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  • Buyer Beware: Flaws with the Top-5 Free Agent Shortstops


    Cody Christie

    For the second consecutive off-season, Minnesota is in the market for a starting shortstop. Fans may want the team to spend big, but all of the top-tier free agents have flaws.

     

    Image courtesy of Neville E. Guard, USA Today Sports

    Minnesota has the opportunity to make a big splash this winter by jumping in on (arguably) the best free-agent shortstop class in baseball history. It will cost the team a lot of money to be in the mix for the top-tier players. To put that in perspective, Francisco Lindor was supposed to be part of this free agent group, but he signed a 10-year, $341 million deal with the Mets. Each of these players comes with some red flags that interested clubs will need to consider. 

    Carlos Correa (2022 Age: 27)
    2021 Stats: 7.2 WAR, .279/.366/.485 (.850), 26 HR, 34 2B, 131 OPS+

    As a 27-year old, Correa is reaching free agency at the prime of his career, and he is the top free agent in this winter’s crop of available players. It’s likely going to take $30 million per season for six years or more to sign Correa. Injuries have been part of his professional career, but he has played 99 games or more in five of his seven big-league seasons. There’s also a good chance he will need to move off shortstop as he continues to age.
    Flaws: Injury history

    Corey Seager (2022 Age: 28)
    2021 Stats: 3.7 WAR, .306/.394/.521 (.915), 16 HR, 22 2B, 145 OPS+

    Like Correa, injuries have been part of Seager’s story, including missing a good chunk of 2021 with a hand fracture. He’s played over 130 games in three of his six full big-league seasons. His 2020 playoff run was outstanding as he won the World Series and NLCS MVP. Teams that miss out on Correa will likely turn to Seager, but he is a year older and has missed more time in his big-league career. 
    Flaws: Injury history

    Marcus Semien (2022 Age: 31)
    2021 Stats: 7.1 WAR, .265/.334/.538 (.873), 45 HR, 39 2B, 133 OPS+

    Minnesota was interested in signing Semien last winter, but he decided to go to Toronto. His season north of the border was memorable as he will likely finish in the top-5 for the AL MVP. He is the oldest shortstop among the top-tier free agents, and he played all of last year at second base. Last winter, he signed a one-year deal for $18 million, and he will be getting a pay raise in the months ahead. 
    Flaws: Age

    Javier Baez (2022 Age: 29)
    2021 Stats: 4.5 WAR, .265/.319/.494 (.813), 31 HR, 18 2B, 117 OPS+

    Baez is certainly an exciting player, but he swings and misses a lot. He led the National League with 184 strikeouts, and he has struck out 144 or more times in each of the last four full seasons. As far as contracts go, he is projected to get a lower average value than the names above because his personality can rub people the wrong way. Can Josh Donaldson and Baez coexist in the same clubhouse? That might not be an experiment a team wants to explore.  
    Flaws: Strikeouts, Volatility 

    Trevor Story (2022 Age: 29)
    2021 Stats: 4.2 WAR, .251/.329/.471 (.801), 24 HR, 34 2B, 103 OPS+

    Story has been a 20-20 player throughout his professional career. He is also hitting free agency at a tough time as he is coming off a poor campaign by his standards. There are also concerns about how he will fare outside of Coors Field. At home, he hit .303/.369/.603 (.972) while on the road, he was limited to a .752 OPS.  
    Flaws: Home/Road Splits

    To read more about these shortstops and other off-season options, make sure to pre-order your copy of the 2022 Offseason Handbook. Designed to serve as an essential companion for the Twins offseason ahead, this digital Handbook places you in the shoes of the general manager, equipping you with all the information you need to construct your own team-building blueprint (or predict what the real front office will do).

    Which flaws worry you the most? Will the Twins make offers to any of these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    I think in all of the mentioned players have a flaw going forward, that their defense is going to make them move from SS, as Semian already did.  You pay top dollar for a SS that can field it at either elite level with average offense, or elite offense with at least average defense.  I would worry signing any to major deals for the combo of wasted value at end of deal, if not quickly.  Look at Lindor, signed huge deal and already looks like it was a terrible deal for the Mets. 

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    Nice article.

    Other than locking up Buxton, there is no reason the Twins should be spending big $$$ this offseason. With the loss of Berrios and Maeda, 2022 will be a tryout camp for the starting rotation. It makes more sense for the Twins to be active in free agency during the 2022-2023 offseason.

    I especially don't think they should be locking up a SS long-term when they have some legit possible in-house candidates.

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    Nice summary, you really showed the flaws and for the money that they want and will get it is not worth it.  This is not the time where a SS will put us over the top.  Use what we have - Polanco, Gordon, Martin, Lewis - piece it together for another year and see if the prospects can take over.  Then invest in one very good SP and one very good RP.  

