

Mike Zunino C • 30 • TB Calculated: 4 yrs, $38M ($9.5M AAV)
Likely: 4 yrs, $40M ($10M AAV)

The Rays hold a $4M club option on Zunino, which shouldn’t be too rich for their blood, but if they decline, he immediately becomes the top dog on the market, with 30 HRs, and an OPS near .850 at the time of this piece. He holds a 4 year, $38M projection in our system.

1st Basemen
Freddie Freeman1B • 32 • ATL Calculated: 5 yrs, $136M ($27.1M AAV)
Likely: 5 yrs, $130M ($26M AAV)

It’s hard to imagine Freeman is actually allowed to the open market, especially if the DH comes to the National League in 2022. Atlanta has clamped down on overspending the past few years, focusing on early, team-friendly deals even for their young superstars, so the 5 year, $136M projection we hold him at might be too rich for their blood.

Anthony Rizzo1B • 32 • NYY Calculated: 4 yrs, $86M ($21.7M AAV)
Likely: 5 yrs, $90M ($18M AAV)

If Freddie Freeman isn’t available, the Yanks will almost certainly look to lock in Rizzo for the long-term this winter. He’s been making $16.5M each of the past two seasons, but his current valuation sits just north of $21M. A 5 year $90M contract could get it done.

Brandon Belt 1B • 33 • SF Calculated: 3 yrs, $51M ($17M AAV)
Likely: 3 yrs, $48M ($16M AAV)

Belt’s been a big part of the Giants surprise season, and has spent all 13 years of his big league career in San Francisco. While the 33 year old values just north of $17M in our system, he may be asked to take less to stick with SF going forward.

2nd Basemen
Chris TaylorUT • 31 • LAD Calculated: 4 yrs, $44M ($11M AAV)
Likely: 4 yrs, $44M ($11M AAV)

Taylor’s often the forgotten man in a loaded Dodgers lineup, but his versatility makes him one of the most valuable at times. His 20+ HRs and nearly .800 OPS this season should find him north of $10M per year in 2022. He’s played 2B, SS, 3B, and all over the OF in 2021. Taylor's worth much more if he can produce like this on a lesser team, but it's safe to assume his stats as a Dodger are slightly padded because of the protection he's garnered in the lineup for years.

Carlos CorreaSS • 27 • HOU Calculated: 10 yrs, $266M ($26.6M AAV)
Likely: 12 yrs, $300M ($25M AAV)

Correa reportedly turned down a 6 year, $120M extension prior to the season, and based on his talent alone, justifiably so. But the deep crop of shortstops set to hit the market won’t help his case in increasing that figure much, as supply lowers demand. He’s a $27M player in our system.

Trevor StorySS • 28 • COL Calculated: 8 yrs, $238M ($29.75M AAV)
Likely: 10 yrs, $342M ($34.2M AAV)

It’s still a mystery why the Rockies didn’t move Story in July, but they’ll slap a qualifying offer on him and watch him sign elsewhere this winter, possibly for record setting money. Story is the most talented overall SS in this deep group, and the big fish (LAD, LAA, NYY) will be ready to pounce. He projects to 8 years, $240M, but there's no reason to believe he can't surpass Lindor's $34.1M contract in New York.

Corey SeagerSS • 27 • LAD Calculated: 9 yrs, $272M ($30.2M AAV)
Likely: 12 yrs, $360M ($30M AAV)

A broken hand derailed what could have been a huge contract year for Seager, but there’s enough of a resume to find him plenty of dollars. Will it be with LAD, or on the open market remains the biggest question mark. Like Story, Seagar has $30M per year production.

Javier BaezSS • 28 • NYM Calculated: 8 yrs, $192M ($24M AAV)
Likely: 10 yrs, $220M ($22M AAV)

Baez is the atypical “boom or bust” player, both at the plate and defensively at times. Where he falls in this free agent crop is a really interesting follow, as many teams will rate him last on this list of available shortstops. Does that mean his price tag tanks too? Baez is a $24M player in our system to date.

