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2021-22 MLB free-agent superlatives – The player most likely to …

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We’re back with the fourth edition of free-agent superlatives — and this year’s free-agent class is certainly the most super we’ve seen in several years. What’s not so super is an offseason that may hit a wall thanks to the impending work stoppage at midnight on Dec. 1, when the owners will lock out the players, freezing transactions and signings, unless a last-minute deal can be struck on a new CBA. Let’s dig into some of the subplots and hope the owners and players can eventually agree to a new working agreement.

Most likely to get the biggest deal: Carlos Correa

This was not a foregone conclusion back in spring training. While one of the big-name shortstops would likely land the largest contract in free agency, all appeared capable of getting deals approaching or exceeding $200 million. Here’s how their seasons played out:

Francisco Lindor: Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million extension with the Mets on April 1, forgoing free agency. Unfortunately for the Mets, Lindor hit just .230/.322/.412 in his age-27 season, missed time with an oblique injury and thought it was a good idea to “boo” the fans. The extension doesn’t even start until 2022. The agents for Correa (Jon Rosen) and Corey Seager (Scott Boras) will understandably link the Lindor contract as the basis for their clients, but teams may also view the deal more as a cautionary tale than an applicable comparison.

Correa: He had his best all-around season, hitting .279/.366/.485 with terrific defense (he deservedly won his first Gold Glove) and, most importantly, playing 148 games, after missing an average of 64 games per season from 20172019. Correa’s previous back issues will be a long-term concern and it’s worth noting the inconsistency in his slugging percentage through the years: .512, .451, .550, .405, .568, .383, .485. His two best slugging seasons came in 2017 (when he played 109 games and may have had a little extra help) and 2019 (when he played just 75 games). Still, he will be 27 on Opening Day and his combination of defense and power is too hard to resist.

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MLB free-agency grades – Toronto Blue Jays look to Kevin Gausman to complete rotation

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In the span of two seasons, Kevin Gausman has gone from the waiver wire to a nine-figure pitcher. The veteran right-hander, coming off a career season when he went 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA for the Giants and finished sixth in the National League Cy Young voting, is heading to the Toronto Blue Jays on a five-year, $110 million deal.

So the pitcher who used Pink Floyd’s “Money” as his warm-up song in 2021 — “I just think it’s such a cool intro, with the cash register. It just fires me up every time I hear it,” Gausman said during the season — did, indeed, get that register to ring. Gausman’s contract comes in right at the forecasts, as Kiley McDaniel predicted a five-year, $105 million deal.

It’s the second-biggest free-agent contract in Blue Jays history, behind only the $125 million given to George Springer last offseason. The Blue Jays can breathe a big sigh of relief after losing Marcus Semien in free agency to the Rangers earlier on Sunday and with American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray still out there in free agency.

We’ll get back to Ray in a moment, but bringing in Gausman in combination with the seven-year, $131 million extension given to Jose Berrios earlier this offseason, the Blue Jays have locked up what should be a stellar rotation for the foreseeable future:

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What happens to Marcus Semien’s fantasy value in Texas?

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The first of the big-name free agent shortstops — or, in this case, second base, which was his primary position in 2021 — is off the board, as Marcus Semien reportedly agreed to sign with the Texas Rangers on Sunday, for a whopping seven years and $175 million.

Semien was the best in fantasy terms from that group, finishing fourth among shortstop-eligibles and third among second basemen in 2021. He’s also the oldest, having turned 31 years of age in September, so it’s curious to see a rebuilding team like the Rangers turn in his direction. It might be one of the few places where his chances of repeating what was a marvelous past season took a definitive hit.

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Kevin Gausman finds new home, agrees with Toronto Blue Jays on $110 million contract, sources say

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Right-handed starting pitcher Kevin Gausman and the Toronto Blue Jays are in agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Sunday night.

Gausman was a reliable back-end starter early in his career, posting a 4.22 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.02 strikeout-to-walk ratio while averaging 146 innings per season for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds from 2014 to 2019.

But his career truly took off upon joining the San Francisco Giants, who helped him fine-tune his splitter to form a devastating combination with his four-seam fastball.

Gausman, originally obtained on a one-year, $9 million contract, posted a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 59 2/3 innings during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The 30-year-old right-hander returned to the Giants after accepting the qualifying offer and was even better in 2021, combining a 2.81 ERA with 227 strikeouts and only 50 walks in 192 innings while anchoring the starting rotation for a team that won a major league-best 107 games.

Gausman made his first All-Star team that year, then finished sixth in National League Cy Young Award voting and became one of the most coveted free agents on the market.

Gausman could help fill a new hole in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Last week, Toronto lost starting pitcher Steven Matz, who posted a 14-7 record, with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts last season. The veteran agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

ESPN Staff Writer Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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