    I can see teams paying a lot of money for players who are past their prime in this scenario.  How has Lindor or Bauer worked out on big contracts?  Mookie Betts played great his first year in LA - This year a 264 with 23 HRs output is not at the value of his contract 

    • Years: 12 (through 2032)
    • Total value: $365 million
    • Signing bonus: $65 million
    • Average per year: $30,416,667 (11th in MLB) 
    • Contract details

    Everyone was excited about D J Mahieu - he signed a big contract and then batted 268 with 1.5 WAR.

    The Brewers were happy to sign Jackie Bradley, Jr and managed to get -0.7 WAR.

    Marcell Ozuna looked great then his personal issues damaged the Atlanta Braves like Trevor Bauer and the Dodgers.

    I am not a big contract guy.  Paying for past performance makes no sense and MLB has really fallen into its own trap.  Look at the Angels - Rodon, Trout, and now Ohtani will have monster contracts and no post season.  Some sense has to prevail. 

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    Correa is the only true shortstop long term and one id feel most confident signing longterm.

    I’d keep an eye on what the dodgers end up doing with Corey Seager. If they end up with an extension, I’d look to lock in on Trea Turner next offseason.

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    It sure doesn't seem like these guys have much to gain from signing on as one-year rentals while we try to get Royce set up. Can we realistically lock down any of these guys for just 2022, at any price?

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    The Twins aren't going to sign any of these players, but...

    The "now isn't the time" argument has always been wrong. There is never the "wrong time" to get better players, yet people make that argument all the time.

    "Wait till we're one player away to sign that player" is, to put it bluntly, a stupid idea.

    You wouldnt be one player short had you signed that player when you could.  Not to mention that "one player" might not be there now. 

    Sign good players when you can. 

    Of the three, I'd take Correa, but the Twins won't sign any of these five.

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    I'm open to the idea the Twins should spend big on a shortstop instead of multiple pitchers but the one that scares me away is Semien. I was a big proponent of signing him last offseason but he's pushing well past 30 years old at this point, played second almost exclusively last season, and his price will likely be obnoxiously high after his 2021 season, which I do not expect him to repeat.

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    1 minute ago, USAFChief said:

    The Twins aren't going to sign any of these players, but...

    The "now isn't the time" argument has always been wrong. There is never the "wrong time" to get better players, yet people make that argument all the time.

    "Wait till we're one player away to sign that player" is, to put it bluntly, a stupid idea.

    You wouldnt be one player short had you signed that player when you could.  Not to mention that "one player" might not be there now. 

    Sign good players when you can. 

    Of the three, I'd take Correa, but the Twins won't sign any of these five.

    Truth, mostly. There is no guarantee a great player will be there at the exact moment they "put you over the top". Or that you'll be able to sign them.

    The Twins would 100% be better (unless injury happened, which, anyone can get hurt) if they signed one of these guys.

    (note: I'm not discussing these particular players and % of revenue on a player, just that the argument here seems to be never sign a FA, or don't sign one until they are the last piece.....both of which I disagree with)

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    1 minute ago, Doctor Gast said:

    I agree with the consensus, don't sign big name FAs. They're not worth it.

    Not worth what? 

    By that logic, don't sign Buxton, right? His status as a Twins makes no difference in terms of money/payroll. 

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    The only one I would remotely consider, only because the price may fall dramatically is Javier Baez.  We are night in a position to spend big on a long term SS.  Our only hope is Martin or Lewis develop.  
     

    this article should really focus on the next tier free agent SS, that’s where our market likely sits.

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    I'd be shocked if any of them got an offer from the Twins. It's just not gonna happen. I'm hoping for 2022 they can find a defensive specialist that can hit a better that Anderlton did. And re-evaluate next offseason. I'm still hoping Royce Lewis can be a competent SS. 

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    I don't see any reason the Twins couldn't sign one of these guys. As they turn the pitching staff, and multiple position player spots, over to young guys on pre-arb deals they can afford JD, Buxton, and one of these guys for the next 2 years until JD is off the books and they have to start paying arbitration raises on the young guys. Assuming 6-7 year deals for Buxton and a SS you'd then let them walk as they'd be well into their 30s and use that money to extend the guys ending their arb years (all of this hinges on the CBA not being drastically changed, which it certainly might).

    I know many people won't like this, but my priorities this offseason wouldn't be pitching first, but would be to lock in Buxton, lock in one of these SSs, and talk to Polanco about another extension. I'd want to come out of this offseason with the middle of my defense locked in for the next 6 or 7 years. The pitching has to be internal development. I'd like them to bring in some veteran arms (Pineda and somebody better), but they can't reasonably build an entire staff with FAs. I'd be open to looking at some trades for arms, but my #1 goal for this offseason would be to go into 2022 with my SS, 2B, and CF locked up for 6-7 years. I don't think Lewis is a SS at the ML level and I'm quite positive Martin isn't. Lewis would be my primary backup for Buxton while also being my super utility guy (covering basically every position but 1B and C) moving forward, and Martin would be a right handed Arraez for me (2B, 3B, and LF). 

