Matthew Roberson: Plenty of stud free agents are still on the board when MLB’s lockout finally ends

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NEW YORK — With Carlos Correa hiring human ATM Scott Boras to be his agent on Tuesday, the free agent shortstop set himself up even better for a contract with multiple commas.

Along with Correa, there are still a handful of aspiring billionaires who will command similarly huge salaries from their next team, as they should. Whether they return to their previous organization or sign somewhere else, these 10 players are the best remaining free agents who will need a home when the lockout ends.

10. Clayton Kershaw

He’s not the best pitcher in the world anymore, but Kershaw can still spin it.

Last season, the three-time Cy Young winner had a relatively down year by his standards. His 3.55 ERA was both the highest he’d posted since his rookie year in 2008, and yet still ranked in the top 20 of National League starters who threw at least 120 innings.

Undoubtedly in the twilight of his career (and with the elusive World Series championship out of the way), Kershaw’s priorities are likely much different than his younger, ringless contemporaries. If any team is able to lure him away from the Dodgers, it’s the Texas teams, who can offer him the luxury of playing near his family.

— Best Fits: Dodgers, Rangers, Astros

9. Kenley Jansen

Living the SoCal lifestyle, pitching one inning a night, and making nine straight trips to the playoffs is a pretty solid gig.

To get the Dodgers’ all-time save leader to switch sides, someone will have to come with a Godfather offer. That might not be the best business decision given Jansen’s age, declining strikeout rate, and the fungible nature of relievers.

But the Cardinals’ watched their historic hot streak end in the wild-card game because of a creaky bullpen, and the Phillies’ ten-season playoff drought has coincided with having unreliable closers. If anyone should overpay for a reliever, it’s those two.

— Best Fits: Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals

8. Nelson Cruz

Cruz took a page from the Tom Brady playbook last year by heading to Tampa Bay in his 40s.

The ageless slugger became a Ray via trade, though. Now that he has a chance to make his own decision, the likely arrival of the NL designated hitter opens things up beautifully. His old pals in Seattle could use a thumper, but the man whose services were once limited to half the league should have plenty of suitors, especially teams who play in home run paradises.

— Best Fits: Mariners, Phillies, White Sox

7. Michael Conforto

When the Mets pilfered Starling Marte and Mark Canha, it may as well have come with an order for Conforto to clean out his locker.

There is no spot anymore for the boyish bruiser in Flushing. A West Coast native, Conforto might have his eyes on a few teams out there with a corner outfield need.

His struggles last season were well-documented — and will absolutely cost him some cheddar — but Conforto is still a great player when he’s on, and the league knows that.

— Best Fits: Giants, Padres, Mariners

6. Carlos Rodon

Rodon is the biggest risk of this group. Talent has never been an issue for the lefty with the game’s best slider. His problems stem from recurring shoulder and elbow injuries, the pitcher version of a leaky transmission.

Last season, the White Sox finally saw the guy they drafted with the third overall pick in 2014. Rodon made his first All-Star team and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting, just in time to hit free agency. Should the White Sox let him walk, the Rangers have made it clear that they’re serious about joining the race, and a certain team in the Bronx would look a lot better with a new No. 2 starter.

— Best Fits: Rangers, Yankees, Padres

5. Nick Castellanos

Extra-base hits get you paid, and no one has more doubles since 2017 than Castellanos.

He can drive the ball over the wall too and the best numbers of his career just so happened to come in a contract year. Still shy of 30 years old, Castellanos should not get out of bed for anything less than $100 million.

— Best Fits: White Sox, Reds, Marlins

4. Trevor Story

The Yankees are not expected to shell out $300 million for a shortstop, which likely removes them from any Correa conversations and already left them out of the Corey Seager pursuit.

Story, who is only a few weeks older than Javier Baez and a more consistent overall player, could maybe be had for $150 million. That would get him more money than Baez and slightly less than Marcus Semien, who went to the Rangers for $175 million. Whatever the Yankees — or any other team’s asking price — is, it will be for the best available shortstop who isn't attached to Boras.

— Best Fits: Yankees, Astros, Angels

3. Freddie Freeman

While the prevailing notion has always been that Freeman will return to Atlanta, the fact that they were unable to reach a deal before the lockout left the door slightly ajar for other teams.

But after becoming the hometown hero that brought Atlanta a long-awaited championship, one would imagine Freeman settles back in on a multi-year deal. Aside from the Yankees, there’s also not many contending teams that need a first baseman, narrowing Freeman’s list dramatically.

— Best Fits: Braves, Yankees, Brewers

2. Kris Bryant

A player with a career on-base percentage above .375 and slugging percentage north of .500 that can play multiple positions is basically ideal in modern baseball.

That’s exactly what Bryant is, and while every team would want him, it’s the cash-throwing teams in postseason competition that will rise to the top. The Mets fit that bill, but they’ve already added three position players this offseason and have Robinson Cano likely taking over the designated hitter spot.

— Best Fits: Mariners, Blue Jays, Mets

1. Carlos Correa

This is a guy who knows he’s the best option out there. Hence the Boras representation.

Correa to the Tigers almost makes too much sense. He’d get a chance to play for his old manager A.J. Hinch and team up with Baez, his former World Baseball Classic teammate, to form one of the flashiest infields in league history.

Detroit has also shown a willingness to pay the soaring price of admission for entry in the contenders’ club.

— Best Fits: Tigers, Marlins, Angels

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