Shortstop. The captain of the infield and usually one of the best two-way players on any team. And you don’t need to convince New Yorkers about that.
Yankees legend Derek Jeter was the epitome of this. Nomar Garciaparra with the Boston Red Sox, whether Yankee fans sneer at his name or not, falls into this category. There’s actually so many in recent memory that we could touch on.
But what’s about to take place on the free agent market this offseason is a rarity because there will be multiple high-caliber shortstops — All-Star level talents — available for the taking. And there’s no doubt going to be a bidding war for them.
“Bottom line is shortstop is an area of need and it’s gonna be,” GM Brian Cashman said on Tuesday. “We have to address it.”
With that said, the list is as follows in no particular order of the top dogs: Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, and Marcus Semien. Those are the top five of the bunch, and all of them have tremendous talent on both sides of the ball.
The Yankees should be among those interested in every candidate and you’re probably going to hear rumors connected to each of them in some way, shape, or form. It makes sense, too, considering Gleyber Torres had his chance between the shortened 2020 campaign and this past season to prove he can be the team’s shortstop of the future, only to be moved back to second base with Gio Urshela shifted over to short.
But which top dog in the shortstop department is the right guy for New York? That’s the biggest question, as SNY contributor Anthony McCarron pointed out that the team does covet its top shortstop prospects, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. So maybe someone on a shorter-term contract makes sense as opposed to locking in one of these All-Stars for years to come.
But if that isn’t the case and the Yanks are looking to take advantage of this shortstop jackpot, here’s who they should target, ranking them from worst fit for New York to best fit….
5) Carlos Correa
Let me first start off by saying this: He’s arguably the best one of these five on the market. He hits for power. His strikeout percentage was the lowest it’s been in his career since 2015. And defensively, he posted a plus-21 at shortstop in defensive runs saved, by far the best metric of his career.
But lest we not forget about the Astros’ cheating scandal and the aftershocks that heavily involved Correa and the Yankees.
Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, Gary Sanchez, and Gleyber Torres were among those who didn’t believe the Astros stopped cheating after the 2017 season. They made it quite clear during news conferences heading into spring training in 2020, while Correa barked back at players like them. Cody Bellinger was another one, too, who Correa was quick to respond to. Even Aaron Boone, whom the Yanks just brought back as manager, had his fair share of thoughts on the situation.
We’re not forgetting about the fan base, which GM Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner need to consider in this case. The Yankees were directly impacted by that cheating scandal and fans spat at any apologies the Astros attempted to make.
And make no mistake, the Yanks have dealt with situations on their own team, too. Alex Rodriguez is the big name there.
But it would be hard for Correa to be welcomed with open arms in New York, which would hurt his acclimation process. It would also put enormous pressure on him to perform well. It’s just not a match as good — as he might be.
4) Javier Baez
Speaking of New York acclimation, Baez did well when he joined the Mets from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline. Yes, he had the “thumbs down” incident with fans, but overall the savvy shortstop – playing second base when Francisco Lindor returned from injury – performed as expected.
He posted a .299/.371/.515 slash line with nine homers and 22 RBI in 47 games with the Mets, a team he believes is on a winning path despite falling out of the NL East race after leading for more than three months last season.
But, while Baez’s impact can be found at the dish, in the field, and on the basepaths, he is too much of an all or nothing hitter – something the Yankees already possess at multiple positions. Plus, he seemed very inclined to return to the Mets to play with his best friend Lindor at second base. That would create one of the best middle infield tandems in baseball.
3) Marcus Semien
Remember the short-term deal we discussed? This is what SNY’s Andy Martino alluded to recently, stating that Semien’s impact with the Toronto Blue Jays this season – a career year in multiple batting categories for him – makes him a very intriguing guy on the market.
He’s 31 years old, which makes him the oldest of the five shortstops here. So he will be more affordable, though his production this season would indicate that it’s more on the expensive side compared to other free agents out there. But not more than what these other four will generate. Martino heard four or five years at $22 million per season could get the job done.
But Semien’s bat usually masks what he does in the field, posting a negative outs above average in every season he’s played at short but 2018. He’s a better second baseman, and maybe that’s why he’s flourished with the Jays, as Bio Bichette mans short.
Either way, he’s a good veteran to have, hurt the Yanks tremendously in 2021, and could be a short-term option who allows New York to double down on their prospects turning out to be studs in the future.
2) Corey Seager
He makes a lot of sense for Yankee Stadium. Seager’s left-handed bat would be a perfect fit to the top of the Yanks’ order and he would likely see an uptick in homers to right field. The 27-year-old has a World Series ring with over 50 postseason games under his belt, dating back to his rookie campaign in 2015. He knows what it takes to win.
But there is injury history and a very hefty contract that’s expected to come his way to worry about if you’re the Yankees.
Seager and Correa are likely to be the highest-paid free agents this offseason, and the former has certainly earned it. Over the past two seasons, he’s hit over .300, with 2021 seeing a .306/.394/521 slash with 16 dingers and 57 RBI over 95 games.
But look at the amount of games. Seager is bound to miss some time based on how often he gets injured. When he is playing, he’s as solid as they come at the position and will make an impact.
If the Yanks don’t mind that, can they afford to outbid other teams for him? They have Gerrit Cole’s and Giancarlo Stanton’s contracts on the books already, and Aaron Judge is likely to follow soon. How much would Hal Steinbrenner go over the luxury tax?
1) Trevor Story
The 28-year-old was rumored to be a Yankee target this past trade deadline, but nothing ever came to be. But the interest was there and it certainly will be this offseason when the Yanks can bid for him.
And he makes all the sense in the world to bring to the Bronx.
Story is a solid defender, finishing with a plus-9 DRS in 1,175 innings this season with the Colorado Rockies. And though his offense was down a little from his career averages — .251/.329/.471 – he still belted 24 homers and drove home 75 runs.
The biggest worry for many with Rockies players trying to play elsewhere is home and road splits. At Coors Field over his career, Story has hit .303/.369/.603, which is typical for star players at that field. Away, he has hit .241/.310/.442. On the road this season, it was a bigger gap at .203/.292/.426, though he had 13 homers compared to 11 at home.
While this will be factored into the decision, Yankee fans must remember DJ LeMahieu‘s splits also weren’t too good outside of the Denver confines he used to call home. When he got to New York, though, he was playing at an All-Star caliber.
It’s also worth noting that the ball moves differently at Coors Field than on the road, particularly with pitchers throwing breaking balls. That might be an adjustment for Story, who can struggle at times with those pitches on the road, which is why you see the strikeout numbers higher in those games compared to at home (77 to 62).
But Story shouldn’t be as expensive as Correa or Seager, and he has a friend in LeMahieu already with the club. He’s a likable player who has already shown leadership characteristics with the Rockies. The Yanks would likely want him to strike out less (139 in 2021), but his K rate is better than Baez and the change of scenery and coaching could help in all facets of his game.
Overall, he checks with the boxes playing at an All-Star caliber. That’s what the Yanks need at the position after all.