Jeff Passan's early 2021-22 MLB free-agency tiers

The free agent class of 2021-22 is one of the deepest and most talented in years, filled with a historically great group of shortstops, a potpourri of pitchers and a grab bag of midlevel players who won't break the bank but will help contenders and ascenders alike.

It's also arriving at a fascinating time for the sport: on the verge of a potential lockout that could freeze transactions for months. Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 1, and while the league and players' association have engaged in conversations on a new deal, the possibility of the current basic agreement expiring and prompting a work stoppage is very real.

This makes the period between the end of the World Series and Dec. 1 entirely fascinating. How aggressive will teams be? How willing to strike a deal before the new terms governing the game will players be? Multiple contract extensions are expected in the coming weeks, sources told ESPN, showing a willingness by both parties to barter before anyone knows where payrolls are likely to end up. At the same time, during a lockout everything related to major league transactions would be frozen. No signings. No trades. No movement on the big league side.

Still, with the season winding down, it's an appropriate time to assess what the market -- whenever it gets going -- will look like. ESPN identified the players expected to generate the most interest on the open market this winter and split them into five tiers. Arbitration-eligible players not tendered a contract will only deepen the list, but for now here is a primer on the free agents expected to be available this winter. Players in each tier are listed alphabetically, with their position, current team and Opening Day 2022 age.