Major League Baseball teams with hefty financial resources and a need at shortstop have an abundance of high quality free agent options available in the 2021 free agent market.
The baseball world has been looking forward to the negotiating activity that is likely to occur among at least five of the best shortstops in the game.
Front office personnel have traditionally offered higher value contracts to shortstops than second basemen. As a result, a player signed to play second base may not fetch the same annual financial value as one signed to play shortstop. That could impact the value of a player like Marcus Semien, Trevor Story or even Javier Baez. It remains to be seen where each of these prominent high profile traditional shortstops will be playing defensively next season.
In no particular ranking order, here is this old scout’s analysis of available “top of the chart” free agent shortstops:
Trevor Story-Colorado Rockies-Age 29-Bats: Right
Trevor Story was a Supplemental 1st round pick of the Rockies in the 2011 draft.
As the No. 45 player taken overall, he signed for $$915,000, well above the $764,100 slot MLB assigned to that draft position.
Story has delivered outstanding production in parts of six MLB seasons. He enters free agency with a .272 lifetime batting average and 26.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
Story’s production this past season fell from his usual career performance. In his 595 plate appearances, he hit .251 with an on-base percentage of .329. His home runs declined to 24 from the 35 he hit in 2019, the last full MLB season. Story was still able to drive in 75 runs for the Rockies.
Story was an All Star in both 2018 and 2019. He won Silver Slugger Awards both those years.
Story, who just turned 29 November 15, compiled drastic home and road splits this season, as well as being less productive against right-handed pitching. Story may see his market more limited than some of the other free agent shortstops.
This year, Story hit .203 with 13 homers and 28 RBIs in 288 plate appearances on the road. He hit .296 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 307 plate appearance home at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Story hit .234 against right-handed pitching in 434 plate appearances. He hit .297 in 161 plate appearances against lefties.
To his credit, Story has reduced his strikeout total dramatically. In 2017, Story struck out a career high 191 times in 555 trips to the plate. This year, he struck out 139 times in 40 more plate appearances.
Story’s slugging percentage of .471 this year is well below his career .523 mark.
Best Fits: Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox
Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers-Age 27-Bats: Right
The Dodgers selected Corey Seager in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. As the No. 18 player taken, Seager was given a signing bonus of $1,950,000. The MLB slot for the position was $2,350,000. The Dodgers got quite a bargain.
Seager missed 65 games this season with a fractured hand. Other injuries have cost him time in the past. When he’s healthy, Seager is a consequential, highly impactful hitter.
Playing in only 95 games, Seager hit .306 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs in 409 plate appearances. He compiled a 3.7 WAR.
An All Star twice, Seager was the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year. Seager won Silver Slugger Awards in 2018 and 2019.
Seager has appeared in the postseason six of his seven years as a big league player. He brings his postseason experience, a solid bat, and good, solid defensive play into free agency.
Seager has rather limited range, but he is clearly a capable shortstop. He isn’t a Gold Glove caliber defender, but the team that signs him will be doing so for his bat.
Best fits: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers
Carlos Correa-Houston Astros-Age 27-Bats: Right
The Astros selected Carlos Correa with the 1st overall pick in the 2012 draft. He received a signing bonus of $7,200,000 for the top draft slot that was valued by MLB to be worth $4,600,000.
Correa might be the most complete player among the top quality free agent shortstops.
To this old scout, Correa brings a combination of solid, consequential hitting ability and Gold Glove caliber play at shortstop. In fact, Correa won a Gold Glove this year.
Correa made the parent Astros club at the age of 20. He played in 99 games and hit .279 with 22 homers and 68 RBIs. He also stole 14 bases in 18 attempts.
Twice an All Star (2017 and 2021) Correa carries a lifetime .277 batting average into free agency.
This past season, Correa hit 26 home runs, a career best. His 92 RBIs were the second most in his career.
Correa has battled health issues in his past. However, healthy this entire season, Correa struck out only 116 times in 640 plate appearances, which is a remarkable statistic in this MLB era of high strikeouts and less overall contact.
Best fits: New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers
Marcus Semien-Toronto Blue Jays- Age 31- Bats: Right
Marcus Semien is the oldest of the five highly regarded free agent shortstops.
The Chicago White Sox drafted Semien in the 6th round of the 2011 draft. He was player No. 291 to be drafted that year, and he received a $130,000 signing bonus.
The White Sox traded Semien to the Oakland Athletics in a massive December 9, 2014 deal. He was granted free agency in 2020, and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays this past January.
The Blue Jays had very capable Bo Bichette at shortstop and transferred Semien to second base, where Semien thrived and had his best season in baseball.
Semien hit 45 home runs and drove in 102 runs for Toronto, hitting in a lineup that featured impact hitting Vlad Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Bichette, and others.
It would be difficult to believe the Blue Jays won’t make a concerted effort to retain Semien.
While he can play shortstop well, to this observer, Semien has found a home at second base, winning a Gold Glove there this year. That’s why it is a distinct possibility a team like the Chicago White Sox, in need of a second baseman, will concentrate efforts on signing Semien.
Semien appeared in his first All Star Game this season. He won a Silver Slugger Award and compiled a 7.3 WAR, the best of any American League position player.
Best fits: Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers
Javier Baez-New York Mets-Age 28- Bats: Right
The Chicago Cubs selected Javier Baez with the No. 9 pick in the 2011 draft, one pick behind his new Mets teammate, shortstop Francisco Lindor.
The Cubs gave Baez a $2,625,000 signing bonus, $630,000 above the MLB slot.
Baez played parts of eight seasons for the Cubs before being traded to the Mets at mid-season in 2020. He was an All Star in both 2018 and 2019 with Chicago.
Baez won a Gold Glove in 2020 as a shortstop. But with the Mets, Baez has played second base with Lindor at shortstop.
This past season while playing for the Cubs and Mets, Baez struck out 184 times in 502 plate appearances. It was his highest career strikeout total, and his lack of consistent contact remains an issue. But he is very capable of winning a game with his powerful bat.
Baez does have outstanding power. He hit 31 homers and drove in 87 runs this past year. He also stole 18 bases in 23 attempts.
Best fit: New York Mets, Detroit Tigers