    I'd prefer to stay away from Semien for 6 or 7 years, but would take him for 4 or 5. The rest I'd be fine signing for 6-7 years with Seager being the only one I'm really concerned about moving off SS. Baez and Story are GG type fielders and Correa isn't far behind. I don't see any reason those 3 won't play SS for the rest of their careers. 

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    1 hour ago, bean5302 said:

    He turned 31 like two weeks ago. Not sure if 2 weeks into age 31 is pushing well past 30. He probably even remembers as far back as his 29th birthday 13 months ago?

    Yes, because he's going to sign for a single year and definitely won't sign a 4-5 year deal that pushes him past 35.

    Don't be pedantic.

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    chpettit19 has solid arguments regarding how the Twins could move towards their next roster. It seems, to most people, that a resolution to a contract for Byron Buxton takes precedence over the offseason and this seems both necessary and unfortunate at the same time. Unless the Twins meet Buxton's price there won't be a quick decision and this may slow down the other moves needed to rectify an unbalanced roster.

    Another factor is the budget. A $100 million roster will look quite a bit different than a $135-145 million team. At some point the Twins need to push Duran, Winder, Balazovic, SWR, and Canterino forward, although I do agree their developments have been handled well thus far. We can hope that these pitchers fill in next year where Thorpe and others were to help this past season. The Twins can make two or three trades for decent starting pitchers and sign a free agent, maybe even Pineda, as well as find a solid reliever. The trick will be in finding a trading partner.

    The Twins need a shortstop and while I do not expect they will be in on the top players (Correa, Seager, Semien, Baez, Story), they can if they choose. This is where I agree, sign a shorstop with Polanco and Buxtonthe Twins are strong in the middle.

    To support a big signing the Twins need good pitchers and this is where the trades come into play. I'm dangling Garver (because he is desirable), Arraez, Larnach, Sano, Kepler, Rooker, Duffey, and even perhaps a promising prospect such as Lewis, Martin, Miranda, and Celestino. In no way I am suggesting trading nearly all of these players but want to discover what teams have an interest in our players to return some starting pitching. The free agent pitchers will not be as good of a value as a Correa. There are many variables and pieces to move around to fit within a fair budget - say @$140 million. 

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    3 hours ago, Tim said:

    Correa is the only true shortstop long term and one id feel most confident signing longterm.

    I’d keep an eye on what the dodgers end up doing with Corey Seager. If they end up with an extension, I’d look to lock in on Trea Turner next offseason.

    Correa is no better at Short than Polanco, good grief!

    Non on that list would be as good defensively as Simmons and fielding is where the Twins are really hurting, although strike out kings in the outfield is a worry.

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    50 minutes ago, RpR said:

    Correa is no better at Short than Polanco, good grief!

    Non on that list would be as good defensively as Simmons and fielding is where the Twins are really hurting, although strike out kings in the outfield is a worry.

    I don't think you'd be able to find a professional baseball scout anywhere that would agree that Correa isn't better than Polanco at short. Their arms aren't even comparable. OAA (Baseball Savant) ranked Correa as the 6th best defensive SS in baseball this year. The fielding bible had him #1 in baseball (above Simmons). 

    Everyone on this list is significantly better defensively than Polanco. Like it isn't even a debate.

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    I'm a Trevor Story fan. I'd love to add him to this team at anything resembling a semi-reasonable price, especially if Buxton doesn't get extended/is traded. (I love Buxton and desperately want him on this team, but I recognize that might not go) He's a fine defensive SS who can swing the bat and I expect his home/road splits might normalize a bit once he gets clear of Coors. I think he's going to be worth at least 12-18 bWAR over the next 4 years and how many seasons of 3-4 bWAR have we compiled at SS in the last decade? (It's 1.) 

    I'm in on Story. I think he'd be a nice fit, he's a bit of a "buy low" candidate right now, but even if this is who he is going forward...there's a lot of value there.

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    32 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

    I don't think you'd be able to find a professional baseball scout anywhere that would agree that Correa isn't better than Polanco at short. Their arms aren't even comparable. OAA (Baseball Savant) ranked Correa as the 6th best defensive SS in baseball this year. The fielding bible had him #1 in baseball (above Simmons). 

    Everyone on this list is significantly better defensively than Polanco. Like it isn't even a debate.

