MLB free agency: What to expect when baseball returns

Last week, we covered the late flurry of action before the CBA expired on Dec. 1, which saw an almost unprecedented levels of spending in a short period of time. Now that there's a lockout that should last most of the winter, we don't have any imminent action. But come February, we very well might have a couple of more weeks for the rest of the offseason to play out. Here are some topics that execs and agents are monitoring until then:

There are still candidates for big paydays.
My biggest misses from my free agent predictions were at the top end of the market. Many expected a couple of mid-market teams to jump in the deep end of the pool -- but not this deep, this early, or this often. What I missed was that at least a handful of owners from non-playoff clubs were more willing to spend and, for labor reasons, were incentivized to do it before Dec. 1 if they were going to do it sometime this winter.

While most of the top players have signed, there are still two prominent players left who will get nine figures for sure: Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman. Correa always seemed likely to get the biggest deal of the winter, by far -- until Corey Seager's deal came in almost $100 million north of many expectations (including mine). Correa is still expected to clear that $325 million hurdle, but not by a ton. Freeman's floor seems to be Paul Goldschmidt's five-year, $130 million deal from 2020, and he should be able to clear that by a good bit. This Braves' regime has been steadfast in not handing out giant multiyear deals in free agency, but they did keep 2020 standout Marcell Ozuna for four years and $65 million. The assumption is that they'll figure out a way to meet franchise icon Freeman's price (especially after a World Series financial windfall).

Beyond those two, finding the big deals gets a bit tougher. Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto, Kyle Schwarber and Seiya Suzuki are the position player candidates to land north of $50 million, while Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodon are the only remaining pitchers at that level. Story has long been expected to get nine figures but his throwing issue may make a shorter deal of some sort a better option for him. As the motivated spenders start to dry up, at least one of these players will sign for less than you think -- but this will be a very healthy market if it's only one of them.

When baseball comes back, big markets will be ready to open their wallets.
Non-playoff clubs (Rangers, Mariners, Tigers, Mets, Jays, Cubs, Angels, Marlins) handed out the top nine and 12 of the top 13 guarantees. The big markets and playoff clubs won't let that stand, with the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and Giants having plenty of room to spend, even though the early winter conditions didn't fit their approach.