Yankees Shortstop 2021: Who Should it Be?
By Patrick Gunn
The Yankees need to make several moves to improve their team for the 2021 season. Shortstop is one position where the Yankees should look at their options. Here are my brief thoughts on the matter.
The Bombers gave Torres the keys to the almighty position last season. Yes, it was only a 60-game season, but Torres disappointed, both offensively and defensively. He got off to a slow start, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on offense. Torres’ defense is where he had the most issues, where he saved -9 defensive runs last season, via Fangraphs. To be fair, Torres has never exactly rated highly on defense, so this is more a question about where the Yankees feel like he would be more comfortable playing. ]I believe that second base is the preferable position for Torres.
This is the Yankees’ best option. Cleveland is trying to move him, as Lindor will likely make around $20 million in arbitration this year, per Jon Paul Morosi. The Yankees have the pieces to make this deal, both in terms of prospects and major league level talent.
He’s a switch-hitter with power from the left side. Also, Lindor is still putting up solid Statcast numbers and is still only 27 years old. Lindor would be an upgrade defensively and add a new dimension to their lineup. Lindor is a player I would highly consider not only trading for but locking up long term.
Why do I mention Simmons so early in this piece? Well, Jon Heyman said that the Yankees have contacted the shortstop. He is one of the only free agents publicly linked to New York, so that’s why he’s getting this early discussion.
Now, should he come to New York? Defensively, Simmons would be a massive improvement to Torres and vastly improving the Bomber’s infield. His offense is where I have questions. First, the fact that he would be another right-handed batter in a lineup deficit of left-handed pop is an issue. Also, he has never been a great hitter, as Simmons has only two full season with an OPS+ above 100 (league average) since being traded to the Angels before the 2016 season, via Baseball-Reference. Also, his low exit velocity, barrel rates, and isolate power scream that Simmons is a batting average dependent hitter.
The one area where Simmons does excel in offensively is his strikeout rate. He has never struck out more than 67 times in a full season, and he has only struck out in nine percent of his plate appearances. So, that approach does differentiate him from his potential Yankees peers. Maybe the Yankees see another D.J. LeMahieu type player in a solid right-handed batter who puts the ball in play and has more to offer with a stronger team. I’m not sure Simmons is that kind of player, but he is an interesting option for the Bombers.
Why not go back to what worked the previous five seasons? Gregorius played fantastically after Derek Jeter retired, and I would even argue that he improved their defensive standing at the season. He struggled after undergoing Tommy John surgery before the 2019 season, but Gregorius rebounded with the Phillies last season. He is a lefty with power that plays at Yankees Stadium, while playing adequate defense.
The main issue is his age, as Gregorius is 30 years old and will probably want some security after taking a one-year deal last year. Also, his average exit velocity of 83.8 miles per hour last year is concerning. I’m not sure that the Yankees have interest in a reunion with Gregorius, but they should. He is a great personality who would boost clubhouse morale and also add a steady hand both in the field and at the plate.
It’s worth mentioning that Semien is only a year removed from an 8.9 win season in which he hit 33 home runs while posted a .522 slugging and 139 OPS+. Aside from that, Semien has been a decent but not great player, with decent defense but not near the level of Simmons. Offensively, outside of last season, he’s a player with some pop who will give you about 60 walks in a season but not much else. And, unlike Simmons, Semien has struck out 20.2 percent of his at-bats. He deserves a look, but Semien also just turned 30. I would rather the Yankees take a chance on Simmons than go for Semien.