Free agency can officially begin this afternoon, and there will be a lot of money spent this offseason as teams look to become, or remain, contenders in 2023. One position that is going to see a heavy investment from clubs this winter is shortstop.
Four of the game’s best shortstops – Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, and Dansby Swanson – are going to be looking for new contracts this offseason. Correa and Bogaerts will become free agents after declining the player options in their current deals, while Turner and Swanson had their contracts expire after the season.
The speculation of how much these players will sign for, and where they sign, has already started to be discussed. This winter is going to be filled with a lot of rumors about who these players are negotiating with and how much money they are looking for. There will even likely be a mystery team, or two, that will enter the sweepstakes at some point in time for some of them.
With free agency officially opening up at 5 p.m. EST, let’s look at four of the best players that will be available for teams to sign.
The former 1st overall pick, and Georgia native, will surely be the center of attention for front offices looking to add to their middle infield this winter. Swanson has put together a good career to this point. He won the World Series with the Atlanta Braves in 2021, was an All-Star for the first time in 2022, and won his first Gold Glove Award in 2022.
Since his big league debut in 2016, Swanson has become one of the game’s better shortstops. He provides good defense up the middle, which will surely become more valuable with the new shift rules being implemented in 2023, and while he isn’t as good offensively as the other shortstops on the market, he is still a good batter from the right side with the ability to hit for power.
Swanson is coming off the best year of his career. In 2022, he had a career-high in bWAR (5.7), OPS+ (115), OAA (21), and games played (162). He slowed down offensively in the last two months of the year, but overall he slashed .277/.329/.447 with 32 doubles and 25 home runs.
He will strike out a lot, as he has a 24.2% career strikeout rate, and won’t walk a ton with an 8.6% career walk rate, but Swanson providing any offense with the kind of glove he has is always going to be attractive to teams.
Defensively, Swanson has consistently graded out as an above-average defender. His career-high 21 outs above average this year was 2nd in all of baseball, but his arm, on the other hand, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Swanson’s average arm strength of 79.2 MPH was 47th among qualifying shortstops.
For most teams, Swanson would be an upgrade at the shortstop position. He will turn 29 before next season begins, so the team who signs him will be getting a few more years of his prime. Swanson isn’t the most talented shortstop available, but he will surely provide a solid impact wherever he ends up.
Turner, like Swanson, is a former 1st round selection and World Series champion. During his career, he has been selected to two All-Star teams and won the N.L. batting title in 2021.
He has become a fun player to watch over the years due to his speed. Turner has consistently been one of the fastest players in baseball over the years and 2022 was no different. His sprint speed of 30.3 ft/s was in the 99th percentile this year.
Turner will turn 30 in the middle of next year, and his ability at the plate is what makes him an enticing player for teams to pursue this offseason. Throughout his career, Turner has been an above-average hitter who can hit the long ball. When coupled with his speed, he is a dangerous hitter for opposing teams to deal with.
Turner is coming off a year where he hit .298/.343/.466 with 39 doubles, 21 home runs, and a 121 OPS+. He also scored 101 runs, stole 27 bases, and led the N.L. with 708 plate appearances in 2022.
He doesn’t walk a lot and doesn’t see a lot of pitches. Turner’s career walk rate is 7.2%, and he saw 3.84 pitches per plate appearance in 2022, which was 83rd in the majors. His O-Swing% this year, 36.4%, was a career-high, and his Contact%, 74.9%, was a career low.
When it comes to defense, Turner has been around league average over the past few seasons. He played all his defensive innings at shortstop for the Dodgers this year. His OAA in 2022 was 0, while his DRS was -1. Turner’s arm strength ranked 27th among shortstops with an average throw speed of 83.7 MPH.
Turner’s market will be an interesting one to watch. It has been reported he would like to return to the East Coast, so it could be a limited market. Wherever he ends up signing, Turner should continue to be an impact player for the foreseeable future.
