The Toughest MLB Free-Agent Decisions After the Lockout

Bleacher Report

Major League Baseball's lockout is already four weeks old, yet the signs still point to it not ending any time soon. Among other things, that means the free-agent market will remain closed for a while.

Even still, it's not hard to hard to spot significant matters that must be resolved when the market reopens.

We've rounded up eight team-specific decisions that we think will determine the general shape of free agency whenever baseball operations resume. These involve calls that must be made on specific free agents, as well as more general choices teams will have to make about the directions they're going in.

Since ranking these didn't seem particularly necessary, we'll proceed in alphabetical order.

Atlanta: Where to Draw the Line on Freddie Freeman

Even before he and Atlanta wrapped up its World Series win over the Houston Astros in October, Freddie Freeman was reiterating how badly he wanted to stay.

"I haven't envisioned playing anywhere else because I haven't gotten to that point yet," he told reporters. "I've put on this uniform since 2007. I got to put on a Braves uniform with the Gulf Coast League team. It's all I've ever known."

Months later, however, the 2020 National League MVP surprisingly remains unsigned. That's seemingly related to the length of his next deal, as Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported in November that Atlanta doesn't want to do a six-year term with the 32-year-old first baseman.

Though Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos did promise that payroll would go up in 2022, he only has $5 million more to spend before next year's payroll eclipses what the team spent in 2021. Freeman is potentially worth six times that much annually, and he'd be 37 by the end of a six-year contract.

This is to say that Atlanta's reluctance has some validity. But if ever there was an excuse to throw caution to the wind, it's a chance to re-sign a franchise icon after he helped said franchise win a championship.

Chicago Cubs: To Go All-In or Only Kinda-In

In the wake of a 91-loss season that also marked the end of an era, the Cubs have positioned themselves for a rebound by adding hurlers Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley and catcher Yan Gomes.

They may not be done yet. The organization still has a lot of payroll flexibility, after all, and Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported that it has serious interest in Carlos Correa.

The catch, though, is that the Cubs would "rather not" do a 10-year deal with the 27-year-old shortstop. That would preclude them from matching Corey Seager's 10-year, $325 million pact with the Texas Rangers, in which case they'll likely need to offer a much higher average annual value to secure Correa.

Either way, signing him will require the Cubs to go beyond their comfort zone. If they do, it'll be the ultimate tell that they're serious about immediately returning to contention even though it's only been months since they broke up their previous core.

If not, the Cubs will look more like a vaguely interesting pretender than an actual contender. Even now, it's hard not to wonder if that's the team they want to be while they quietly rebuild in the background.

#baseball, #professional

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