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MLB News and Notes: Could Free Agents Be Free Again?

While we should be approaching the first full week of baseball, we sadly live in a world where the coronavirus pandemic has taken away all sports, including Major League Baseball. While there is hope and optimism that baseball will still be played this year (particularly after the MLB and MLBPA came to an agreement on guidelines for a shortened season), the possibility that the 2020 season is canceled is still a realistic possibility.

With that in mind, let’s examine one main part of the agreement between the two sides and other news from around the league.

Could Potential Free Agents Have Played Last Game With Respective Teams?

While much of the conversation between Major League Baseball and the Players Association was in regards to what a shortened season might look like, one of the biggest compromises that the owners had to make was in regards to service time.

For those players who played a full year last season in the majors, they will receive a full year of service time even if the season is completely canceled.

Yes, that means that players scheduled to become free agents next offseason would still become free agents. Here are a few of the most significant potential free agents:

Mookie Betts

This one will be especially tough for Dodger fans to swallow as there is potential that Betts will become a free agent despite never having played a regular-season game for the team. Betts, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs, is scheduled to become a free agent this upcoming offseason.

He is the “cream of the crop” for this free-agent class, as he is a perennial MVP candidate. Last season, at 26 years old, Betts hit .295/.391/.524 with 29 home runs, 80 runs batted in, 135 runs scored and 16 stolen bases for the Red Sox.

While the Dodgers could still net a compensation draft pick if he signs elsewhere, this is a big hit for L.A. and their farm system.

George Springer

The Houston Astros are in a unique position because if the season is canceled, then their entire outfield could have played their last games with the Astros. Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley and George Springer are all scheduled to become free agents, but Springer is by far the most significant.

As the leadoff man for Houston, he is the catalyst to that offense. Despite missing time and having just 479 official at-bats, he still hit .292/.383/.591 with 39 home runs, 96 runs batted in and 96 runs scored.

Springer is just 30 years old, so he will be in high demand, and while the Astros will likely try to re-sign him, he could look to go elsewhere to escape the sign-stealing controversy that has clouded the team.

J.T. Realmuto

There aren’t too many elite catching options in the MLB, but Realmuto is certainly one of them. Not only is he strong on the defensive side, but he is arguably one of the best hitting backstops in the game, too.

Last year, with Philadelphia, he hit .275/.328/.493 with 25 home runs, 83 runs batted in, and 92 runs scored in 538 at-bats. He even managed to swipe nine bases in the process. Realmuto just turned 29 in the middle of March and will be in high demand come next offseason.

Ray, Diamondbacks Weren’t Negotiating Extension

While the three previously mentioned players will be at the top of the free-agent class next offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray will be a solid option for teams looking to help their rotation.

Last season, Ray went 12-8 with a 4.34 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and struck out 235 batters in 174.1 innings for Arizona. At 28, Ray won’t be in quite as high of demand as pitchers like Marcus Stroman or Trevor Bauer, but he won’t be too far behind either.

With all of that in mind, it does not appear that Arizona is in a rush to lock him up. According to Zach Buchanan of The Athletic, the two sides were not in talks of a contract extension prior to the agreement between MLB and the Player’s Association.

This is important to note as the agreement has put a freeze on all transactions and negotiations between teams and players.

After acquiring Madison Bumgarner and Starling Marte this offseason, the Diamondbacks are probably clamoring for an opportunity to play this year (even if it is a shortened season), but regardless of whether they play or not, it looks like it could be the last season for Ray in Arizona.

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