MLB Free Agency Contract Showdown: Trea Turner vs. Xander Bogaerts vs. Carlos Correa

Joel ReuterNovember 23, 2022

MLB Free Agency Contract Showdown: Trea Turner vs. Xander Bogaerts vs. Carlos Correa

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    FT. MYERS, FL - MARCH 27: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox greets Carlos Correa #4 of the Minnesota Twins before a Grapefruit League game on March 27, 2022 at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    For the second successive offseason, the shortstop market in free agency is absolutely stacked, with Trea Turner joined by Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa after they both opted out of their contracts.

    With all due respect to Dansby Swanson, those three are in another tier based on their overall tools, past production and expected earning power, so it's that trio we'll be focusing on for this head-to-head-to-head comparison.

    What follows is a rundown of how the three standout shortstops stack up in a variety of different categories, with all of it culminating in predictions for where each one will sign and what their next contract will look like.

2023 Opening Day Age

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    Carlos Correa
    Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    2023 Opening Day Age

    Bogaerts: 30 years, 5 months, 30 days
    Correa: 28 years, 6 months, 9 days
    Turner: 29 years, 9 months, 1 day

    Age will always be a major consideration when it comes to a long-term contract, and Correa, at more than a year younger than Turner and nearly two years younger than Bogaerts, has the upper hand in that department.

    Corey Seager was 27 years, 11 months and 12 days old on Opening Day this past season, and he inked a 10-year, $325 million deal with the Texas Rangers.

    On the other hand, Javier Báez (29 years, 4 months, 7 days) and Trevor Story (29 years, 4 months, 24 days) ended up signing matching six-year, $140 million contracts, and the difference in age undoubtedly played a role in the comparative lengths of those contracts.

    Advantage: Correa

Contact Skills

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    Trea Turner
    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Important Stats: Career BA, xBA, HardHit%, K%

    Bogaerts: .272 BA, .265 xBA, 37.6 HardHit%, 18.9 K%
    Correa: .273 BA, .280 xBA, 42.0 HardHit%, 20.5 K%
    Turner: .302 BA, .284 xBA, 40.9 HardHit%, 18.0 K%

    A strong hit tool is not just about making a ton of contact, but a combination of frequency of contact, quality of contact, and lack of swing-and-miss.

    There is often a good deal of luck involved in a player's batting average, but their expected batting average (xBA) takes into account the likelihood that each batted ball should be a hit based on outside factors.

    While Turner has a narrow edge in that stat category from a career standpoint, both Correa and Turner had a matching .276 xBA during the 2022 season, while Bogaerts lagged behind with a .259 xBA despite his .307 batting average.

    Correa consistently hits the ball harder, Turner strikes out a bit less, but from a broader view all three of these players are terrific contact hitters relative to the rest of the league.

    Advantage: Turner

On-Base Ability

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    Carlos Correa
    Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    Important Stats: Career OBP, xOBA, BB%, Chase%

    Bogaerts: .347 OBP, .358 xOBA, 8.6 BB%, 29.7 Chase%
    Correa: .352 OBP, .362 xOBA, 10.7 BB%, 27.2 Chase%
    Turner: .355 OBP, .359 xOBA, 6.4 BB%, 27.5 Chase%

    For on-base ability, we focused on walk rate, expected and true on-base percentage, and how frequently each player chases pitches out of the zone. Essentially, which player has the best eye at the plate?

    Turner lags behind the other two in walk rate, but that stems from his elite contact skills and the frequency with which he puts the ball in play, and he's right in line with the other two in terms of expected on-base percentage.

    The numbers for Bogaerts are a bit deceiving, as he's had a fair amount of variance in his walk numbers throughout his career. His walk rate was over 10 percent in 2019 (10.9%) and 2021 (10.3%), so he's more than capable of matching Correa's free-pass frequency, but his slightly higher chase rate is enough to give Correa the edge.

