As the Collective Bargaining Agreement deadline looms, MLB teams began a free agent frenzy with big names headed to contenders and rebuilding clubs alike.
The New York Mets kicked off the week inking infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder Mark Canha to similar contracts at $20 million and $26.5 million respectively, each covering two years. The Mets followed up by offering Starling Marte a four year deal worth $78 million, the fourth year being a sticking point. That move likely rounds out their lineup.
Evidently, they avoided spending on the biggest bats in free agency after long being linked to third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant and being rumored to have interest in retaining shortstop Javier Báez. Instead, New York agreed to terms on a $130 million, three year pact with perennial Cy Young Candidate Max Scherzer according to Jon Heyman. Jeff Passan added that Scherzer can opt out after the second year. With now nearly $80 million being shelled out to the top two in the Mets' rotation, that should fully remove one of the Phillies’ most formidable contenders from the Bryant sweepstakes.
While New York was expected to be a big spender, the Texas Rangers were more of a surprise free agent hot spot this week. It had been reported that the Rangers were willing to open their checkbooks, however, getting top free agents to agree to go to rebuilding clubs is always an issue in itself. This time, Texas got their guy in MVP finalist middle infielder Marcus Semien.
The experienced infielder landed a seven-year, $175 million deal. The Rangers still weren’t done, landing right hander Jon Gray for $56 million across four years and outfielder Kole Calhoun for $5.2 million this year with an option for 2023. In total Texas committed $236.2 million by the day's end.
Gray represents a potential steal of the offseason as he attempts to take the next step forward in his up and down career, finally moving away from Coors Field. Reports are that this doesn’t preclude the club from a Trevor Story pursuit, another Phillies target, yet it now presents a less obvious fit for him in Texas.
With the loss of their big bat middle infielder, the Toronto Blue Jays instead pivoted to filling out their rotation with Kevin Gausman on a five-year, $110 million contract. Gausman turned down the Blue Jays last offseason, instead signing the qualifying offer at $18.9 million to return to the San Francisco Giants. He parlayed a big first half sporting a 1.73 ERA into more than doubling his previous career earnings of $42 million with his new agreement. With Steve Matz already off the board, but their Cy Young winner still available in Robbie Ray, it will be interesting to compare the deals and performances of these three pitchers over the next few years.
Other teams around the league got busy with the Miami Marlins securing outfielder Avisail Garcia on a four-year deal worth $53 million. Additionally, they extended their young star pitcher Sandy Alcantara with a five-year, $56 million deal.
Possibly the most direct hit for Philadelphia shopping list came via another extension. Byron Buxton, a center fielder the Phillies have long coveted, agreed to a seven-year extension worth $100 million. The deal is also ladened with heavy incentives for MVP finishes and plate appearances. This extension for all intents and purposes ends any speculation that the speedster could become the next center fielder in Philadelphia.
Ultimately, while clubs around them got stronger, particularly the Mets, the Phillies lost out on two key targets in Buxton and Marte. Otherwise, potential big spending bidders on their other targets seem to have already made their moves. Now with the full on free agent frenzy seemingly coming to a screeching halt at the CBA deadline on December 1, it is up for the Phillies brass to go identify and get their guy as they’ve done with Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Zack Wheeler in previous offseasons.
More From SI's Inside The Phillies:
- Four Fringe Players Phillies Could Sign to Fill the Gaps
- Phillies Considered "Sleeper" for Star Shortstop
- Should the Phillies Make This Huge Trade Splash?