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If I Were The GM: My Choice for Shortstop

by Paul Semendinger

November 19, 2021

***

As the Hot Stove League starts to gear up and draw excitement, interest, and anticipation, I decided to share my thoughts (as I do each year) on who I would acquire for each position if I were the Yankees GM.

I first looked at first base.

Yesterday, I discussed second base.

Today I’ll look at shortstop.

***

Ah, shortstop. This is one of the big positions that must be filled and it provides the Yankees with the biggest dilemma they have had to face in a long long time. The candidates through free agent signing are plentiful. None is a perfect fit. All bring their own concerns. Making matters worse, the Yankees do not have an internal candidate to mitigate this problem in the short term. The knights riding to the rescue are years away. The Yankees will need a good shortstop for 2022 and most likely for 2023, as well. At least. That’s if the Yankees young players all continue to progress, which is no sure thing.

If I were the GM, the following would be my line of thinking regarding each of the prime candidates that are out there:

Carlos Correa – Yes, he’s a superstar. He’s the best of the bunch. Absolutely. Everyone says it. Except, they’re wrong, at least long term. Correa is a plus (plus) defender. But that’s a skill that doesn’t age well. It certainly doesn’t age well enough to give him a ten-year deal. As an offensive player, Correa is very good, but not elite the way he is being talked up. Correa has batted over .280 once in his career. Once. Correa has never hit more than 26 homers in a season. Ever. Baseball-Reference projects a .269/23 homer year for Correa in 2022. He would do that with great defense, but, isn’t there a red flag injury (back) concern that must also be taken into consideration? And sites like MLBTR predict Correa getting a ten-year deal worth (at least) $320 million. Yikes. No, no, no. Add to the fact that Correa isn’t the most likeable player, that he likes being the villain, and that he seems unremorseful for his role in Astrogate and I don’t want him anywhere near the Bronx. If I were the GM, I would build a team, as best as I am able, of players the fans can root for. He isn’t one of them. Carlos Correa is not my answer at shortstop.

Corey Seager – He has great appeal for many reasons. Many. He’s the only left-handed hitter of the bunch. The Yankees need that. There is the feeling that he could move to third base when the Yankees bright young shortstops arrive. That also sounds great. He’s hit .300(+) each of the last two years. He’s a positive fielder (by dWAR). He’s a 25-homer player, mostly likely, in the Bronx. Imagine a .315/32 homer season as the upside. Seager knows how to win also. Yeah, there’s a lot to like. A ton. He checks all the boxes. Except one. Seager doesn’t stay on the field. In the last three full seasons, he has played 100 or more games exactly once. Last year, he played in just 58.6% of his team’s games. In 2019, that number was 82.7%, but in 2018, it was just 16%. MLBTR also predicts a ten-year deal ($305 million) for Seager. There’s no way I do this if I’m the Yankees. If the guy can’t stay on the field as he heads into his later 20’s (he’ll be 28-years-old next season), I do not want to see how his ages 32+ seasons go. The Yankees have enough big injury risks. Aaron Hicks had a similar profile and it never got better. I’d love this guy on the team. He’s a winner, a champion, and the team needs players like that. But he’ll be very expensive and he’s an injury risk. I pass.

Marcus Semien – A shortstop until last year, Semien is now, in my book, a second baseman. He puts up big WAR numbers (8.4 in 2019, 7.3 last year) which is exactly what any team would want, but, of the free agent class stars, at 31-years-old, he’s the old guy of the bunch and he’s still slated (per MLBTR) to be on the receiving end of a 6-year deal. I don’t want to go anywhere near a 6-year deal for a guy who was shifted to second base and who is on the wrong side of 30-years-old. Late in the 2021 season, there were talks that Semien would be a player that might sign for two or three years. That no longer seems to be the case. As such, I do not have interest in him.

Javier Baez – A team can do a lot worst than Javier Baez, but I didn’t appreciate the nonsense with the Mets that he was involved in. I don’t want distractions. I want players focused on playing baseball, playing hard, and winning.

Andrelton Simmons – 32-years-old, but still a very very good defensive player. He would sure up the middle of the diamond, no doubt. But, he didn’t hit a lick last year. At all. He doesn’t project to hit much going forward, but the .223 batting average was, by far, his lowest and so it is likely that he bounces back a bit. Plenty of players bounce back. He did hit over .290 in 2018 and 2020. Scott Brosius used to do that, he’d have a solid year and then a down year and then a solid year. Simmons checks a box for the Yankees. He would give them a steady glove at short which is something they have been missing for a long time. That’s not nothing. As an older player, he could be the place holder for Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza. Of the players on this list, Simmons would, by far, cost the least in years and salary. When one drills down, there’s a lot to like here. A lot. The Braves just won a World Series with a shortstop who didn’t hit .250. If Simmons would come on a two-year deal for $20-$325 million, it’s almost a no-brainer. Because of all this, he is my second choice.

Trevor Story – Strike One, he’s another righty hitter. Strike Two, take him outside of Coors Field and he’s a different hitter. Trevor Story hit .203 on the road in 2021. Strike Three, Story is coming off his worst year (.251/24 homers). MLBTR projects a six-year deal for Story. I wouldn’t want to go six years for him. I have to believe one or two of the young Yankees shortstops coming up will be able to hold down the position sooner than that. BUT, that being said, neither are a sure thing. How many players have been touted as the next great shortstop in recent years? The most recent, Gleyber Torres, is on my trading block. No young player is a sure thing. And, while he didn’t hit away from Colorado last year, Story isn’t that bad of a hitter (lifetime .241) on the road. Of the big shortstops, Story’s projected $126M is, by far, the lowest salary. Story is only 29-years-old. If people can overlook down years from guys like Matt Olson whom many want on the Yankees, why not Story? He has also been a plus defender every season of his career. At his worse, Trevor Story is a solid shortstop who has 25-30 home run power. There is a lot to like here. Finally, he has played with D.J. LeMahieu before, for years. Building a rapport up the middle would not be an issue. He and LeMahieu were often one of the top two double play combinations in the National League when they played together.

The closer I look here, the more there is to like.

If Trevor Story’s market is about $20 million per year, and if his market is for less than five or six years, he seems like the best bet of the bunch. He’ll play a steady shortstop defensively. He’ll hit enough homers. He’ll be teamed with a former teammate. And, in my 2022 lineup, he wouldn’t have tp even be a top -five batter in the lineup. I’d have him batting sixth or seventh. I’d begin my offer for Story at four years and $90 million. I’d be willing to go to four at $100 million. If he jumps, I have the best deal of any on this list – fewer years and fewer dollars than the most expensive guys and a good clubhouse guy who is still on the right side of 30-years-old.

Andrelton Simmons is my fallback plan on a two year deal, but I think I can get the Story deal done.

And look at this team I’m building:

1b – Freddie Freeman

2b – D.J. LeMahieu

ss – Trevor Story

#IfIWereTheGM

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