The MLB lockout would appear to be a wrap. The players and owners have reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. Both sides need to fully ratify the deal, but that is believed to be a formality.
The close of the lockout means 2022 MLB free agency can restart in short order. Some notable free agents signed prior to the lockout, but the bulk of notable free agents will be taking care of business in the coming days. When free agency opens, it will get wild in a hurry with spring training and Opening Day now rushing to start.
Here is a list of the 10 best players who remain unsigned for 2022.
Updated 2022 MLB free agent rankings
Honorable mentions: Zack Greinke, Kenley Jansen, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Seiya Suzuki
10. Nelson Cruz, designated hitter
Cruz will provide pop in the middle of some team’s lineup in 2022. Although he will turn 42 in July and offers zero defensive value, Cruz has averaged 36 home runs and a .908 OPS over his previous eight seasons. He was an All-Star in 2021, slamming 32 homers as he split his time with the Twins and the Rays.
9. Michael Conforto, outfielder
Conforto really struggled in 2021 as his OPS dropped nearly 200 points from the shortened 2020 season. However, he has a 128 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) over the previous five seasons, which is 14th-best among all outfielders. He won’t turn 30 years old until 2023.
8. Clayton Kershaw, starting pitcher
There were whispers that Kershaw might retire following the 2021 season, but if that was the case, he probably would have announced it by now. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was limited by injuries to just 22 starts last season and posted his worst ERA since his 2008 rookie season — a very respectable 3.55. Given how his 2021 campaign was ended by a left forearm injury, there are red flags surrounding Kershaw as he enters his age-34 season.
7. Carlos Rodon, starting pitcher
Another pitcher who saw his most recent season derailed late by injuries, Rodon was spectacular in 2021. He signed for just $3 million entering the year and ended up recording 185 strikeouts in 132.2 innings, a 2.37 ERA and a top-five finish in the Cy Young Award voting. Although his history of physical maladies will likely keep him from earning a huge long-term deal, Rodon is worth the risk on, say, a three-year deal for any team looking to upgrade its rotation.
6. Kyle Schwarber, designated hitter/outfielder
Like Cruz and other players to come on this list, Schwarber benefits immensely from the universal designated hitter rule, which will be implemented in MLB this season. He walloped 32 home runs during his age-28 season with the Nationals and the Red Sox. His OPS exceeded .900 with each club. His 2021 season will be remembered most of all for a historic 10-game streak in June, during which Schwarber hit 12 home runs.
5. Kris Bryant, third baseman/outfielder
Although Bryant may never again reach the heights of his 2016 MVP year, he is still a solid middle-of-the-order bat and provides some defensive versatility. Bryant, who turned 30 in January, registered a 130 OPS+ during a 2021 season split between the Cubs and the Giants.
4. Nick Castellanos, outfielder
Another player who should be happy with the universal DH rule, Castellanos put up a career year with the Reds in 2021. He hit 34 homers, earned his first Silver Slugger and received some MVP votes. His .939 OPS was the sixth-best in MLB. He is entering his age-30 campaign.
3. Freddie Freeman, first baseman
There was a boatload of free-agent signings prior to the lockout in early December. The fact that Freeman, the face of the Braves’ franchise, wasn’t a part of that crowd was a bit surprising. He followed up his 2020 MVP season by leading the National League in runs and crushing 31 homers. The 32-year-old has finished with an OPS+ of 130 or better in nine consecutive seasons.
2. Trevor Story, shortstop
Story’s run production has dropped off over the past two seasons, which will probably hurt him a little bit on the open market. But he is still a good power hitter who provides value at a premier defensive position, has plus-plus speed and is only 29. Perhaps his late-season power surge — 11 homers over the final two months — quelled some fears of interested clubs.
1. Carlos Correa, shortstop
The best player in this year’s free agent class remains unsigned. Correa should receive a deal well north of $300 million, especially after a very productive — and generally healthy — season. He placed fifth in the AL MVP voting in 2021 as he hit a career-high 26 home runs and finished with a 131 OPS+. Correa led all qualified players with 20 defensive runs saved. The 27-year-old is also a proven playoff performer; he has put up a .967 OPS in 29 postseason games since the start of 2020.