Marcus SemienSS • 31 • TOR Calculated: 4 yrs, $78M ($19.5M AAV)
Likely: 5 yrs, $90M ($18M AAV)

One of the best 2021 stories in baseball, Semien turned a 1 year, $18M contract in Toronto into MVP type productions. He’d be foolish to leave the Blue Jays for a few extra million, and likely just wants multi-year security as a concession, even if it means a few million less per year.

3rd Basemen
Kris BryantOF/3B • 29 • SF Calculated: 6 yrs, $142M ($23.6M AAV)
Likely: 6 yrs, $150M ($25M AAV)

Bryant is still a pretty significant 5-tool player in this league, with speed being the least viable of his talents at this stage. The move to San Francisco seemed less like a rental, and more like a preview of more to come once an extension is figured out. Bryant will likely be seeking George Springer’s $25M AAV as a starting point this winter. The problem? Statistically speaking over the past two seasons he’s more Nick Castellanos than George Springer.

Eduardo Escobar3B • 32 • MIL Calculated: 3 yrs, $30M ($10M AAV)
Likely: 4 yrs, $48M ($12M AAV)

Escobar has 27 HRs and 81 RBIs at the time of this piece, much needed power production for a contender that has gotten very little from Christian Yelich. An extension in Milwaukee seems likely, and it shouldn’t cost more than $10M a year.

Kyle Seager 3B • 33 • SEA Calculated: 3 yrs, $56M ($18.9M AAV)
Likely: 4 yrs, $64M ($16M AAV)

The Mariners are likely to decline a $20M club option for Seager ($2M buyout) despite his 34 HR, 96 RBI season (at the time of this piece). A lack of consistency will factor into what could be a fairly high ceiling value contract this winter for somebody in the $10M range.

Michael Conforto OF • 28 • NYM Calculated: 6 yrs, $112M ($18.6M AAV)
Likely: 1 yr, $20M (Q/O)

Conforto was eyeing $25M a year before the start of the 2021 season. But injury and season-long slump has his value at an all-time low heading toward free agency. He’s a prime candidate to sign the $20M qualifying offer the Mets are sure to slap on him, bet on himself, and hit the market again in 2022.

Nick CastellanosOF • 29 • CIN Calculated: 6 yrs, $128M ($21.3M AAV)
Likely: 6 yrs, $120M ($20M AAV)

Castellanos can opt out of the remaining 2 years, $32M this winter if he desires, and with a weak free agent OF market, he might do just that. He’s posting career numbers across the board, including an .OPS north of .930. Someone will likely have a $20M per year offer on the table.

Kyle SchwarberOF • 28 • BOS Calculated: 3 yrs, $38M ($12.5M AAV)
Likely: 2 yrs, $24M ($12M AAV)

Schwarber had an incredible stretch of power through the middle of the season, but as per his usual, cooled off, and couldn’t stay healthy. He’s a nice fit for a team that has the depth to platoon him as needed, but he’s not a legitimate “starting 9” option. The National League getting a DH in 2022 could very much benefit his demand.

Designated Hitters
Nelson Cruz DH • 41 • TB Calculated: 1 yr, $14M ($14M AAV)
Likely: 1 yr, $10M ($10M AAV)

The gift that keeps on giving has 30+ HRs and 20+ doubles yet again. While the overall production has slipped a bit, Cruz still has legitimate staying power despite him being north of 40 years old. If he wants to give it one more go, his calculated value sits at $14M, but there’s likely a max $10M contract out there for him.

J.D. Martinez DH • 34 • BOS Calculated: 2 yrs, $46M ($23M AAV)
Likely: 4 yrs, $64M ($16M AAV)

Martinez can opt-out of a 1 year $19.35M salary in 2022 to hit the open market, and very much should do so. He’s refound his consistency (in large part due to video being allowed back in the dugout), and should be seeking a multi-year guarantee to round out his career. Even if that means a little less in terms of average salary. His calculated projection sits at 2 years, $46M.