MLB free agency tracker: Grading and analyzing every free agent signing

Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander is one of the biggest offseason deals completed so far. Photo from CBS Sports.

It’s time for our MLB offseason grades 2021-22. The stove is at a good temperature with free agency moves piling up.

MLB offseason grades 2021-22

We’re diving into every MLB offseason move with our grades and reactions. Read below for analysis and contract details of the main MLB free agency signings to date.

Click here to jump to the latest deals.

Noah Syndergaard to Angels, one-year, $21.5 million

Pitching just two innings since 2019, this one is clearly a risk for the Angels, who also gave up a draft pick after Noah Syndergaard turned down the qualifying offer from the Mets.

There’s high upside of a one-two punch with Syndergaard backing up Shohei Ohtani, though. It’s an optimistic play from LA in that sense.

This deal can only be judged on how many reliable innings they add to their rotation. It’s exciting, but we’d like it a lot more with another year.

Grade: B

Justin Verlander to Astros, one-year, $25 million with a player option

Like Syndergaard, Verlander turned down the QO and got more money coming off a missed season.

Not many other pitchers in recent history could get a contract like this following Tommy John and nearing their 40th birthday. Verlander is different, and the Astros are banking on another couple of years of elite pitching from the future Hall of Famer.

It’s great if he’s still Verlander. The Astros will know his condition better than anyone – we’re inclined to trust them here.

Grade: B+

Anthony DeSclafani to Giants, three years, $36 million

Anthony DeSclafani’s free agency was always going to be interesting. He got it wrapped up before Thanksgiving, returning to Oracle Park on the back of the best year of his career.

San Francisco had 80% of its rotation hitting free agency, and they have to be delighted to get DeSclafani for just three years and $36 million.

It’s just the start of a busy Giants offseason, but it’s a good one.

Grade: B+

Eduardo Rodriguez to Tigers, five years, $77 million

Age and strong underlying numbers landed Eduardo Rodriguez a five-year deal with an opt out after season two. It was surprising to see the five years for Rodriguez, but it fits well with the timeline of this Detroit Tigers ballclub as they come out of a lengthy rebuild.

The opt out is a bit of a worry. If this looks a good deal for the Tigers, do they lose Rodriguez before they’re properly ready to contend?

Grade: B-

Manny Pina to Braves, two years, $8 million with a club option

Manny Pina is earning $4 million per year in 2022 and 2023, and the Atlanta Braves managed to tag on a club option at the same value in 2024.

Atlanta ranked dead-last in wins above average from catcher, so this outlay on Pina to backup Travis d’Arnaud makes a lot of sense. He’s a solid hitter for his position and ranked 14th in Statcast’s framing metrics in 2021.

There’s more to come from the Braves after winning the World Series, but this is a nice start.

Grade: A-

Read more: Best trades in MLB history

Aaron Loup to Angels, two years, $15 million with a $7.5 million club option in 2024

Even with Raisel Iglesias at the backend, the Angels were below average in the ‘pen last season. Aaron Loup was 16th among relievers with over 20 innings in FIP and ranked 23rd in left on base rate.

Only 18 relievers posted a better fWAR. Loup was dominant against lefties, holding them to an average under .165.

Their bullpen needs some cheaper depth as well, but Loup gives the Angels someone to build around regardless of Iglesias’ future.

Grade: A

Andrew Heaney to Dodgers, one-year, $10 million

Trouble with the long ball led to some ugly numbers for Andrew Heaney in 2021. He’s the perfect reclamation project for a Dodgers staff which has turned around numerous careers.

Heaney was 91st percentile in chase rate with a high-spin fastball. He even ranked above average in strikeout and walk rate.

Los Angeles will tweak his pitch mix, perhaps cutting down the changeups.

While we want to look at these signings in isolation, the fact it’s the Dodgers giving out this deal clearly matters. You’d back them to make Heaney into an effective arm, making this a bargain. And there’s no risk on a one-year deal when you’re as rich as LA.

Grade: B+

Steven Matz to Cardinals, four years, $44 million

Four years is a lot for a pitcher with Steven Matz’s track record and injury history. Solid for the Jays in 2021, Matz could benefit from the stellar infield defense in St Louis, and the Cardinals will be hoping he can hover around the 3.81 ERA he posted in 2021.

Slotting in behind Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright in the rotation, this is unlikely to be much more than fine. There’s real downside with a four-year pact.

