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Burke: Watch MLB free agency for futures value

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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I know it’s football season, but I’m a baseball guy at heart and things are heating up on the hot stove.

One of the most exciting days of the calendar in the NBA and NHL is the day that free agency starts. In MLB, the free agent signing period is a slow burn, as guys pretty much sign all the way from late November to March, even when Spring Training has already begun.

This offseason is different. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on December 1. Unless MLB and MLBPA can sign a new one by that time, the league will officially go into a labor stoppage. As a result, front offices are busy burning up the phone lines to get their transactions done by then under the current system.

We’ve had a ton of guys sign already. I know that it’s football season, but there is never a downtime for finding futures value in the betting markets.

Here are some notable FAs that have signed already:

Kendall Graveman (CWS), Eduardo Rodriguez (DET), Justin Verlander (HOU), Aaron Loup, Michael Lorenzen, Noah Syndergaard (LAA), Andrew Heaney (LAD), Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha (NYM), Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Belt (SFG), Steven Matz (STL), Corey Kluber (TBR), Marcus Semien, Jon Gray, Kole Calhoun (TEX), Kevin Gausman (TOR)

There are a few things that are very interesting. The biggest splashes have been by non-playoff teams (DET, NYM, TEX, TOR). I’d never suggest that we’re trending towards NFL-level parity in MLB because there are too many teams not spending enough money to compete, but it does look like some of the slumping big-market cities are invested in spending.

Big names that remain unsigned:

Carlos Correa, Corey Seager (rumored to be signing today), Freddie Freeman, Max Scherzer (likely NYM), Carlos Rodon, Robbie Ray, Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, Marcus Stroman, Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, Nick Castellanos and dozens of other players.

The usual suspects are the favorites per DraftKings, with the Dodgers at + 600, Astros + 850, Yankees + 1000, Rays and White Sox + 1100, Blue Jays and Mets + 1300, Braves + 1400, Padres + 1700 and the Giants, Brewers and Red Sox + 1800. Based on the availability of free agents and the aforementioned parity, this is a futures market unlike any we have seen recently.

Thirteen of the league’s 30 teams are + 2000 or lower. Usually we’ve got a 6-8 teams in the single digits and teens and a lot in the 25 to 35/1 range. This is shaping up to be a much more interesting MLB season than most.

At present, as crazy as it is, I think the Mets are worth a look at + 1300. They’re very likely to sign Max Scherzer, despite his desire to pitch on the west coast. They appear to be bidding against themselves, but a deGrom-Scherzer 1-2 punch in October would be very hard to beat. They’ve revamped the entire outfield already and the bullpen will likely come next after locking down Mad Max.

Another one I low-key like is the Tigers at + 4000. They got Eduardo Rodriguez to add a veteran presence to a strong young rotation with Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and there is money to spend on position players. I think the Tigers surprise and get one or two of the big names out there. Increased financial flexibility is coming after the 2023 season when Miguel Cabrera’s contract ends. Detroit only has $26 million committed for the 2024 season and only $53.5 million in 2023, with Cabrera making up more than half.

They could very well be a wild card team or could even make a run at the White Sox for the division. Shop around for the best price, but I think they’re ready to purchase position players for a run.

I’ll be following along with the next 48 hours in MLB and hope you will as well.

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