Friday, June 2, 2023

MLB roundtable: The most surprising signing from the pre-lockout free-agent frenzy

The Atlanta Braves are World Series champions and now baseball is in the middle of its first work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike. MLB and the MLBPA’s were unable to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the Dec. 2 deadline, so the owners locked out the player, and hot stove has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

Throughout the offseason the CBS Sports MLB scribes will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. In our last roundtable we debated the merits of a free agent signing deadline. This week we’re gong to tackle the pre-lockout free agent frenzy.

Which pre-lockout free agent signing surprised you the most?

R.J. Anderson: For the sake of mixing things up a little, I’m going to go with Marcus Semien for one major reason: The term. Teams have historically shied away from committing lengthy deals to 30-something-year-old second basemen because of the attrition risk. (Brian Dozier’s cratering wasn’t that long ago.) As such, I figured Semien would get a big-time average annual value attached to a contract of four or five years of length. I certainly did not foresee him getting seven years. Good for him, though, and I hope that his well-regarded work ethic enables him to stay productive until the deal is over.

Matt Snyder: I think I’m gonna go with Marcus Stroman to the Cubs. The way everything went down was pretty shocking, starting with late Sunday afternoon (No28), but once everything started to happen, it seemed like we knew the Rangers, Mets, Tigers, Blue Jays, Mariners and a few other teams would be aggressive. The Cubs were just standing on the sidelines and weren’t really connected to any big names in rumors. Teams like the Angels were still looking for starting pitching and had plenty of money. It just seemed totally out of nowhere for the Cubs to land Stroman, especially on a three-year deal when just a few hours before that it seemed like they were content to just add at the margins and not contend in 2022. 

Dayn Perry: I’m going to say Kevin Gausman to the Blue Jays. I’m not surprised the Blue Jays moved boldly to fortify the rotation after Robbie Ray departed for Seattle, but I am surprised that Gausman didn’t wind up back in San Francisco. Coming off that 107-win season and with a fairly unimpressive payroll, the Giants, I figured, would bring back one of their key contributors to their surprising 2021 season. That’s especially the case given that for so long it seemed a given that Gausman would be back with the Giants. The Giants, though, seemingly thought better of making that modest investment, and post-lockout they must address the hole Gausman leaves in the rotation — at least if they’re serious about contending again.

Mike Axisa: To me, the biggest pre-lockout surprise in general was the Braves not re-signing Freddie Freeman. I thought he would be among the very first free agents to sign, not go unsigned into the lockout. That shocked me.

To answer the actual question, I’ll go with Max Scherzer. I’m surprised only because I didn’t think the Dodgers would be outbid for him. Scherzer fits their needs (rotation help) and aspirations (a World Series championship), and they can go dollar-for-dollar with any team, yet they held back. Scherzer is on the MLBPA’s executive subcommittee and those hardcore union guys invariably go for the top offer. All the Dodgers had to do was beat the Mets’ offer, something they have the means to do no matter how crazy the bidding got, and yet they let Scherzer leave. I’m not surprised he went to the Mets. I’m surprised the Dodgers let him get away.

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