Justin Verlander (Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MLB executives reportedly predict “one
of the best free-agent classes in recent memory” with several
high-profile players planning to use opt-out clauses in their
contracts to hit the open market.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post
reported Thursday it’s a group that includes New York Mets starting
pitcher Jacob deGrom, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin
Verlander, Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, Boston Red Sox
shortstop Xander Bogaerts and San Francisco Giants starting pitcher
Those players with options in their
contracts for 2023 are expected to join a star-studded free-agent
group also slated to include New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge
and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner.
Having so many notable names available
in free agency will represent the first major test for MLB’s
collective bargaining agreement.
The league and the Players Association
came to terms on a new CBA in March following a 99-day
lockout. One of the biggest concerns raised by the union throughout
the process was the “artificial restraints on free agency.”
That came after the free-agent market
became sluggish in recent years, which was basically a two-pronged
On one hand, teams with the talent to
contend were trying to avoid reaching the league’s Competitive
Balance Tax, MLB’s version of a luxury tax, and opted for cheaper
On the other, a fair number of clubs fully embraced tanking, so they had no interest in signing free
agents who would add significant payroll when the World Series
wasn’t a realistic target.
It left a small number of teams to
compete for most of the market’s biggest names, which led to long
free-agent stays and contracts below expected value.
Initial returns from the new CBA were
promising. Over $1 billion was spent on player contracts in the first
10 days after the deal was announced.
So now the focus shifts to this winter,
where the money should once again be flying around if the CBA is
working as intended for the players.
DeGrom and Verlander are two of the
generation’s best pitchers and could command salaries in the same
ballpark as the $43.3 million starting pitcher Max Scherzer received
from the Mets last offseason, which is the current highest salary in
MLB, per Spotrac.
Hitters like Judge and Turner should
also break the bank in the new CBA environment. The Yankees slugger
has recorded 51 home runs so far in 2022, which is 15 more than any
other player, and the Dodgers infielder is one of the sport’s most
The likes of Bogaerts, Correa and Rodon
may not quite match the salaries of those top four, but they’re also
in line for lucrative contracts of their own.
All that said, if this year’s
free-agent market fails to live up to expectations in terms of team
spending, grumblings about the CBA will likely begin anew.