As the MLB season barrels towards a delayed season, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that any semblance of a normal schedule will be tossed out the window.
Not only does that mean a truncated spring training, we’re also in for a frenzied half off-season condensed into a matter of days once a new CBA is agreed upon. There are still plenty of impact players available in free agency and the trade market, and they’ll be finding new homes at a rapid pace.
To prepare for the flurry to come, here’s a guide to the best and worst places for the biggest stars to land from a Toronto Blue Jays perspective.
Best case: Philadelphia Phillies
Correa is a good enough player that he could make a fringe contender extremely dangerous, or an existing powerhouse nearly unstoppable. The shortstop wields a Platinum Glove and an elite bat, making him nothing short of a paradigm shifter — and someone you’d rather be a league away from.
There aren’t too many NL teams willing to spend Correa-type money, but the Phillies fit the bill as a near playoff-calibre club that needs a boost. The fact they’ve got Bryce Harper’s $330 million contract on the books shows they’re willing to take the plunge on the right player and rebuilding isn’t in the cards.
Worst case: New York Yankees
It’s no secret that Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela gave the Yankees subpar defence at short in 2021 and New York is always a player when it comes to top free agents. The Bronx Bombers have shown an aversion to going significantly above the luxury tax in recent seasons, but Correa is the type of guy you make an exception for. If he signed in New York, the Yankees would solidify themselves as division favorites.
Best case: Atlanta Braves
There’s an argument to be made that the ideal scenario for the Blue Jays would be for Freeman to land in Toronto. His bat would fit the lineup perfectly, he has Canadian connections, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down in his early 30’s. However, the team values position versatility enough that pairing Freeman with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and locking down the 1B/DH spots for the foreseeable future seems unlikely. Instead, a good outcome for Toronto would be a return to Atlanta where Freeman can continue to lead the excellent, but far-from-unbeatable, defending champs.
Worst case: Boston Red Sox
As it stands, the Red Sox seem like a team that’s a half step behind the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays, but upgrading Bobby Dalbec to Freeman would close that gap in a hurry. Boston’s pitching staff isn’t on the same level as the rest of the AL East, but a lineup with a core of Freeman, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers would be deadly.
Best case: San Francisco Giants
It’s in the best interest of any AL teams that the Giants are strong enough to provide resistance to the perennially dominant Los Angeles Dodgers. Although denying them access to an NL West title didn’t lead to an early playoff exit in 2021, anything can happen in a Wild Card Game. It’d be tough to expect San Francisco to repeat its magical run last year, but a returning Bryant would give the club a better shot.
Worst case: Seattle Mariners
Although no divisional rival looks like an obvious fit for Bryant, possible Wild Card contenders could get into the mix. With Robbie Ray fronting the rotation, Adam Frazier improving their lineup and an impressive cohort of young MLB-ready pitching on the way, the Mariners are looking like threats to bust their playoff drought. The addition of Bryant would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal — possibly at the expense of a team like the Blue Jays.
Best case: Toronto Blue Jays
The fit with Ramirez and the Blue Jays is truly undeniable. He fills the team’s biggest position hole at third base, he’s outstanding on offence, defence, and the basepaths, he’d help balance out a righty-heavy lineup — plus he’s young enough (29) that Toronto could explore an extension with him after a trade like they did with José Berríos. Also, his salary is low enough ($12 million this year and no-brainer option for $14 million in 2023) that he doesn’t prohibit further additions to the 2022 squad. The only question for the Blue Jays would be whether they can stomach the sky-high price the Cleveland Guardians can command for his services.
Worst case: Tampa Bay Rays
Making a splash for a player like Ramirez isn’t exactly the Rays’ style, but considering his team-friendly contract it’s not outside the realm of possibility. It would hurt Tampa Bay to move the kind of young talent this deal would cost, but the club is more than good enough to justify a win-now move. Conveniently for the Rays, Kevin Kiermaier’s salary matches Ramirez’s perfectly in 2022, which could help facilitate a deal that’d give Tampa its biggest offensive star since Evan Longoria was at the height of his powers. The Rays already have Yandy Diaz at third, but he could be included in the deal, or the team that put Nelson Cruz at first base last year could engage in some characteristic positional shuffling.
Best case: San Diego Padres
If you want to get dangerous players out of sight and out of mind, sending them to NL West teams other than the Dodgers seems like a wise idea. The Padres are always interested in bold win-now moves and Olson brings is an imposing slugger (39 HR in 2021) with a pair of Gold Gloves on his mantlepiece. A move to San Diego would require the Padres to cut bait on Eric Hosmer, but the veteran first baseman has produced 0.6 WAR in more than 2000 trips to the plate as a Padre — by far the worst total by someone getting that much playing time. The second-worst player by WAR with 2000 PA since 2018 is Carlos Santana with 6.8, more than 11 times Hosmer’s total. It’s time for the Padres to consider the former Kansas City Royal star a sunk cost and make a move.
Worst case: Boston Red Sox
Although Olson doesn’t have Freeman’s star power, he is coming off a superior 2021 and projection systems like him slightly better in 2022. He’s also right-handed, which means he could take advantage of the Green Monster.
Best case: Texas Rangers
By signing Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, and Jon Gray, the Rangers have shown they’re serious about building a contender, but much of the team’s roster is still barren. Behind Gray, the rotation is especially thin and if Texas is still pushing hard when the offseason resumes Castillo could be an interesting target for them, especially if they see him as an extension candidate. Even if they nabbed Castillo, Texas would project as a playoff threat, so AL contenders would be happy to see the changeup specialist ply his trade in Arlington.
Worst case: Los Angeles Angels
The answer here is probably the Yankees, but for variety’s sake it’s worth pointing out that the Angels still have Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon — and those three have never been healthy and effective at the same time for any extended period. Starting pitching has been a consistent sore spot for Los Angeles. If the Angels’ superstar position players stay healthy, significant additions to their rotation, like Castillo, could vault them into the Wild Card picture.