Seager, Scherzer and Ray Find New Homes

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With the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring on December 1, it was expected that the last few days of November would see plenty of action with teams and players trying to make moves before the (almost assured) work stoppage took place.

What we got on Monday had to defy even the loftiest expectations from those who were looking for some MLB roster movement; with several moves that would count as a headline from our Doses taking place.

The biggest move, however, came from the Rangers; a day after they made headlines with their $175 million acquisition of Marcus Semien and signing Jon Gray to pitch at or near the top of the rotation for $56 million. It’s not easy to dwarf those contracts, but when you sign someone for $325 million it’s going to happen, and that’s what Texas did by reportedly agreeing to terms with Corey Seager.

Seager, 27, has spent his entire MLB career with the Dodgers prior to hitting free agency, and over his 630 games in seven seasons, the former first-round pick has hit .297/.367/.504 with 104 homers while winning Rookie of the Year in 2016 and leading the Dodgers to a World Series win in 2021 and being named NLCS and World Series MVP.

There’s never been a question about his offensive ability, but durability has been an issue for Seager, which makes any contract risky, much less a ten-year pact. He was limited to just 26 games in 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he missed significant time in 2021 because of a broken hand in the middle of May. There are also some defensive question marks, and according to Baseball Savant, he ranked in the bottom sixth percentile in outs above average. Other metrics are kinder, but Seager is getting this deal because of his offensive ability, and there are few middle infielders who possess his combination of ability to hit for average and power. He ranked in the 96th percentile in expected batting average, 94th in expected weighted on base average, and 90th in expected slugging. Simply put, Seager can flat-out hit.

The Rangers now have one of -- if not the -- best middle-infields in baseball, and Seager should hit in the middle of the Texas lineup while providing plenty of offensive production. Rangers’ fans have every right to be excited right now.

Scherzer Officially Lands in Big Apple with Big Payday

While Seager gets the biggest payday in terms of overall contract, he’s not the player who gets the most per year.

That player would be Max Scherzer, who is heading to the Mets after reportedly agreeing to a three-year, $130 million contact. The $43.33 million average salary sets a new record for AAV for a pitcher; passing the $36 million that Gerrit Cole got on his nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees.

After a so-so season -- at least by his standards, and it’s worth pointing out that it was during the truncated campaign -- Scherzer was back to being one of the best starters in baseball in 2021 with the Nationals and then the Dodgers after a deadline deal. He finished third in Cy Young voting, posted a 2.46 ERA, and struck out 236 hitters against just 36 walks over 30 starts for Washington and Los Angeles. Strong numbers, and the metrics suggest that it was far from smoke and mirrors; other than the smoke from his above-average fastball, anyway. He ranked near the top of the league in expected ERA, batting average, whiff and strikeout percentage and walk rate, and he was well above-average in average exit velocity along with hard hit percentage.

Scherzer’s age is going to give some pause -- he turns 38 in July -- but there was nothing last year that suggested he can’t be an elite pitcher again in 2022. Assuming Jacob deGrom is healthy, this gives the Mets the best 1-2 punch in baseball at the top of their rotation, and both should be among the first pitchers off the board come 2022.

Ray lands in Seattle for $115 million

How often is the reigning Cy Young Award winner signing with a new deal the third biggest story of the day? Don’t bother looking it up because it’s never happened and never will happen again, but that’s the case here with the Mariners reportedly inking Robbie Ray to a five-year, $115 million contract with an opt-out after the third year.

It’d be hard to overstate just how much Ray improved his stock in 2021. At this point last year, he was signing a one-year “prove it” contract with the Blue Jays after a 2020 season that saw him issue 45 walks in 51 2/3 innings with a 6.62 ERA. Fast forward to 2021, and the southpaw was as good as he’s ever been -- better, really -- with an AL best 2.84 ERA, 248 strikeouts, 193 1/3 innings and only 52 walks. Yes, you’re reading that right. Ray walked seven more people in 143 2/3 more innings of work than he did last year.

The question mark here is can Ray do this again. Much was made of the 30-year-old’s mechanical changes, and to say that they made an impact is quite the understatement. We’ve seen Ray follow quality years with lackluster ones, but he’s always had top-of-the-rotation stuff, and he showed that level of command to go with it in 2021. The Mariners are betting that he can do it again in 2022 and beyond. Fantasy managers would be wise to do the same as one of the first hurlers to be selected this winter or spring.

Braves bring in Yates on two-year pact

There were plenty more moves -- most of them reported, and Tuesday should see most of these transactions become official -- but one of the more interesting ones involved a player that likely won’t be ready to help until the summer. The Braves signed Kirby Yates to a two-year, $8.25 million contract, with a mutual option for a third year that contains a $1.25 million buyout.

Yates missed all of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and the year before that he was limited to just six games for the Padres. Prior to that, however, the 34-year-old was among the very best relievers in baseball; particularly in 2019 when he saved 41 games, posted a 101/13 K/BB ratio and registered a 1.19 ERA for the Padres. This move is more about 2023 than 2022, but it’s not out of the question that Yates could be the closer for Atlanta at some point this summer, and he’s a name to keep an eye on.

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MLB Quick Hits: Jesse Rogers of ESPN reports that expanded postseason and a draft lottery are among the things being discussed in a potential new Collective Bargaining Agreement … Marlins acquired C Jacob Stallings from the Pirates for RHP Zach Thompson, OF Connor Scott and RHP Kyle Nicholas … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that multiple teams have had recent trade talks with the Reds about their starting pitchers … According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Yankees are among the teams who have checked in on free agent shortstop Andrelton Simmons … Morosi reports that the Phillies have had "recent contact" with the representatives for free agent outfielder Nick CastellanosMax Muncy (elbow) said during an appearance on MLB Network on Monday that he's "not recovering as quick" as he would like … Andy Martino of SNY.tv reports that free agent left-hander Yusei Kikuchi is a possibility for the Mets … Major League Baseball announced that Marcell Ozuna has received a retroactive suspension of 20 games for violating MLB's Joint Domestic Violence Policy … Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post reports that there has been no recent contact between the Rockies and Trevor Story. A report from Heyman surfaced on Monday that the Rockies had renewed interest in bringing Story back into the fold … Pirates designated INF Colin Moran for assignment.