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With MLB back in business, the free-agent frenzy is about to begin

Houston Astros Carlos Correa raises his arms in celebration.
Carlos Correa, celebrating his two-run double for the Houston Astros against the Chicago White Sox in the 2021 playoffs, will be one of the most-coveted players on the free-agent market.
(David J. Phillip/Associated Press)
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The flame under baseball’s hot stove, extinguished by an owner-imposed lockout of players on Dec. 2, could roar back to life like a bonfire in the wake of a new collective bargaining agreement between the sides.

The only question is whether this March Madness will rival the fever pitch of last Nov. 28-Dec. 1, when 11 players — led by Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Javier Báez and Max Scherzer — signed $1.3 billion worth of contracts in a four-day span.

“When this deal is done, it’s gonna be the craziest free-agent frenzy we’ve witnessed,” former Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson wrote on Twitter last week. “Popcorn up, sports fans.”

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Pederson, who won World Series rings with the Dodgers in 2020 and the Atlanta Braves in 2021, is one of 250 or so free agents who will be balling for dollars. A flurry of trades could also contribute to a head-spinning number of transactions between now and the start of the season.

The Major League Baseball lockout has ended, with players and team owners agreeing in principle to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

March 10, 2022

Headlining the free-agent class are Carlos Correa, the slick-fielding, power-hitting shortstop who could command a deal of at least $300 million, and Freddie Freeman, the 32-year-old first baseman who capped his 12th season with the Braves by leading them to a World Series title.

Correa, 27, is coming off a strong season in which he hit .279 with an .850 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, a career-high 26 home runs, 92 RBIs, 116 strikeouts and 75 walks and won a Gold Glove Award for the Houston Astros. He has a .272 average, .840 OPS, 18 homers and 59 RBIs in 79 career postseason games.

Freeman, a former Orange El Modena High star, hit .300 with an .896 OPS, 31 homers, 83 RBIs, a National League-leading 120 runs, 107 strikeouts and 87 walks last season, and he’s a proven performer under pressure, with a .290 average, .916 OPS, nine homers and 20 RBIs in 42 playoff games.

An Atlanta institution for a decade, Freeman was unable to strike a pre-lockout deal with the Braves, who could now face stiff competition from the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and possibly the Dodgers to sign the franchise player.

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos runs.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos hits a home run against the Washington Nationals on Sept. 24, 2021.
(Paul Vernon/Associated Press)
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Among the other marquee position-playing attractions are outfielders Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario and Michael Conforto, shortstop Trevor Story and utility man Kris Bryant.

Castellanos, who hit .309 with a .939 OPS, 34 homers and 100 RBIs for Cincinnati last season, opted out of a Reds contract that would have paid him $34 million over the next two years.

Rosario increased his value by destroying the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series last October, batting .560 (14 for 25) with three homers and nine RBIs in six games to win series MVP honors.

The pickings are slimmer in the starting pitching market, after Scherzer (three years, $130 million with the New York Mets), Robbie Ray (five years, $115 million with the Seattle Mariners), Kevin Gausman (five years, $110 million with the Blue Jays) and Marcus Stroman (three years, $71 million with the Chicago Cubs) signed before the lockout.

Now that the lockout is over, the Dodgers have to improve their roster to get back to the World Series. Getting Freddie Freeman from the Braves is a start.

March 10, 2022

The top available rotation arms are left-hander Carlos Rodón, who went 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 24 starts for the Chicago White Sox, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who won three Cy Young Awards for the Dodgers but is recovering from a major elbow injury, and Zack Greinke, the 38-year-old right-hander who went 11-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 30 games for the Astros.

Veteran closer Kenley Jansen, who bounced back from three subpar years to go 4-4 with a 2.22 ERA and 38 saves in 69 games for the Dodgers, striking out 86 and walking 36 in 69 innings, heads a deep and experienced class of free-agent relievers, many of whom will be scrambling for jobs.

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Teams looking to add bullpen depth will have plenty to choose from, the long list of available relievers including Ian Kennedy, Archie Bradley, Andrew Miller, Jake Diekman, Jeurys Familia, Joe Kelly, Brad Hand, Chris Martin, Yusmeiro Petit, Adam Ottavino, Jimmy Nelson and Tony Watson.

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