23 years ago, the Dodgers signed righty Kevin Brown to a seven-year, $105MM deal in advance of his age-34 season. It was the first baseball contract to break the $100MM barrier. The deal famously included a charter jet to fly Brown’s family from Georgia to Los Angeles 12 times per season. Sandy Alderson, then working for the commissioner’s office, called the deal “an affront and an insult to the commissioner of baseball.” Rivals were also displeased with Dodgers GM Kevin Malone, believing other bidders were not close.
Due to inflation and increases in MLB revenue, $300MM is now the top of the market round number, and nine players have crossed that barrier. $100MM is the realm of the very good, not superstar territory. Still, that round number still holds some psychological significance. This winter Corey Seager signed for $325MM, while Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, and Kevin Gausman have signed in the $110-175MM range.
That’s six $100MM contracts so far this winter, which we haven’t seen since seven players broke the barrier following the 2015 season. How many more $100M deals will be struck once the lockout ends, with 20 of our top 50 free agents still on the board?
There’s a general expectation that we’ll see a free agent frenzy of sorts when the lockout ends, with the possibility that most signings will have to occur in a period of less than one month. That pressure should make for an action-packed spring training/hot stove period. In theory, we could see increased spending once new competitive balance tax thresholds are known and 15 National League designated hitter jobs are potentially added. But for the most part, I think teams already have an idea of what they think each free agent is worth, and I don’t think that’s going to change much post-lockout.
I see a total of eight remaining free agents with at least some plausible chance to reach $100MM, if I’m generous. Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman are locks. Other candidates include Kris Bryant, Trevor Story, and Nick Castellanos, who were all projected by MLBTR in November to top the $100MM barrier. We’ll also throw Kyle Schwarber, Carlos Rodon, and Seiya Suzuki in the mix, even though they seem like long shots. In the poll below, vote for all the players you think will sign a contract worth $100MM or more before the season begins. Click here for a direct link to the poll, and here for the results.