Grade: C-

Kendall Graveman to White Sox, three years, $24 million

This looks like a big commitment for a pitcher with one season as an elite reliever. Kendall Graveman was exceptional in 2021, but he exceeded his expected numbers across the board, ranking just above average in expected ERA.

Chicago was already trying to trade Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is clearly on the market, leaving Graveman as their setup man.

The South Siders might have been better off spreading this money across a couple of arms – the volatility of relief pitching makes any multi-year deal risky.

Grade: D

Starling Marte to Mets, four years, $78 million

Starling Marte was the best outfielder on the market. He’s an All-Star with above average defense, great speed and more than a healthy dose of pop.

Marte makes the Mets better, and it’s an exciting win-now signing. He’s just celebrated his 33rd birthday, though, and history doesn’t tell a happy story about these sort of free agent deals.

The Lorenzo Cain contract in Milwaukee likely serves as a blueprint for how this works out. There’s going to be pain for the Mets at the back end of this deal.

Grade: C

Mark Canha to Mets, two years, $26.5 million

Including a third year on a club option, Mark Canha was one of the most underrated free agents on the market.

A strong corner outfield defender, Canha has put together four consecutive seasons of comfortably above average offensive production. He can hit lefties and righties and provides flexibility for the Mets as a defender.

While he’s not got much raw power, the former Athletic has a great eye, which should see him age pretty kindly as he moves into his mid-thirties.

Grade: B

Eduardo Escobar to Mets, two years, $20 million

One of the league’s better switch hitters, Eduardo Escobar brings versatility to the Mets on both sides of the ball. This is a low-risk deal with just two years of commitment, and Escobar has been a reliable performer throughout the last few seasons if we write off a down year in the shortened 2020 campaign.

Escobar has a 105 wRC+ since the start of 2018. He can play second, third or first to a passable level, and has experience on the outfield corners if required.

Rarely missing games and producing at a solid level, this is a good value deal for New York.

Grade: B+

Hector Neris to Astros, two years, $17 million

The Astros needed another backend arm after seeing Kendall Graveman walk in free agency. Hector Neris is their guy on a two-year pact, and it seems to make sense.

Neris had a turbulent few years with the Phillies, flipping between closer and setup. He enjoyed a good second half of 2021 when taken away from the ninth, though, and that’s the role he’ll fulfil in Texas.

With supreme underlying numbers, and working with Houston’s coaches, this looks like a stellar deal for the AL champs.

Grade: A-

Yimi Garcia to Blue Jays, two years, $11 million

With Rafael Dolis, David Phelps, Joakim Soria and Kirby Yates all hitting the free agent market, Toronto needed to be active in pursuit of relief pitching. They have done just that by landing Yimi Garcia to a two-year pact with a club option.

Garcia is coming off a rough year. Perhaps that worries some Jays fans. The track record is there to suggest he can bounce back in a big way in 2022, though, and his fastball added 1.4mph last year.

He ranks very well in spin rate on his hard and soft stuff – don’t be surprised to see Garcia flourish north of the border.

Grade: B-

Corey Kluber to Rays, one-year, $8 million

Look, sometimes free agent deals just fit. A late-career former Cy Young winner heading to the Rays on a one-year pact is one of those.

Kluber enjoyed a no-hitter and a solid year with the Yankees before health issues once again derailed his campaign. This is an ultra-low-risk move for Tampa Bay, who will manage Kluber’s workload carefully and get his stuff as sharp as it can be.

Tampa has enough pitching depth to cover for Kluber’s durability issues. He’s unlikely to throw more than 120 innings, but would anyone be surprised if he pitches to a sub-three ERA?

Grade: A-

Marcus Semien to Rangers, seven years, $175 million

Marcus Semien has finished third in MVP voting in the last two full seasons. Records tumbled in his explosive campaign with Toronto, and he brings versatility on defense.

He’s also heading into his age-31 campaign. Even with some other moves – two of which the Rangers made on November 28th – Texas isn’t going to be contending for at least a couple of seasons.

There’s a lot of downside here. Semien’s contract could weigh down the organisation when they’re ready to be good again.

Texas is relying on making a playoff push in the next year or two for this deal to make any sense at all.

