After asking 11 rival evaluators to rate the offseason’s top five free agent shortstops on a 1-5 grading scale, ESPN’s Buster Olney reveals the final order was Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez, with Seager claiming 50 of a possible 55 points. Seager received six of the first-place votes (Correa received four and Semien one) due to his age and big left-handed bat, even though there was some question about his durability and how long he’ll be able to remain at the shortstop position.
All five players carry their share of question marks, which is what will make the shortstop market so fascinating to observe as the many teams in need of shortstop (and overall infield) help will be competing for these names at the top of the market. Unsurprisingly, the 11 evaluators cite the Yankees and Tigers as likely to land one of the big five shortstops, and teams like the Mariners, Rangers, Phillies, Cubs, and Angels could all be in the mix. In an additional detail on Semien, there is some feeling that he would like to remain with the Blue Jays, while other evaluators believe the Bay Area native would prefer to play with a team closer to home.
More on other pending or possible free agents…
- Brandon Belt and the Giants had some in-season negotiations about a contract extension, and while “talks didn’t go anywhere,” NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic feels there is enough mutual interest between the two sides that Belt will return to San Francisco in 2022 and beyond. Though Belt turns 34 in April and battled multiple injuries, he has also been hitting at the highest level of his career — Belt has hit .285/.393/.595 with 38 home runs over 560 plate appearances since the start of the 2020 season. The Giants have already worked out an extension with the other member of “the Brandons,” locking up Brandon Crawford to a new two-year deal back in August.
- “The ship has sailed” on Kyle Seager returning to the Mariners, The Athletic’s Corey Brock opines as part of a reader mailbag. Brock feels both the team and the veteran third baseman are ready to move on, seemingly precluding any chance of either the M’s exercising their $20MM club option on Seager for 2022, or Seager being open to re-signing with Seattle at a lower price. Seager seemed to hint at a departure a few weeks ago, when he said that he hadn’t heard anything from the team about the option, and also noted that he hadn’t personally spoken with GM Jerry DiPoto in several years.
- Speaking of contract options, The Athletic’s James Fegan predicts the White Sox will decline their $6MM club option on Cesar Hernandez for next season. Hernandez hit only .232/.309/.299 in 217 PA after being acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, so Fegan believes the Sox will be looking to upgrade at the keystone, rather than just retain Hernandez or hand the position to some combination of Leury Garcia, Danny Mendick or Romy Gonzalez. More offensive production will of course be welcome, but the White Sox might also prioritize a strong second base glove as a way of improving the club’s run-prevention efforts.