    Advantage: Correa

Power Production

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    Carlos Correa
    David Berding/Getty Images

    Important Stats: Career OPS+, ISO, xSLG, HR per 162 G

    Bogaerts: 117 OPS+, .167 ISO, .417 xSLG, 20 HR per 162 G
    Correa: 129 OPS+, .200 ISO, .479 xSLG, 28 HR per 162 G
    Turner: 122 OPS+, .185 ISO, .451 xSLG, 24 HR per 162 G

    None of the three shortstops is a power hitter in the traditional sense, but all three are capable of turning in a 30-homer season or two going forward.

    Despite having the lowest numbers across the board in the above categories, Bogaerts actually has the highest single-season home run total of the trio with a 33-homer campaign in 2019 on his resume. He has topped 20 home runs three other times, though he hit just 15 in 631 plate appearances in 2022.

    Correa has been the most consistent home-run hitter with at least 20 long balls in six of his seven full seasons, but the 26 he hit in 2021 stand as his career-high.

    The most unassuming of the group is Turner, but his power has continued to develop as his career has unfolded. He had a .467 slugging percentage his first five years in the league, compared to a .514 slugging percentage since the start of 2020.

    We'll give the edge to Correa based on his consistency and superior advanced metrics, and it wouldn't be surprising to see his first 30-homer season in the near future.

    Advantage: Correa

Speed and Base Running

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    Trea Turner
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Important Stats: 2023 Sprint Speed, BsR, Career SB per 162 G

    Bogaerts: 27.9 ft/s, 4.7 BsR, 9.6 SB per 162 G
    Correa: 27.1 ft/s, -6.0 BsR, 6.0 SB per 162 G
    Turner: 30.3 ft/s, 6.5 BsR, 43.8 SB per 162 G

    There are arguments to be made for multiple players in several of these categories, but speed is a clear win in the Turner column.

    Since the start of the 2016 season, Turner leads the majors with 228 steals, and Starling Marte (201) is the only other player with more than 200. During that same time frame, Bogaerts (61 SB) and Correa (19 SB) have not even combined for half of Turner's total.

    Beyond stolen base total, Turner regularly ranks among the fastest players in the game based on sprint speed. His 30.3 ft/s average was good for fifth in the majors in 2022, behind only Corbin Carroll (30.7), Bubba Thompson (30.4), José Siri (30.4) and Bobby Witt Jr. (30.4).

    This one is a landslide victory.

    Advantage: Turner

Defensive Ability

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    Carlos Correa
    Nick Cammett/Getty Images

    2020-22 Combined Defensive Metrics

    Bogaerts: 2,856.2 INN, -5 DRS, 2.9 UZR/150, 9.8 DEF
    Correa: 2,893.0 INN, 30 DRS, 2.1 UZR/150, 22.9 DEF
    Turner: 2,684.0 INN, -5 DRS, -0.6 UZR/150, 10.6 DEF

    The stats above are a snapshot of the past three seasons, and Correa has the upper hand by a huge margin thanks to his 2021 metrics (20 DRS, 3.1 UZR/150, 14.9 DEF) which won him a Gold Glove Award.

    Both Bogaerts (4 DRS, 4.7 UZR/150, 9.0 DEF) and Correa (3 DRS, 1.9 UZR/150, 2.0 DEF) were Gold Glove finalists in 2022, and it was far-and-away the best defensive season of Bogaerts' career, but the hardware ultimately went to rookie Jeremy Peña.

    Turner deserves props for making a seamless transition to second base last season after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers before shifting back to his natural position this year. He also saw extended time in center field early in his career and held his own, so he offers the most versatility of the group.

    It's entirely possible Turner will be the last player from this group still playing shortstop on an everyday basis thanks to his elite athleticism, while Bogaerts and Correa are both candidates to shift to third base later in their careers.

    For now, Correa is the best defender of the bunch, but the long-term outlook is not as clear-cut.

    Advantage: Correa

Postseason Track Record

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    Carlos Correa
    AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

    Career Postseason Stat Line

    Bogaerts: 44 G, .231/.309/.381, 13 XBH (5 HR), 16 RBI, 2x WS winner
    Correa: 79 G, .272/.344/.505, 34 XBH (18 HR), 59 RBI, 1x WS winner
    Turner: 43 G, .238/.279/.335, 12 XBH (3 HR), 8 RBI, 1x WS winner

    Postseason experience goes a long way, especially with a face-of-the-franchise type player like these three who will come in and have a significant impact on the culture of their next team.

