Baseball is finally upon us. As every player is trying to get prepared and stay healthy, some players have added pressure from their looming free agency. If the new upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Player’s Association and MLB doesn’t make a 2021 free agent nervous then the fact that they only have 60 games (probably less with the occasional rest day) to prove their worth to possible suitors should cause a spike in their blood pressure. I believe that some will benefit and some will suffer. It really comes down to the type of player; streaky or consistent, ramp-up time needed, fatigue, and injury-proneness. These notable players have a large task ahead of them and this bullshit season of 60 games will define their lives for the foreseeable future:
Mookie Betts – OF
Traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the recent offseason, Betts will be at the prime age of 28 when his contract expires. Betts will easily be the most sought after guy in the 2021 class as the former MVP is as talented as they come. With 6 years in the bigs, Betts has already filled his trophy case with 4 All-Star selections, 4 Gold Glove awards (RF), 3 Silver Sluggers (RF), an AL MVP (2018), and a World Series ring as a cherry on top. Expect him to go to the highest bidder and be locked up for 10+ years.
Didi Gregorius – SS
Didi signed a one-year deal with the Phillies this past offseason after spending the last 5 years with New York Yankees. He suffered a torn UCL in the 2018 playoffs that knocked him out of play until halfway through the 2019 season. When he came back, however, he was not the same guy at the plate. Didi struggled to find his footing and slashed .238/.276/.441 with 16 HR and 61 RBI (not bad, actually) in 82 games. Didi has 60 games to prove that 2019 was not his usual self and he has more to offer for his age 31 season.
Marcell Ozuna – OF
In a very similar situation to Didi, Ozuna signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves after a somewhat disappointing season in St. Louis. Ozuna has been looking to replicate his monster 2017 performance where he slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 HR and 124 RBI while also obtaining a Silver Slugger award and Gold Glove award in left field. There’s plenty of opportunity for Ozuna to boost his offensive stats this season since he gets to face the sad pitching staffs of teams like the Marlins, Orioles, and Red Sox. He will be 30 years old and seeking a multi-year deal if he performs well.
J.D. Martinez – OF/DH
Martinez signed a 5-year contract with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2018 season and has a player option after the 2020 season. It’s important to know that his contract was front loaded with him making $23.75mil in 2020 (prorated down to approx. $8.8mil) and $19.35mil in 2021/2022. If Martinez comes even close to the offensive production that he’s proven he’s capable of, expect him to opt-out and sign a multi-year deal for at least $25-30mil/year. In his 2 most recent years in Boston, he has played 296 games, slashed .317/.392/.593, hit 79 bombs, and knocked in 235 RBI. The only knacks against him is that he’s not the best outfielder and he’ll be 33 years old if and when he tests the market.
George Springer – OF
In his last 3 years in Houston, Springer has solidified himself as an elite force at the plate by slashing an average of .279/.365/.512 with an average of 32 HR and 84 RBI as a leadoff hitter. He only played 122 games last season so it is crucial for him to play as many games as possible this season to prove to potential suitors that he can stay healthy in the long-term and that he doesn’t need outside help to hit. Regardless of your opinion on whether he participated in the scandal or not, teams are going to line up to try and secure Springer for years to come.
This wouldn’t be a proper list if I didn’t have some honorable mentions to hand out! See below:
- SP Masahiro Tanaka – will he stay in New York or take his postseason dependability somewhere else?
- SP Trevor Bauer – this outspoken pitcher has sworn to only sign one-year deals for the rest of his career but there’s always a price.
- SS Marcus Semien – he will have 60 games to prove that his 3rd place AL MVP vote was not a fluke.
- SP Marcus Stroman – if he pitches well in 2020, he will have several multi-year offers, no problem.
- CP Alex Colome- former Ray-great, now on the White Sox. If he pitches like his normal self and gets into the playoffs, he’s looking at a pretty decent paycheck for 2021 and beyond.