Preview and Predictions for MLB's Star-Studded Free-Agent Shortstop MarketNovember 10, 2021
Preview and Predictions for MLB's Star-Studded Free-Agent Shortstop Market
How the dominoes fall on a loaded free-agent shortstop class is sure to be one of the biggest storylines of the 2021-22 MLB offseason.
Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are the headliners of free agency this winter, but they are far from the only impact players searching for new contracts, with former All-Stars Javier Baez and Trevor Story also looking for new homes, as well as shortstop-turned-second baseman Marcus Semien.
Veterans Andrelton Simmons, Jose Iglesias and Freddy Galvis round out this year's shortstop class, and each of those players is also a candidate for an MLB deal, even if it's of the one-year variety.
Ahead we've predicted what order those players will sign, where they'll land and what their next contracts will look like.
Off we go!
Domino 1: Javier Baez Re-Signs with the New York Mets
Javier Baez made it clear where he wanted to play if the Chicago Cubs decided to go in a different direction.
"If I go to the free agency, I would like to play with Francisco Lindor," Baez told Mega 106.9 in July. "I loved playing with him in the World Classic. It is the only option I would take to play second base if it is to play with him, otherwise I stay playing at shortstop."
He ended up getting his wish even earlier than expected, as a few days after he made those comments, he was traded to the New York Mets as part of the Cubs' fire sale.
The change of scenery jump-started his season, and he hit .299/.371/.515 with 1.9 WAR in 47 games with the Mets following the trade. That could pave the way to a long-term relationship.
"I obviously don't like the traffic. I don't like the cold," Baez told Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago in September. "But if they make the offer and they make it happen, I would love to stay in New York."
Here's assuming the Mets do in fact make it happen and that things move quickly so the team can turn its attention to rebuilding the starting rotation.
Contract Prediction: Three years, $72 million
Domino 2: Carlos Correa Signs with the Detroit Tigers
As the clear-cut No. 1 free agent in the 2021-22 class, Carlos Correa does not need to wait around for anyone else to set the market.
His age (27), track record, power production, defensive ability and postseason experience all make him a prime candidate to be the next member of the exclusive $300 million club, and while the uncertainty of the new collective bargaining agreement could mean a slow-moving offseason overall, Correa could be one of the first names off the board once things finally do get rolling.
The Detroit Tigers are a young team on the rise, ready to make a splashy move that effectively pivots them from rebuilding to contending. Think the Chicago Cubs signing Jon Lester prior to the 2015 season.
While the Tigers have some good young arms to build around, a quality third baseman in Jeimer Candelario, and uber prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene knocking on the door, there is nothing remotely resembling a long-term answer at shortstop in the organization.
In 2021, a combination of Niko Goodrum, Zack Short, Harold Castro, Willi Castro and Isaac Paredes manned the position, and Tigers shortstops ranked 28th in combined value, according to FanGraphs.
Correa's ties to former Houston Astros manager and current Tigers manager A.J. Hinch have been pointed out frequently, and it's as logical a reason as any to believe Correa could favor a move to Detroit to be the centerpiece of what the team is building.
Contract Prediction: 10 years, $350 million.
Domino 3: Corey Seager Signs with the New York Yankees
Once the Carlos Correa domino falls, the New York Yankees might feel an increased sense of urgency to address their own hole at the shortstop position.
Gleyber Torres has been a defensive liability (minus-24 DRS) at the position throughout his career, and he was finally shifted back to second base down the stretch. Third baseman Gio Urshela moved to shortstop following the change, and the team could conceivably go with that middle infield duo next season, slotting DJ LeMahieu at third base.
However, after a disappointing early exit from the postseason, expect the Yankees to aim higher.
Despite missing 65 games with a fractured hand, Seager was a 3.7 WAR player in 95 games, hitting .306/.394/.521 for a 145 OPS+ with 41 extra-base hits in 409 plate appearances. He has also been a steady defender throughout his career, despite his limited range, and his bat would play at third base if a shift became necessary later in his next contract.
With the Yankees unlikely to target Correa given the bad blood from 2017 and the front office "soured" on Trevor Story as a potential fit, according to Bryan Hoch on Talkin' Yanks, Seager is looking more and more like the team's No. 1 target this offseason.
Contract Prediction: Eight years, $256 million
Domino 4: Trevor Story Signs with the Texas Rangers
Of the "Big Four" shortstops, Trevor Story seems to be the most likely to be waiting out the rest of the market for a variety of reasons.
Despite what guys like DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado have proved in recent years, it's still tough to look at Story's home/road splits and not be a bit concerned with his ability to produce at a high level without playing half of his games at Coors Field.
Here's a look at his career splits:
- Home: 375 G, .303/.369/.603, 216 XBH (95 HR), 24.7 K%
- Away: 370 G, .241/.310/.442, 149 XBH (63 HR), 30.6 K%
The 28-year-old is also coming off an up-and-down season in 2021, and while he finished strong, his 103 OPS+ still represented a significant step backward from the 123 OPS+ he had over the previous three seasons.
