There’s never been a better time for the Yankees to go shopping for a shortstop. Their gaping hole at the position coincides with the greatest group of free-agent shortstops ever.
Signing one of the big names will be like popping the final puzzle piece into place or lining up the perfect Tetris block. The lineup will be glaringly incomplete without one.
In this regard, we truly are privileged to be Yankees fans. Other fanbases might wonder IF their team will sign one of the shortstops, but we only ask, “Which one?” It’s a certainty that they’ll make a major splash. All of them have their pros and cons, so let’s prioritize the shopping list.
1. Carlos Correa
Pros: Of all the shortstops available, Carlos Correa is both the youngest and most well-rounded. He just turned 27 in September and his 5.8 fWAR was fourth in the AL among position players in 2021. He’s been a consistently good hitter for contact and power since he debuted in 2015. His defense has never been better, and he collected both the Gold and Platinum Glove awards last year. Essentially, he’s the prototype for the modern shortstop.
Cons: It’s nitpicking to call his right-handedness a drawback. Yes, the Yankees’ lineup is too right-handed, but lefty-swinging shortstops are as rare as four-leafed clovers. It’s also nitpicking to say that he will have a difficult time getting fan support due to his role in the Astros’ cheating scandal. As long as he hits and fields like he always has, we’ll get over it. The one aspect of his game on the field that isn’t exemplary is his baserunning, where he grades out as roughly average (-0.6 BsR in 2021) and doesn’t steal bases. Oh well.
2. Corey Seager
Pros: Offensively, Corey Seager is the perfect fit for the Yankees. He posted an OPS north of .900 in both 2020 and 2021. If you believe in the clutch gene, he won the NLCS and World Series MVP awards in 2020. He’s not only one of the rare left-handed-hitting shortstops, he’s one of the best in MLB history. Here are the career OPS leaders for lefty shortstops (minimum 1,000 PA):
Corey Seager, .870
Arky Vaughan, .859 (HOF)
Joe Sewell, .804 (HOF)
Cons: Defensively, he might not be an upgrade over Gleyber Torres. Yes, it’s that bad, at least depending on your preferred defensive metric. His 0 DRS in 2021 was at least passable, but his -16 OAA was not. Given that he turns 28 in April, he’s looking for a long-term contract. How far into that deal will he be able to stay at shortstop? His 26.5 ft/s sprint speed was below average for an MLB player at any position, let alone the six. He has also suffered two major injures, but it’s hard to label him as injury-prone. The Tommy John surgery he required in 2018 and the broken hand he suffered from a hit-by-pitch last season aren’t likely to repeat.
3. Marcus Semien
Pros: Marcus Semien’s numbers speak for themselves. He slashed .265/.334/.538 with 45 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 2021 and was named an AL MVP finalist for the second time in three years. He collected his first Gold Glove as well— albeit at second base. Even though he’s the oldest of the star shortstops available at age 31, he’s one of the most durable players in the sport. He has only missed ten games in total over the last four seasons.
Cons: Even though he had the best 2021 season of any players listed here, it’s hard to be certain of his offensive performance. Outside of his two near-MVP seasons, he has never had an above-average year offensively. His best single-season wRC+ marks were 138 in 2019, 131 in 2021, and then just 98 in 2016. He’s an extreme pull hitter, which does not favor a right-handed slugger in Yankee Stadium. On the other side of the ball, the move to second base suited him well; he’s not great at shortstop.
4. Trevor Story
Pros: Trevor Story has been a five-tool player throughout his career. Both he and Aaron Judge have exactly 158 career home runs, and he led the NL in stolen bases with 15 in 2020. He’s an excellent defensive shortstop worth 9 DRS in 2021 and 69 since his debut in 2016. Durability is a plus as well; he hasn’t missed more than 20 games in a season since his rookie year.
Cons: He isn’t hitting free agency on a high note. 2021 was a down year for him, and his perfectly average 100 wRC+ was 12 points below his career mark. His offensive output has backslid every year since 2018. Even at his best, he’s a high-strikeout risk, having amassed 865 in 745 career games. Huge home-away splits are a red flag for any Colorado player. His career OPS at home is .972, but on the road, it’s only .752.
5. Javier Báez
Pros: Javier Báez is one of the most entertaining players in MLB, especially with his highlight-reel defense and creative tags around second base. He’s a superb defender at both shortstop and second, steals bases, and brings light-tower power to the plate. His 116.7 max exit velocity ranked in the 98th percentile in MLB in 2021.
Cons: The Mets benefitted from the best version of him after the midseason trade, but he swings and misses an awful lot, especially against elite velocity, and led the NL with 184 strikeouts last year. The Yankees already have too many streaky high-strikeout players prone to prolonged cold stretches. He has never walked more than 30 times in a season and his career OBP is only .307.
The following players are not acceptable options. If one of them is the starting shortstop for the 2022 Yankees, something has gone drastically wrong.
Andrelton Simmons: Simmons is one of the greatest defensive players in baseball history at any position. He’s inarguably the best shortstop since at least Ozzie Smith. However, he just turned 32 and hit .223/.283/.274 last year. That’s not a starting-caliber batting line, regardless of his glovework.
Gleyber Torres: We’ve all seen more than enough from him.
Gio Urshela: Urshela is currently listed as the Yankees’ starting shortstop on Roster Resource. It’s helpful that he can pitch in at short when needed and prevents the team from having to keep Tyler Wade on the roster, but he’s not agile enough to play there more than once in a while.
Oswald Peraza & Anthony Volpe: The Yankees’ top shortstop prospects aren’t ready for Major League action. Peraza spent most of the 2021 season in High-A and Double-A and Volpe has yet to play above High-A. Besides, the Yankees (rightly) don’t just hand starting jobs to prospects. Given that the club will sign a shortstop this winter, expect one of them to be traded sooner or later, especially Peraza who could be ready for a call up towards the end of 2022.