    Correa did rank better than Simmons in some categories from Baseball Ref. but his life numbers are  lower especially in range; better bet on Simmons having a bad year, than hoping Correa will get better.

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    4 minutes ago, RpR said:

    Correa did rank better than Simmons in some categories from Baseball Ref. but his life numbers are  lower especially in range; better bet on Simmons having a bad year, than hoping Correa will get better.

    That's fine. But suggesting Correa is no better than Polanco at short is really out there. Simmons is on the way down and he's nowhere near the defender he used to be. Still above average, but certainly not the all world guy he used to be. And Correa is an above average defensive short stop. Don't think you'd find any scout who'd say he isn't. Seager isn't anything special in the field, but the other 4 big name FA short stops are all above average defenders that hit drastically better than Simmons and would be a drastic upgrade for the team. Story, Baez, Correa, and Semien will all be pretty similar to Simmons defensively next year I'd bet. Story, Baez, and Correa for sure. And Simmons can't touch any of them offensively.

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    Story would be a good "get", but Correa is the best shortstop. I loved Simmons as a shortstop ... three years ago. There is no comparison between Simmons of 2021 and Correa of 2021, defensively. Simmons had a terrific career -it is over for him. The Twins need to make a decision whether to go after a shortstop or not.

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    1 hour ago, jmlease1 said:

    I expect his home/road splits might normalize a bit once he gets clear of Coors.

    Probably, but I'm not sure to his benefit. :)

    I like him but we should be prepared for a very good defensive SS who doesn't hit as well as Jorge Polanco, not "Coors Field Trevor Story". 

    In addition, we'll have to "overpay" to outbid all the other suitors for any of the topnotch shortstops, but that overpay might be even a little steeper if any of the suitors think they are getting "Coors Field Trevor Story".

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    Story and the Home/Road splits scares me off.

    Aging off of SS, as long as the FO thinks it will be a couple years in the future would be my preferred course of action.

    Getting a monster hitter who fields a decent SS for a couple years will be a 4-5 year contract, hopefully Lewis takes over at SS in year 2 or 3 and said monster hitter can slide to 2nd, 3rd, LF or DH.

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    2 minutes ago, Sconnie said:

    Getting a monster hitter who fields a decent SS for a couple years will be a 4-5 year contract, hopefully Lewis takes over at SS in year 2 or 3 and said monster hitter can slide to 2nd, 3rd, LF or DH.

    Understanding what you mean by "decent SS" probably comes from knowing your reaction to hearing, "like, say, Jorge Polanco?" :)

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    4 minutes ago, ashbury said:

    Understanding what you mean by "decent SS" probably comes from knowing your reaction to hearing, "like, say, Jorge Polanco?" :)

    Indeed! 

     

    7 minutes ago, ashbury said:

    Probably, but I'm not sure to his benefit. :)

    I like him but we should be prepared for a very good defensive SS who doesn't hit as well as Jorge Polanco, not "Coors Field Trevor Story". 

    In addition, we'll have to "overpay" to outbid all the other suitors for any of the topnotch shortstops, but that overpay might be even a little steeper if any of the suitors think they are getting "Coors Field Trevor Story".

    If you could sign story to a Simmons/Galvis 2 years 10 mil per I’d be all about Story as a good glove/poor hit SS. The problem is you pay for Coors field as much as you pay for the road part of the splits.

    I’ve been on the sign Galvis and throw money at pitching bandwagon, but that wasn’t an option in the OP

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    14 minutes ago, Sconnie said:

    If you could sign story to a Simmons/Galvis 2 years 10 mil per I’d be all about Story as a good glove/poor hit SS.

    I don't want to undersell Story as a hitter.  He's not poor.  His .200 road BA this year is IMO a fluke, and he hits for power.  He's well above average as a hitter among his shortstop peers.  But his road OPS has never been above .800, and after a while I have to accept that that's who he is - a very good hitter but not in a class with the elite.  A very general comp from Twins history could be Greg Gagne - who was more than good enough in the field and had some underrated pop with the bat, and arguably was the glue that helped solidify those World Series teams, Kirby and Hrby notwithstanding.

    No chance Story goes for 2 years and $20M total.  Even factoring out Coors helium, he's worth a whale of a lot more.

    I'd rank the choices offered in this article as Correa/Story/Seager/Baez, and give Semien no consideration at SS.  But 20 other teams will be bidding too - it's always a sellers market and only 4 teams will come away with a prize, with a good chance that 2 of those end up with regrets relatively quickly.

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    Twins won't really be interested in any of these guys. I expect them to look for a one year stop-gap until Lewis or Martin can assume the position. If you don't think Lewis is the SS of the future, you should have traded him already. 

     

    Story is a legit star. Semien is not a defensive SS already. Correa will get the biggest deal of these five. 

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