MLB free agency returns: Predicting new teams for top 10 players, including Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman

Major League Baseball’s owner-imposed lockout has finally come to an end, 99 days after it was first instituted. It’s a joyous day for baseball fans, who won’t have long before turning their attention to another pressing matter in the sport: MLB free agency. The offseason, placed on pause since Dec. 2, will now be allowed to resume. Free agents are expected to be able to start signing deals again Thursday evening.

The winter’s first half saw seven of CBS Sports’ top 10 free agents come off the board. In case you forgot after three months, that included the Texas Rangers adding both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien; the Seattle Mariners inking reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray; the New York Mets grabbing Max Scherzer and Starling Marte; the Toronto Blue Jays lassoing Kevin Gausman; and the Chicago Cubs signing Marcus Stroman.

Despite all of that activity, there are still several stars who need to find new homes between now and Opening Day. Below, we’ve offered predictions on where the 10 best remaining free agents might end up signing. (Do note that we previously tried our hand at guessing the kinds of contracts these same 10 players will receive.) While this is a foolish exercise, it’s also a welcomed one after the slog of the past few months.

Now, with the warm and fuzzies out of the way, let’s move on to the predictions.

There are only so many teams who would realistically meet Correa’s kind of ask. The Yankees would seem to be one. It doesn’t hurt that they have a clear need for impact-level talent. Yes, New York has a few promising infield prospects on the way, including former first-round pick Anthony Volpe, but there’s no rule against having too many good players — not until the next round of CBA talks, anyway.

2. Kris Bryant (No. 3 on top 50 list): Mariners

The Mariners have been open in their desire to add a right-handed hitter who can play third base. Bryant checks those boxes, and more. His ability to play other positions, including first base and across the outfield, and his reputation for being a good clubhouse presence should also make him an appealing target.

Entering the offseason, Freeman appeared certain to stick with the Braves. It’s unclear if he will now, making him one of the biggest X-factors remaining on the market. Where Freeman signs could dictate Correa’s landing spot, as well as where Anthony Rizzo and Matt Olson end up. The Dodgers, who lost Corey Seager to free agency, were known to have interest in Freeman prior to the lockout. He would give them another elite-level talent, and he would fit right in thanks to their versatile roster.

The Astros can’t reasonably expect Jeremy Peña to be ready to take over the shortstop position until later this year at the earliest. As such, it would make sense for them to lasso Story on a short-term arrangement. Evaluators have concerns about his arm strength and long-term defensive home that could drive down his asking price. Nevertheless, he’s likely to remain a dynamic offensive player wherever he lands on defense, and joining up with the Astros would give him a chance to strut his stuff on a postseason stage, something he didn’t often get the opportunity to do with Colorado.

Castellanos’ landing spot is tough to pin down. He’s expressed a disinterest in becoming a DH, limiting his potential suitors. The potency of his bat is such that someone is likely to appease him and let him continue to play defense. Plugging Castellanos into a lineup that already features Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins could make for some fun stretches for Philadelphia fans.

6. Seiya Suzuki (No. 15 on top 50 list): Giants

Suzuki’s ball-tracking data from last season in Japan suggests he could be an impact-caliber hitter thanks to his combination of power and contact. The Giants could use that kind of star power if they want to repeat as National League West champions. Expect the Red Sox, Rangers, and others to be involved in the bidding for Suzuki, who could end up being one of the biggest gets of the winter.

7. Clayton Kershaw (No. 16 on top 50 list): Rangers

We predicted the Rangers would sign Kershaw earlier in the offseason, and we’re sticking with it. There have been rumors about Kershaw wanting to pitch closer to home throughout the last few years. The Rangers, the closest team geographically, have also shown a willingness to throw around cash this winter. Factor in their need for pitching, and it’s a pairing that makes sense beyond the easy copy potential.

8. Kenley Jansen (No. 20 on top 50 list): Dodgers

The Dodgers retained just one of their key free agents prior to the lockout, signing utility starter Chris Taylor to a multi-year contract. Of the remaining stars, Jansen seems more likely than Kershaw to book a return ticket to LA He’s the best reliever left on the open market, and he would fit right back into the ninth inning, pushing Blake Treinen to the eighth and free-agent addition Daniel Hudson to the seventh.

9. Anthony Rizzo (No. 22 on top 50 list): Red Sox

Rizzo experienced one half of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry last summer. Perhaps he would be interested in switching sides and returning to his original organization? The Red Sox used Kyle Schwarber at first base down the stretch last season. Rizzo is unlikely to match Schwarber’s offensive potency, but he would represent an upgrade defensively. Where, exactly, he lands will hinge on Freeman and Olson’s markets.

Conforto, who surprisingly rejected the qualifying offer from the Mets, was rumored within the industry to be of interest to the Marlins prior to the lockout. It’s unclear if Miami will remain involved in bidding on his services, but he would still appear to be a fit from here. Remember, he had been a well-above-average hitter for four consecutive years entering last season. Players with that kind of established level of production are seldom available to the Marlins, especially when they’re in their 20s.

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