Once upon a time, Bogaerts was one of the best prospects in the game. He has lived up to the hype that surrounded him during his time as a minor leaguer in Boston’s farm system after being signed out of Aruba as an international free agent in 2009.
Bogaerts has played in the big leagues for ten years, and over the course of his lengthy career, he has been an All-Star four times, won four Silver Slugger Awards, and was a part of two World Series championship teams in Boston.
He has consistently been one of the better-hitting shortstops during his career. He has a career slash line of .292/.356/.485 with 156 home runs. In 2022, Bogaerts hit .307/.377/.456 with a 131 OPS+, 15 home runs, and 38 doubles.
Recently, Bogaerts’ power numbers have slowly declined from year to year. After having a breakout year in terms of slugging percentage in 2018, and a career-high slugging percentage in 2019, Bogaerts’ slugging percentage has decreased in each season since.
Even though power numbers were down across Major League Baseball for most hitters in 2022, it could be something to monitor with Bogaerts over the next few years.
Defensively, Bogaerts hasn’t been one of the best shortstops in the big leagues. Outside of 2022, where he had 4 DRS and 5 OAA, he consistently graded well below the league average going back to 2016:
His arm strength was below the league average for shortstops in 2022. His average throw was 82.1 MPH, while the league average was 85.9 MPH.
Bogaerts is the oldest out of the top four shortstops available at 30 years old. He is going to make a lot of money this winter, and he will help out whichever team is lucky enough to have him.
Carlos Correa was the 1st overall pick by the Houston Astros in the 2012 draft and he has lived up to the expectations that come along with being the first player selected in the draft. Once a top prospect, Correa has turned himself into arguably the best shortstop in the game.
Prior to 2022, Correa signed a 3-year, $105.3 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. He is going to decline the player option in his contract for next season and will become a free agent once again.
There was a lot of speculation that Correa would get more than $300 million last offseason, but with the inability for a market to develop for a player of his magnitude due to the impending lockout, he was unable to get that kind of offer.
He could get that kind of deal this offseason. Correa just turned 28, and it is very possible his best baseball is still ahead of him. So far, Correa has won A.L. Rookie of the Year, has been selected to two All-Star Games, has won a Gold and Platinum Glove Award, and won the World Series in 2017 with the Astros.
The one negative that can be said about Correa is his injury history. He has dealt with a few different ailments throughout his career, including this past season where he spent time on the injured list with a finger injury.
Correa has been able to provide plus defense and offense when he is on the field. He has hit at least 20 home runs and 20 doubles in the same season five times and has posted an OPS+ of less than 100 only twice. He hit .291/.366/.467 in 2022, with 22 home runs, 24 doubles, and a 140 OPS+ in 590 plate appearances.
While Correa’s defensive metrics were not that great in 2022 (-3 OAA and 3 DRS), he has always been one of the better defenders at his position. In 2021, the year in which he was awarded the A.L. Platinum Glove Award, he had 20 DRS and 11 OAA.
Correa can help a team with his glove and his bat, and he is going to cash in on that this offseason. While the number of teams bidding for his services will likely be limited because of his price tag, there isn’t an organization that wouldn’t want to at least find out what it would take to sign Correa to a long-term contract.
How the market shapes up for these four shortstops will be interesting. There is going to be more than a handful of teams willing to explore the idea of bringing in a new shortstop this offseason. How many of those teams will be aggressive in their pursuit is unclear.
What is clear is these four players are all going to become rich as soon as they sign their new deals. The average annual value of the contracts any one of them will sign likely starts in the $20-$25 million range and could go as high as $35 million, especially for Carlos Correa.
There are going to be multiple storylines to follow when it comes to free agency this winter. The starting pitching market is likely going to include Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Rodon. Aaron Judge, who is coming off one of the greatest offensive years in the history of the game, is going to sign a new contract.
The most intriguing storyline, though, could be the potential bidding war that takes place between teams who are looking to add any one of the free agent shortstops to their roster.
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