What a start to the off-season for Major League Baseball. Due to the looming expiration of the collective bargaining agreement between the team owners and the players, the uncertainty of what is to come has led to many quick extensions and free agency signings from teams across the league. This is a big shift from past years, when many free agents waited past the Winter Meetings to get deals done. The MLB “hot stove” has seemingly never been hotter, with big names like Max Scherzer, Javier Baez and Marcus Semien inking massive deals, and Rays standout Wander Franco extending his Rays career for another 12 years. But, which of these deals were the best, in terms of value for both the players and the teams? Our team of writers have their takes:
Max Scherzer, Mets, $130 million, 3 years
Talk about one of the deadliest 1-2 punches in sports. In NBC Sports’ preseason pitcher rankings, the now Mets pitcher Scherzer slotted in at fifth, while longtime ace deGrom was picked first. Being able to create this combination will be historic if both are able to stay healthy. Although Noah Syndergaard is gone, the other rotational pieces including Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker make the Mets starters as good as any other in the majors. My lone concern with Scherzer for the Mets is his age. He is currently 37 and will be 40 by the time his contract ends. The deal is short enough that age hopefully won’t be too much of a factor, but it will certainly be something to monitor. Regardless of age though, Scherzer is too good of a pitcher to pass up and will be a killer in his return to the AL East.
Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers, $175 million, 7 years
I absolutely love this deal for Texas. Without the signing of Corey Seager, it definitely wouldn’t be as great in my eyes, but with Seager completing an impressive infield duo, this is a great move for Texas. For $25 million per year, it’s a solid deal for Semien and the Rangers. The power hitter was fourth in the MLB in home runs in 2021 and I expect him to bring that huge power to Texas. Semien also had over 100 RBI’s in Toronto and was top 10 in hits across the entire MLB. While Globe Life Field is less hitter friendly compared to Rogers Centre, Semien will hit the cover off the ball regardless of the stadium he plays in. When you have the opportunity to grab a hitter of his caliber, you have to take that and that’s exactly what the Rangers did. If Texas can look to pick up some more quality pieces to surround Semien, this team will be dangerous and Semien will play a big part in their performance.
Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners, $115 million, 5 years
Seattle hasn’t had a reigning Cy Young winner on their team since a certain Felix Hernandez was dominating the league. Ray beat Gerrit Cole in several pitching categories last season and will look to show he is the real deal as he plays for his third team in three seasons. With this pickup, Ray is going to be the ace in a rotation that will also feature the talents of Logan Gilbert and Marco Gonzales, among others. It’s not as dominant as some other big three rotations in the league, but it still is a solid unit of arms for a team that almost made the playoffs last year. If someone like Justus Sheffield can become the starter he was poised to be, then Seattle, who made an absolute steal to get him, has the pitching pieces in place to make the postseason for the first time in 21 years.
Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays, $182 million, 11 years
The Rays won’t be “wander”ing from greatness by extending Wander Franco’s contract. It is a slight surprise considering the shortstop was only pulled up to the majors this year, but the time and money within this contract proves the talent he showcased this season is worth holding onto. He set or exceeded base running records, first reaching base for 26 consecutive games and being the first player under 21 to do so since the 1960s. Then, Franco reached a 43-game on-base streak to match Frank Robinson. This all came after his initial debut, where he scored a three-run homer, which set him up to finish the season with a .288 ERA, following a collection of massive hits and almost 40 RBIs. I still think that Franco should’ve been the American League Rookie of the Year, but third is still something to hang your glove on. Franco’s only getting started, and to go down in history as the youngest player to sign a contract over $100 million is huge for the Rays, who notably don’t spend a ton of money but still stack a ton of talent on their roster. This deal was big for both Franco and the Rays as an organization, and I’m sure it will pay off for the Rays, hopefully winning them a championship in the next few years considering how close they’ve come in recent seasons.