With there’s always quite a lot of room to quibble over free agent rankings, there was really no debate regarding the top handful of talent in this year’s class. (At least, that is, once Marcus Stroman elected to accept the qualifying offer.) After Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, Marcell Ozuna, and DJ LeMahieu — in whatever order; that’s how we had it — the drop-off to the rest of the board was rather pronounced.
As it turned out, those players signed contracts that hewed fairly closely to MLBTR’s predicted ranges. But the market, as always, had a few surprises for our in-house brain trust. In particular, Springer and LeMahieu came away with a fair bit more money than we had anticipated.
Trevor Bauer to Dodgers for three years, $102MM (with two opt-outs): If you’re of the opinion that Bauer is an ace-level hurler, then this deal represents a steal. The Dodgers are paying a premium rate, sure, but without any of the long-term entanglements. Then again, it’s only fair to note that Bauer has completed just one full season with a sub-4.00 ERA.
J.T. Realmuto to Phillies for five years, $115.5MM: This is a lot of coin for a free-agent catcher, but Realmuto is arguably the game’s best all-around backstop and the Phils got an up-close look at him before committing. If you value the hard-to-quantify contributions of a top-shelf catcher, this could be viewed as a bargain. On the other hand, Realmuto will turn thirty before the deal begins and the rigors of the position represent an ever-present concern.
George Springer to Blue Jays for six years, $150MM: Speaking of age, that’s the one real demerit in the situation of Springer, who’ll turn 32 at the tail end of the 2021 campaign. He’s a well-rounded masher who adds value with a versatile glove. If he can turn in a few more premium seasons and then settle in as a high-quality regular at the tail end of his career, Springer could easily reward the Jays for this contract.
Marcell Ozuna to Braves for four years, $65MM: Ozuna is significantly younger than Springer and easily bettered him at the plate in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But Ozuna’s stretches of bliss have surrounded other spans of merely above-average play, and his glove is not as renowned as his bat. While there’s obviously some cause to temper expectations, there’s a realistic scenario where the Atlanta organization achieves huge value in this deal.
DJ LeMahieu to Yankees for six years, $90MM: The idea of a 32-year-old LeMahieu signing a contract like this … well, it still feels a bit preposterous to hot stove watchers of a certain age. But you can threw out what you thought you knew about the guy with the Rockies. He has been on a tear ever since he donned pinstripes. Throw in a quality glove and gravitas, and you’ve got a great finishing piece for any team with championship ambitions. The sixth year feels like a stretch, but it’s important to remember that it was designed to tamp down the annual luxury tax hit for the Bronx Bombers.
So, which of these contracts do you believe was the shrewdest investment from the team perspective? (Response order randomized; poll link for app users.)