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MLB Free-Agency Part 1: The Year of Incredible Shortstop Talent

Carlos Correa MLB Free Agency

Free agency this MLB offseason consists of one of the deepest classes ever, with an abundance of superstar talent searching for a new home.

The MLB offseason has finally arrived after almost seven full months of baseball. However, this offseason, in particular, stands out. Although free agency is usually the main topic of discussion, baseball has a much more significant issue to address this winter. With the 2021 MLB season concluded, a new collective bargaining agreement must be constructed. Furthermore, severe troubles between the league, owners, and players suggest the negotiation process will be no walk in the park. So much so, an impending lockout is a likely outcome.

In of itself, the CBA dilemma deserves its’ own article. Instead, on a more positive note, this article will be focussing on the loaded free-agent class. Specifically, the shortstop position is flooded with young superstars that could turn franchises around. The majority of baseball’s best shortstops will be available, with five, in particular, acting as headliners for part 1 of this free agency series.

Need a Shortstop? Cause We Got Plenty!

If there were ever a time to be thin at shortstop, this would be the year. This winter’s free agency has marquee talents across all positions. However, no position is as stacked as the middle infield. Players like Andrelton Simmons, Donovan Solano, and Cesar Hernandez are all worthy additions to any ballclub. However, franchise players such as Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Javier Báez, and Marcus Semien are also available.

Báez and Semien are both coming off seasons at second base but are adequate shortstops too. While the talent of this group is undeniable, the even greater draw for teams is their age. Besides the 31-year-old Semien, each player is either 27 or 28. Therefore, all of them are likely seeking lengthy, expensive contracts. However, not every team in baseball can afford to do so.

Before divulging each player’s expected landing spots, here’s how each one performed this season. Of course, teams will be analyzing more than just the prior season, but it will provide some valuable background knowledge. In general, the statistics pulled resemble the ideal characteristics of a shortstop. Which, historically speaking, is regarded as having a solid defensive capability together with some speed and an ability to reach base. Also, be prepared for lots of numbers, some of which may be new to you.

*wRC+ refers to weighted runs created plus — i.e., an attempt at determining a player’s overall offensive value through the lens of runs after adjusting park differences and basing it off of a leaguewide average of 100

*Rdrs refers to defensive runs saves above average — i.e., the number of runs saved based upon the number of opportunities in comparison to the leaguewide average 

Carlos Correa

Correa: 148 Games, .279 BA, .366 OBP, .485 SLG, .850 OPS, 26 HR, 92 RBIs, 104 Runs, 0/0 Steals, 7.3 WAR, 134 wRC+, and 21 Rdrs

Correa kicks off this list because he should be considered the most impactful of the group. Throughout his Houston tenure, Correa has thrived as a modern slugging shortstop. Although some years may deserve asterisks, Correa is still an extraordinary player. The most significant stipulation with him is maintaining health. However, in 2021, Correa was able to do just that. In doing so, his value for this free agency has skyrocketed.

Additionally, Correa is coming off yet another productive world series appearance. Therefore, teams are fully confident in his ability to perform on the biggest stage. While Houston would love to resign the Puerto Rican, they seemingly will be unable to do so. So much so, according to SportsLine oddsmakers, the Astros have a +2000 chance of resigning Correa. While these odds are essentially just guesses, it shows the relatively high likelihood of Correa landing on a new squad.

Correa’s ability to impact the game offensively and defensively is portrayed by his impressive 134 wRC+ and 21 Rdrs (which leads this group of five). Many teams will be calling his number this offseason, but only a few stand out as frontrunners. The current favorite for Correa is surprisingly the Detroit Tigers (+250), but the overspending Yankees are just behind them (+300).

Detroit offers Correa the chance to reconnect with former Astros’ manager AJ Hinch. Whereas, the Yankees… well, they are the Yankees. Neither team is a perfect fit, with the Yankees especially not making sense because Correa would just add to their righty-heavy batting order. Therefore, I expect the Tigers to win the Correa bidding war by offering a 5+ year deal worth an ungodly amount of money.

Marcus Semien

Semien: 162 Games, .265 BA, .334 OBP, .538 SLG, .873 OPS, 45 HR, 102 RBIs, 115 Runs, 15/16 Steals, 131 wRC+, and 12 Rdrs

Semien lands at #2 on this list because of how incredible he was this year. Sure, he may be getting a little old, but he raked all season long, literally. Playing in all 162 games is especially valuable at such an important position. Semien is coming off a 1-year deal with Toronto that certainly paid off. Although his batting average is pretty mediocre, his slugging numbers are ridiculous. Not to mention, Semien was not this type of player earlier on in his career either.

Semien’s 2021 season will sadly be overlooked by many. Semien surely deserves some MVP votes with such a season, but Shohei Ohtani and his teammate, Vladamir Guerrero, are truthfully the only ones in the race. Semien set an MLB record for the second-base position by racking up a whopping 45 homers. Across the board, though, his offensive output was top-10 in all of baseball. And his defense wasn’t half bad either.

