Assuming Minnesota doesn’t decide to slide second basemen Jorge Polanco, back across the diamond, they’ll need an answer at shortstop for the upcoming season. Polanco going back to his old position would allow Luis Arraez to start and an avenue for consistent playing time geared towards Jose Miranda. That said, it’d also be a decision in reverse with Polanco having been moved off the position in an attempt to avoid his defensive deficiencies there.
Having lost the 2021 season due to a torn ACL, Royce Lewis won’t be an option out of the gate, and Austin Martin looks more the part of an outfielder than an infielder. Fortunately for Derek Falvey, this free-agent crop is littered with good shortstop options. So, let’s rank them by considering a fit and potential contract.
5. Marcus Semien
What a difference a year makes. Last offseason, the Twins were runner-up for Semien’s services before he chose the Toronto Blue Jays. At that time, the longtime Athletics infielder was coming off a .679 OPS in 2020. Fast-forward to where we are now, and he posted an .873 OPS with a career-high 45 home runs. Semien isn’t going to win the MVP, that’s ticketed for Shohei Ohtani, but he’ll be in the top five and could finish right behind teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
As a first-time All-Star, Semien just recently turned 31-years-old. He’s going to get paid and should be looking for no less than a four-year deal. Right now, that isn’t going to fit into the Twins plans given the uncertainty of Lewis’s future role. Coming off such a poor season, that type of commitment could pigeonhole Minnesota negatively in the immediate future.
4. Corey Seager
If there’s a guy in this group that doesn’t change teams, I will bet on it being Seager. A second straight season with an OPS north of .900, the Dodgers shortstop has established himself as one of baseball’s best players. He’ll be 28-years-old next season and has spent his entire seven-year career with Los Angeles. Finding something in the range of six to eight years would seem suitable for him, and that’s not going to come cheap.
After acquiring Trea Turner at the deadline this season, it would make sense for the Dodgers to run it back with their up-the-middle-duo. The Dodgers are also set to lose Chris Taylor to free agency this offseason, and some of that blow could be cushioned by retaining the services of Seager. He’s been so good for so long, and it’s plenty logical that his prime remains in front of him.
3. Carlos Correa
Having just turned 27-years-old, Correa is the youngest option on this list, and he’s quite possibly the most talented. Injury concerns have been a part of his past, by the Astros shortstop did play in 148 games this season. His .850 OPS was not a career-high, but the 26 long balls were. Correa has the cheating scandal tied to him, but it’s clear that the talent is there with or without additional help.
A serious on-base threat, Correa has posted a least a 124 OPS+ in five of his seven big-league seasons. He presents the combination of contact, power, and plus-defensive ability, which only enhances his premium at the position. I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets a bigger deal than Seager or Semien, but I think that could go either way, and I believe he’s the best bet for future success.
2. Trevor Story
Once assumed to be ticketed out of Colorado at any point during the 2021 season, Story hung on and finished the year there. His .801 OPS was the second-lowest tally of his career, and his 24 dingers matched the lowest full-season totally of his career. Still posting a 103 OPS+, he was above league average, but there’s nothing about 2021 that substantially increased his earning potential.
This is Story’s big chance for a long-term payday as well, which would seem counter-productive to the Twins plans. That said, if he’s open to a one-year deal in hopes of increasing his value, that’s where Minnesota should look to pounce. He, too, combines strong defense with contact and power, making the offensive addition equally as enticing.
1. Javier Baez
This looked like a better fit when Minnesota still employed Baez’s brother-in-law, Jose Berrios. That said, the soon-to-be 29-year-old still fits wonderfully for the Twins. He’s an elite defender that should be looking to regain some positive momentum on a one-year deal, and Minnesota can afford to pay him handsomely over a single season.
Baez posted a lackluster .775 OPS with the Chicago Cubs but turned it on to the tune of a .886 mark in 47 games with the New York Mets. His actual production is probably somewhere in the middle of that, but he should trend above the career .783 OPS as he enters his prime. Javy is an elite defender, can play on both sides of second base if needed and would be a great teacher for Minnesota’s blossoming infield talent. A fan and clubhouse favorite, this is where I’d throw my money if I held the Twins bankroll.