Grade: D

Kevin Gausman to Blue Jays, five years, $110 million

Pairing Kevin Gausman with Jose Berrios and Hyun-Jin Ryu is a pretty exciting prospect north of the border. Paying the former Giant for five years looks favorable given what Semien received.

Yet, there’s cause for concern here, too. Gausman is a two-pitch guy who posted average numbers in the second half of 2021.

His track record as an All-Star level guy is very limited, and without developing his repertoire, there’s a limit on his effectiveness over 150+ innings.

Grade: C

Jon Gray to Rangers, four years, $56 million

Four years and $56 million for Jon Gray is a great deal in this market. That’s pretty much half of what Gausman received, and only $12 million more than Steven Matz landed from St Louis.

Gray’s stuff has always ranked favorably. His results haven’t always matched up, but much of that can be attributed to Coors and the Rockies’ player development.

Going to four years gives the Rangers time to figure this out, and an opportunity to see Gray’s peak in Texas. The annual value is very reasonable for a starter with his upside.

Grade: B+

Michael Lorenzen to Angels, one-year, $7 million

A lot has been made of Michael Lorenzen’s desire to play as a hitter and start on the mound. The Angels obviously have experience in this, so it kind of makes sense.

Lorenzen is no Ohtani, though. He’s a project starter and no more than a wildcard at the plate.

Alongside the Noah Syndergaard pact, Los Angeles has taken two gambles. It’s a fun risk with only one year of commitment, but we need to see how the rest of their offseason plays out.

Grade: B

Avisail Garcia to Marlins, four years, $53 million

Impressive numbers across the board have Miamians excited about the arrival of Avisail Garcia. This is the first big splash in free agency of the Derek Jeter era and follows Sandy Alcantara’s six-year extension.

Garcia is also heading into his age-31 season and is just a 113 wRC+ hitter since the start of 2017. He’s a subpar corner outfielder, potentially best suited to a DH over the life of this contract.

Miami isn’t an organization that can misjudge contracts like this. Garcia makes them better, but this is a long deal for a team that’s likely not competing until his age-32 campaign.

Grade: C

Kole Calhoun to Rangers, one-year, $5.2 million with club option

Projected as a league average hitter in 2022 by Steamer, this deal is fine. League-average is much better than many of the Rangers’ hitters.

Kole Calhoun has pop, but he’s lucky to be average on defense these days.

This is okay as a depth piece. The Rangers need much more if they’re to build anything close to a contender around Semien and Gray.

Grade: B-

Max Scherzer to Mets, three years, $130 million

Well, Steve Cohen is serious about spending this offseason. Max Scherzer’s desire to be in California was clearly outweighed by a truly historic contract.

Pairing Scherzer and Jacob deGrom will have Mets fans giddy with excitement, and with good reason. Still a Cy Young contender heading into this age-37 campaign, this is as win-now as it gets, and it’s very reliant on Scherzer being Scherzer for three more seasons.

The drop off late in the year and some postseason struggles can be pointed to as potential warning signs that Father Time is catching up with Mad Max. The weight of evidence is still in Scherzer’s favor, though, and keeping it to three years rather than four has to be viewed as a win of sorts for New York given the reporting over the last few days.

Grade: B

Robbie Ray to Mariners, five years, $115 million

Same years, $5 million more than Gausman seems about right. Ray has a patchy track record, but he’s coming off a Cy Young year, and if he can continue that in 2022, Seattle has an ace to lead their rotation long-term.

There’s risk here, though. Ray doesn’t bring a long back catalogue of elite seasons on the mound despite his historic strikeout marks. If he becomes the pre-Toronto pitcher again, this could be a pretty brutal overpay for the ambitious Mariners.

It’s a solid deal and nothing more. The Mariners have kept the years down, though, which makes it feel that bit safer.

Grade: B

Corey Seager to Rangers, 10 years, $325 million

The first of the big shortstops is off the market and it’s the Texas Rangers who’ve hit this one out the park. These deals always bring the risk for pain at the back end of the deal, but Texas has just created arguably the best middle infield in the sport.

When healthy, Seager is a truly elite hitter. He’s got a 132 wRC+ for his career and he’s just heading into his age-28 campaign. There’s so much to like about this for the Rangers.

It’s a matter of when, not if, for Seager’s move to third base, but the DH also gives Texas the opportunity to manage his workload throughout this deal. The AL West will be bonkers in 2022.

Grade: A-

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About Sam Cox 709 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play.

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