Unfortunately, Semien’s age will likely confine him to more normal contracts. Unlike these other players, Semien’s deal will probably be around three-to-six years worth. However, he certainly deserves a hefty sum of money. Toronto should make him their number one priority this offseason because of the tremendous value he brings to the team and the development of younger players. The Blue Jays should fully operate under a ‘running it back’ mindset because of how close they were to a playoff birth. Therefore, I expect Semien to resign with Toronto, but don’t be surprised if the Reds or Rangers get involved if it becomes a bidding war.

Corey Seager

Seager: 95 Games, .306 BA, .394 OBP, .521 SLG, .915 OPS, 16 HR, 57 RBIs, 54 Runs, 1/2 Steals, 3.7 WAR, 147 wRC+, and -1 Rdrs

Corey Seager is an interesting free agency candidate. Coming into 2021, Seager was fresh off of a breakout playoff performance. His world series MVP seemingly guaranteed his return to the Dodgers. However, at this year’s deadline, LA loudly shut that door by acquiring Trea Turner. Since Turner has an extra year of control, and the Dodgers eventually have to run out of money, Seager will likely be repping a new uniform in the spring. 

Seager had a strong 2021 season, especially offensively. However, injuries sidelined him for an extended period. Consequently, prospective teams could fear this evolving into a pattern, like that of Troy Tulowitzki. That said, Seager has had significantly fewer issues and will still be highly sought after. With LA out of the picture, baseball’s next biggest spender should step up to the plate and not swing and miss for once. Every year, the Yankees make a pricey splash move, but every year it still is not enough.

This year, though, Yankee fans will grace over a well-thought-out signing. Although Seager does not fulfill the Yanks’ defensive liabilities, he is a direly needed power lefty. Since the Joey Gallo experiment crashed and burned, Seager could fulfill this spot well. Many teams will fight for Seager, but none will put together a package like New York. Therefore, I expect Seager to sign with the Yankees for a ridiculous amount of time and money. 

Trevor Story

Story: 142 Games, .279 BA, .366 OBP, .485 SLG, .850 OPS, 24 HR, 75 RBIs, 88 Runs, 20/26 Steals, 4.2 WAR, 100 wRC+, and 9 Rdrs

Another power shortstop rumored to be the next Yankee slugger is Trevor Story. Story had himself a decent season with the obsolete Rockies who, for whatever reason, chose not to deal him at the deadline. New York would have made tons of sense at the time, but now it is not as evident. Story would undoubtedly help their defensive and base-stealing ability, but not their strikeout-heavy righty issue. So, for that reason, the Yankees should not be considered, even though they likely will be. 

Story’s free agency has been highly anticipated. As the heir to Troy Tulowitzki, Story’s inevitable departure from the Rocky Mountains was well advertised. However, he did not have quite the money-making season he would have hoped for. Story can, at his best, fully embody a five-tool star. At his worst, though, Story is merely an average hitter with strong defensive abilities. This sounds eerily similar to that of Elvis Andrus back in the mid-2010s.

Therefore, I expect the Texas Rangers to repeat history and sign Story to a massive deal. Story will indeed become their new franchise player and help guide them out of irrelevancy. The Mariners, Tigers, and even the Astros could sneak in for the steal, assuming the latter two do not land Correa. 

Javier Báez

Báez: 138 Games, .265 BA, .319 OBP, .494 SLG, .813 OPS, 31 HR, 87 RBIs, 80 Runs, 18/23 Steals, 1.9 WAR, 116 wRC+, and 6 Rdrs

Last and certainly least is Javier Báez. Báez was once a highly-touted prospect with insane glovework. Today, Báez is a strikeout legend with an overrated defensive side. Nonetheless, Javi does bring passion and the potential for a resurgence. In general, his season was not all bad. His OPS is still adequate, despite leading the National League in strikeouts. Furthermore, his speed and electrifying attitude are always desired traits. 

Javier Báez will not receive the monstrosity contract predicted for him back in 2017. However, he can still bring a lot to a ball club in a variety of ways. If he can restrain himself from expanding the zone, Báez would be much more valuable. His WAR was lacking this season, and he dealt with some minor injuries, so how valuable is unsure. Although his brief stint with the Mets came with some controversy, he would still be a great fit. 

If the Mets can resign Javier Báez, they likely wouldn’t be doing so for too long. Báez will probably be entering a ‘prove-it’ style contract unless a team goes for a bold deal. That is, a pretty expensive one-year deal to further analyze his monetary worth. Marcus Semien just ended his prove-it year, and it paid off tremendously. Moreover, Báez’s intensely competitive nature should thrive in such a contract. Therefore, unless a Cubs reunion appears, Báez might be staying in New York for some time to come. 

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