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MLB

Four Elite Shortstops on the MLB Free Agency Market

When an elite shortstop enters MLB free agency, the league goes all aflutter. When four appear at the same time, the sky is the limit around the league

Update:
When an elite shortstop enters MLB free agency, the league goes all aflutter. When four appear at the same time, the sky is the limit around the league
Christian PetersenGetty

The Houston Astros are still basking in the afterglow of winning the 2022 World Series and the baseball world has already seen some shocking previews of what awaits in free agency.

Aaron Judge is on the market and while the Yankees focus all of their energy on keeping him in pinstripes, their seeming slam-dunk signing in Anthony Rizzo is coming apart at the seams, taking just about everyone aback.

Clayton Kershaw looks for all the world like returning to Texas, particularly after the Rangers announced that their priority is revamping their bullpen and spending whatever it takes to do it.

The Astros declined options for Trey Mancini and Will Smith, dumping two members of their championship team before the streamers have even hit the floor. They will join Christian Vazquez, Yuli Gurriel, Aledmys Diaz, Jason Castro, Rafael Montero, and Michael Brantly in entering the free agency market.

Other big names around the league, from Joc Pederson to Justin Verlander, will flood the market this winter with talent, but the real eye-popper is the shortstop position. A good middle infielder is normally snapped up quickly. If an elite one comes onto the market, it usually triggers a spending war.

That is for one elite shortstop. At the moment, there are four available.

The Fantastic Four

The mega-deal that Minnesota did after 2021 for Carlos Correa never bore fruit for them and he is now back on the trading block after exercising his opt-out clause.

The Red Sox unexpectedly managed to hold onto Xander Bogaerts for an extra season, but the lack of production in Boston is likely going to see him test out new waters.

One season removed from a championship, Dansby Swanson, the anchor of the Atlanta Braves’ infield is headed to free agency.

And Trea Turner, one of the hottest Dodger properties available, made a splash in true LA style with his sizzle reel narrated by Jon Hamm, and has all of baseball’s tongues wagging.

All four of these are not simply shortstops in MLB. They are elite.

Likely Landing Spots

It is entirely possible that several of these four may simply swap teams. In particular, Swansby seems like a good fit for Boston and Bogaerts would slot into the Los Angeles order, leaving Trea Turner, who reportedly wants a move back east, as a prime target for the Braves.

But things are more complicated than that.

Trea Turner

While reports that Turner wants to head back east are swirling, and there is no reason to disbelieve them, there is a caveat to that story. The rumor is that he is being courted by the Phillies and would like to rejoin some of his former Nationals team mates there.

The top offensive weapon amongst this group, he hit 21 home runs and stole 27 bases. And that was only as low as it was because he was playing for Dave Roberts, a manager who is notoriously against the idea of stealing bases. A season spent under someone like Dusty Baker might have him finish with 37 or more.

Regardless of the number that he finished with, the fact remains that he adds a real threat on the base paths as well as with the bat in his hands.

Atlanta would be a perfect spot for the Florida native to land, and they could afford to pay the market rate for him, but the Mets are reportedly sniffing around for a deal and may be able to match or beat anything that the Braves bring to the table. There is just the snag that they already have Francisco Lindor on their roster. Turner’s ability to shift to second base, however, would mean that should this deal come off, it would give the Mets the strongest middle infield in the game.

As for the money? Expect it to be in the region of 8 to 10 years, at around $275 million.

Dansby Swanson

The most gut-feel talented defensive shortstop on the list, Swanson has a knack for good positioning, quick movement to the ball, and a sharp release. His offensive numbers are impressive as well, with 25 home runs and 18 stolen bases last season, but he will earn his crust with what he does in the field rather than on the bases.

With no ulterior motives forcing the move, there is every chance that Atlanta will come to an agreement with him and keep him playing down south. But expect other teams to court him vigorously, with Boston being the most ideal fit to his style. And at 28 years old, he may provide a more palatable long-term contract for the Red Sox than Bogaerts.

Whoever picks him up will give him a contract in the 8-year range and pay around $150 million for the privelege.

Carlos Correa

One of the key members, perhaps even the lynchpin of the 2021 Houston Astros run that brought them to within a game of the championship, Correa’s move to Minneapolis was widely viewed as short-sighted by the Astros. Fast-forward to a year later, the Astros are World Series champions and Jeremy Peña has had the rookie season of all rookie seasons, and is generally seen as an astute upgrade from Carlos.

Added to this equation is the distinct underperformance of the Twins and you can see why Correa wants to opt out of the 3-year deal. The market for him will be just as hot as it was last season, and San Francisco is likely to be a heavy bidder for his talents.

While last season, Carlos managed to get an eye-popping $35.1 million per season from Minnesota, he missed out on the long-term deals that were snapped up elsewhere. It is reported that his priorities are length of contract and a no-trade clause. Both of which mean that whoever gets him will be expected to offer somewhere around the $350 million for the thick end of a 10-year deal.

Xander Bogaerts

Never making any bones about his desire to finish his career with the Red Sox, Bogaerts is perhaps going into free agency against his will. But now that he is there, don’t expect him to pull punches. He won’t be low-balled and stay at Boston out of a sense of loyalty.

The Red Sox like Xander. But with their business on the line, they will make their decisions with their heads and not their hearts. John Henry also owns Liverpool FC in England and is currently in the throes of selling the legendary soccer team for an eye-watering sum of money. He is a businessman and will not back down from making the best financial move for the team, no matter how much he likes Bogaerts.

The team that will push hardest to pry Bogaerts away from Boston is expected to be Seattle. They got a taste for the post season this year, and will want to continue that momentum through big-ticket purchases. Look for a relatively short contract, perhaps only six years, but with a hefty price tag on it. He should be able to pull in around $190 million for that.

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