All of that could mean an initial gap between his asking price and what teams are willing to offer, and that could open the door for a squad like the Texas Rangers to swoop in with a proposal that sets them apart from the rest of his suitors.
The Rangers lost 102 games in 2021 and have work to do on the rebuilding front, but after trading Joey Gallo, they need a new face of the franchise to help put butts in the seats in their new stadium. Incumbent shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is versatile enough to shift around the infield as needed.
Contract Prediction: Five years, $110 million
Domino 5: Andrelton Simmons Signs with the Houston Astros
The Houston Astros made Carlos Correa a five-year, $160 million offer earlier this month, and while it's unlikely that will be enough to convince him to stay, they do have the financial muscle to be major players on the shortstop market.
That said, the better course of action might be a veteran stopgap.
Jeremy Pena, one of the team's top prospects, missed significant time with a wrist injury that he suffered at the alternate training site, but he returned in time to hit .287/.346/.598 with 10 home runs in 30 games at Triple-A. MLB prospect rankings touted him as the "best defender in the Houston system," and his offensive upside is abundantly clear.
A bit more seasoning in the upper levels of the minors would be beneficial, but the 24-year-old could be ready to take over as the starter by midseason next year.
That makes slick-fielding Andrelton Simmons the perfect short-term solution to plugging the hole at shortstop.
The 32-year-old hit .223 with a 57 OPS+ playing on a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins in 2021, but he was still a 1.4 WAR player on the strength of his elite glovework. The Astros have shown they value defense by sticking with light-hitting Martin Maldonado as their starting catcher, and there is enough thunder in the lineup to make up for limited production at two premium defensive positions.
Contract Prediction: One year, $7.5 million.
Domino 6: Marcus Semien Signs with the Philadelphia Phillies
Marcus Semien bet on himself when he took a one-year, $18 million pillow contract from the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason, and that bet is going to pay off in a big way this winter.
The 31-year-old is now poised for his second third-place finish in AL MVP voting in the last three years after being named a finalist alongside teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and likely winner Shohei Ohtani.
He set the single-season record for home runs by a second baseman with 45 long balls, and he also set career highs in RBI (109), steals (15) and total bases (351) while leading the majors with 86 extra-base hits in a 7.2 WAR season.
The question now is whether he'll stay at second base, where he just won a Gold Glove Award, or if he'll shift back to shortstop, where he played for the bulk of his career prior to 2021.
He was an above-average defender at shortstop during his time in Oakland, and there are enough teams in need of an upgrade at the position that he should be able to shift back if that's his preference this offseason. It would likely help to further boost his earning power.
The Philadelphia Phillies have already made it clear that Didi Gregorius will not simply be handed the starting shortstop job again after a disappointing 2021 season.
With Jean Segura capable of handling either middle infield spot, the team could sign Semien and then sort out who plays where during spring training. Having two dual-purpose middle infielders would only add to the team's flexibility.
Contract Prediction: Four years, $112 million
Domino 7: Jose Iglesias Signs with the Minnesota Twins
Once the big names are off the board, the remaining teams in need of shortstop help will have to turn their attention to a pair of steady veterans in Jose Iglesias and Freddy Galvis.
The Astros, Phillies, Rangers, Tigers and Yankees have already been addressed in this hypothetical, leaving the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins as two teams still searching for help.
In theory, the Twins only need a short-term stopgap with 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis still viewed as the shortstop of the future, and that's the approach they took last offseason when they signed Andrelton Simmons to a one-year, $10.5 million deal.
Iglesias, 31, had a forgettable start to the season with the Angels after coming over in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in December. He was released Sept. 3 but caught on a few days later with the Boston Red Sox. The late signing meant he was ineligible for postseason play, but he hit .356/.406/.508 with six extra-base hits in 64 plate appearances.
A solid contact hitter and a steady defender throughout his 10-year career, Iglesias would allow Jorge Polanco to stay at second base, where he is best suited defensively, and Luis Arraez to remain in the super-utility role where he has thrived in recent years.
Contract Prediction: One year, $5 million
Domino 8: Freddy Galvis Signs with the Los Angeles Angels
A quiet producer throughout his 10-year career, Freddy Galvis should be able to secure another guaranteed MLB deal this offseason after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Orioles last winter.
He hit .242 with 15 doubles, 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 394 plate appearances in 2021, and after a solid start to the year with the O's, he was traded to the Phillies at the deadline. He took over as the team's starting shortstop, while also seeing some sporadic action at third base.
With a pair of 20-homer seasons on Galvis' resume, there is enough offensive upside in his bat to believe he'll get another shot at a starting job, provided he is willing to wait out the rest of the market.
The Los Angeles Angels turned to Luis Rengifo as their starting shortstop after Jose Iglesias was released in early September, and he hit .250/.299/.386 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 99 plate appearances down the stretch. They also recently claimed Andrew Velazquez off waivers from the Yankees.
Assuming the focus of their offseason is upgrading the pitching staff, as it should be, a late move to add Galvis to the shortstop mix for a couple million dollars is a low-risk move. At the least, he has value as an offensive-minded utility infielder.
Contract Prediction: One year, $2 million
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.