Baseball owners and players tussled over billions during a lockout that lasted 99 days. Once all the big issues were resolved (minimum salaries, universal DH, expanded playoffs, etc.), the two sides got rolling in one of the most frenzied free-agency periods we’ve seen in years. Now that most of that dust has settled, fans and collectors can focus on April 7, MLB Opening Day. Below you’ll find a recap of some of the bigger moves and how they’ll affect the baseball card market.
Freddie Freeman, L.A. Dodgers
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Freeman’s brilliant 12-year run with the Atlanta Braves parallels a stretch from hall of famer Eddie Murray. Not shabby at all. Freeman’s new team will be happy to know that, from years 13 through 16, Mr. Murray strung together four straight 90-plus RBI seasons. If Freeman can duplicate that with the Dodgers, the team’s $162-million investment will have been money well spent. The Dodgers’ ridiculous roster should offer the new first baseman some protection, making Freddie’s fourth 30-homer season a safe bet in L.A.
A mix of those numbers with the Dodgers’ expectedly deep run in the playoffs also bodes well for Freeman’s card prospects. His 2011 Topps Chrome PSA 10 is especially one to keep an eye on. Market Movers tells us that the card was selling for $300 at the start of last season’s playoffs. It ballooned to nearly $550 when the Braves won the World Series. With Freeman slugging under the bright SoCal lights, the card should continue its ascent.
Trevor Story, Boston Red Sox
Colorado is great for outdoor activities and hemp sales, but when it comes to building a mainstream baseball persona, it’s not necessarily the best place for big leaguers to call home. Story quietly averaged 32 home runs and 89 RBI over his last three full seasons with the Rockies, but the man could probably walk into a Denver Starbucks and not get recognized by most folks.
That might explain why his 2016 Topps Chrome rookie card hasn’t gone over $100 since August ’21. After signing a six-year/$140-million deal with baseball-batty Boston, that could be changing for the shortstop really soon. RotoChamp is predicting a 28-homer/81-RBI showing for the shortstop this year. Do that in the shadow of the Green Monster and that aforementioned card could see some scary-good results.
Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins
Throughout the lockout, baseball writers’ favorite pastimes was predicting where big-name players would land. Correa’s kept coming up in places like Philly or Detroit. But as soon as a new labor agreement was signed, out of left field came the Minnesota Twins, a team that only has three winning seasons over the last decade. Correa’s steady bat (five 20-homer seasons) and sparkling defense (’21 Gold Glove recipient) were brought in to help remedy that. As one of the central cogs in the Houston Astros’ offensive wheel, we don’t doubt he will.
From a card standout, the only issue is Minnesota as a market. Just so hard to generate much hobby excitement there. Jorge Polanco paced the team in dingers last year with 33 but his 2014 Topps Update RC PSA 10 can be scooped up all day around $25. PSA 10s of rookie cards for Byron Buxton, arguably the team’s most exciting player, can still be grabbed for under $150. Correa’s 2015 Topps Chrome was sitting around $125-140 at press time. For it to really spark some industry interest, though, he’s going to need a towering season in the Twin Cities.
Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockies
It feels like an eternity ago, but there was a time back in ’16-17 when Bryant was being touted as the Majors’ next great third baseman. Though he’s been far from bad since then — all-star appearances in ’19 and ’21 tell us that much — some of that generational luster has faded. But Bryant’s in a new uniform (Colorado) with a shiny new contract (seven years, $182 million) now. A few seasons of his balls soaring through the Mile-High air over the left-field fence may spark new conversations about Bryant’s game.
But we’ve already talked about the somewhat-dim Denver card light with Trevor Story. For Bryant’s 2015 Topps Chrome PSA 10 to go from its present $50 back up to its $165 heights last summer, he may need to get on a 30-HR/100-RBI trajectory. That said, the smart play here may be stashing a few cards away for cheap, watch Bryant slug his way into another all-star game appearance and then cash in on his Colorado comeback.
Max Scherzer, New York Mets
Already on a course for Cooperstown, three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is now looking to make some of the most meaningful pitches of his career in Queens. The heat-throwing ace joins a starting Mets staff that already includes two-time Cy Young recipient Jacob deGrom and ’21 all-star Chris Bassitt. Should New York get 20-25 starts each out of this terrifying trio, we could be looking at the National League’s best staff since the ‘90s Braves bunch.
And when you start talking historical markers like that, you want to be ready with your cards. Scherzer’s 2008 Topps Update rookie has been on the climb since early-September ’21. Just imagine where the $450-500 card will be if the rifle-armed righty has one of his 20-win/250-K campaigns. Oh, and we don’t even want to think about the $700-800 heights the card could reach if the Mets’ offense matches the great pitching.
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