2021 MLB Season: COVID-19’s Impact on Free Agency

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2021 MLB Season
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Trevor Bauer #27 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates during game one of a doubleheader at Great American Ball Park on September 14, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The same old story has been told this entire offseason. A certain team lets go of a player due to budgetary issues because of COVID-19. The 2021 MLB Season hasn’t been delayed, so these free agents need a home fast or else they’ll be waiting throughout Spring Training. While we have seen some players get contracts, none of these have been really significant ones. The Liam Hendriks deal was the first of a significant AAV, but none of the guys like George Springer or Trevor Bauer have yet to sign due to a reluctance to overspend. This has trickled down to the smaller free agents and has become a problem.

2021 MLB Season: Being Forced Out of MLB

How is it that a starter with a 3.86 SIERA and 3.77 xFIP since 2017 remains unsigned? Masahiro Tanaka was an integral part of the New York Yankees, and yet he might go back to Japan? This makes no sense. Eric Thames with 113 wRC+ and a .347 wOBA since 2017 had to find work in Japan. These are quality baseball players who aren’t getting jobs in MLB and are good players. You rarely see talent like this go unnoticed, and it’s a big fallout of the loss of revenue

Cheaper Options Are Being Prioritized

With player development as good as it’s ever been, heavy spenders are looking internally to improve. The New York Yankees were so set on cheaper options that they got DJ LeMahieu to sign with them for a mere $15 million per year. Teams can get steals on players who are being forced to sign for cheap. The 2021 MLB season will be played by multiple players on one-year deals trying to reset. Don’t be surprised if next year’s free agency class is totally stacked.

Will Everyone Sign By the 2021 MLB Season?

Just like that nightmare offseason where free agents didn’t sign until as late a July, we might see this all over again. A lot of teams are simply refusing to sign free agents, limiting options. Guys like Brad Hand should never be declined at $10 million, and it’s obvious that teams are shedding salary. COVID-19 hampered teams, and it’s depressing to see capable MLB talent lose their jobs and struggle to find a contract. I don’t think the high profile free agents will wait until March, but a lot of middle-tier free agents could stay on the market.

This isn’t unprecedented in terms of a slow offseason, but it is in terms of a lack of interest. Hopefully, these players find homes, and that the market starts moving before the start of the 2021 MLB season.

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