    All three have won a World Series ring, with Bogaerts winning his first as a 20-year-old rookie in 2013 after beginning the postseason with just 18 games of MLB experience under his belt, but Correa stands above the rest in terms of October production.

    His 18 home runs are tied for seventh in postseason history, and he hit .276/.300/.517 with two home runs and five RBI in seven games during Houston's World Series victory in 2017.

    Since all three have ample playoff experience, there's no clear disadvantage for any of the three in this category. That said, the advantage has to go to Correa.

    Advantage: Correa

Injury History

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    Trea Turner
    Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Important Stats: Games Played the Past 5 Seasons

    Bogaerts: 641 G, 90.5 percent of games played
    Correa: 527 G, 74.4 percent of games played
    Turner: 651 G, 91.9 percent of games played

    This is where the scales level after Correa held the edge in a number of categories we've discussed so far.

    Bogaerts has not been placed on the injured list since 2018 when he missed 15 games with a broken bone in his left foot, though he played through a nagging left wrist and left shoulder issues in 2022.

    Turner suffered a fractured wrist in 2017 on a hit-by-pitch and a broken pinkie finger in 2019, but he has not been placed on the injured list since. He played in 160 games in 2022, tying for the NL lead with 708 plate appearances.

    Meanwhile, Correa has made six different trips to the injured list in his career, according to his Baseball Prospectus injury page. He played 148 games in 2021 and 136 games in 2022, erasing some of the injury concerns that plagued him early in his career, but he is still the biggest injury question mark of the trio.

    Advantage: Bogaerts/Turner

2022 Production and Future Projections

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    Xander Bogaerts
    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    2022 Offensive Stat Line

    Bogaerts: 131 OPS+, .307/.377/.456, 53 XBH (15 HR), 73 RBI, 84 R, 5.8 WAR
    Correa: 140 OPS+, .291/.366/.467, 47 XBH (22 HR), 64 RBI, 70 R, 5.4 WAR
    Turner: 121 OPS+, .298/.343/.466, 64 XBH (21 HR), 100 RBI, 101 R, 4.9 WAR

    Despite his superior OPS+ and home run total, Correa is the only one who didn't win a Silver Slugger Award in 2022. Bogaerts and Turner were recognized as the top offensive shortstops in their respective league, marking the fifth time Bogaerts has taken home the award and the first for Turner.

    2022 Defensive Stat Line

    Bogaerts: 9.0 DEF, 4 DRS, 5 OAA, 4.7 UZR/150
    Correa: 2.0 DEF, 3 DRS, -3 OAA, 1.9 UZR/150
    Turner: 7.1 DEF, -1 DRS, 0 OAA, -1.2 UZR/150

    As mentioned earlier, the 2022 season was the best of Bogaerts' career from a defensive standpoint. It was actually the first time he's posted a positive DRS figure in nine seasons as an everyday shortstop. That could boost his market more than anything he did offensively, since everyone already knows he can hit.

Contract Predictions

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    Xander Bogaerts
    Elsa/Getty Images

    We've taken a deep dive into the three elite-level shortstops headlining this year's free-agent class alongside Aaron Judge. Now the question is how much each of them is going to earn, and where they're going to land.

    Here are my predictions:

    Bogaerts: Signs with Los Angeles Dodgers on a seven-year, $210 million deal.

    Correa: Signs with Chicago Cubs on a 10-year, $341 million deal.

    Turner: Signs with the Philadelphia Phillies on an eight-year, $272 million deal.

    Since Bogaerts and Correa are both represented by super agent Scott Boras, who also represents last year's $325-million man Corey Seager, it will be interesting to see how the market unfolds.

    He could opt to wait out Turner signing in order to help set the market for his two clients later in the offseason.

    Regardless, there's a good chance we'll have three new entries into the $200 million club before the offseason is over.