This offseason, many teams will be looking for new shortstops for next season. Shortstop is still a relatively weak offensive position, and there are options like Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons on the free-agent market this offseason.
Teams with a more long term focus may wait out this offseason with a one-year option like Jose Iglesias or Didi Gregorius, with an upcoming class of elite shortstops. The 2022 offseason will feature a stacked class of shortstops including Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Javier Baez and Corey Seager, assuming no extensions are signed prior to next winter.
The Best Shortstops on the FA Market
Marcus Semien: The Oakland Athletics shortstop struggled in 2020 after a brilliant 2019 campaign that saw him finish top-three in AL MVP voting. In 2019, he had a 7.6 win season (per FanGraphs), where he posted a 137 wRC+ while playing all 162 games. In 2020, he had another season similar to his career average, with a wRC+ in the 90s, but still providing value with his defense.
It remains to be seen if Semien can repeat his breakout 2019 season, or if it was a fluke, but the signs are not promising. Last season was the only year of his career that he managed an xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average, per Baseball Savant) over .315, at .373. He also saved 12 runs defensively, the second-highest of his career.
Before the year, Semien projected to be a huge piece of the Athletics lineup, batting leadoff and playing shortstop. The A’s were able to win 36 games and the AL West title despite the absence of Matt Chapman due to injury and Marcus Semien’s down year.
At 30, given the inconsistencies of his career, I would be surprised if Semien’s deal is more than four years, $80M. There aren’t many deals to try to estimate the market in record years, with the closest being Zack Cozart’s three-year, $38M deal signed coming off a five-win season in 2017 and Didi Gregorius’ one-year, $14M contract following a disappointing 2019 season.
Andrelton Simmons: The Angels’ defensive wizard played just 30 games in 2020, but he had a practically average 99 wRC+ and -2 DRS, by far a career-low. Defensive stats are not the best in small samples, so let’s look at a bigger one. Since his debut in 2012, Simmons has racked up 191 DRS and 113 in 9142 innings, placing him 2nd (since the stat was created in 2002) in DRS behind Adrian Beltre in over 10000 fewer innings, and third behind Beltre and Andruw Jones in UZR.
Simmons had his best years in 2017 and 2018 in Los Angeles, but he has consistently been the best defender in the league. His value could be more impactful than just his numbers because he could allow a team to move their shortstop to second base and strengthen their infield defense.
The free-agent shortstop should get offers from teams who need a defensive upgrade in their middle infield, and despite missing part of this season due to injury, should get multiple short-term offers.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds spent massive money last offseason to upgrade their roster and make a run at a division title. They got great production from their starting rotation, but their offense struggled to keep up. In the NL Wild Card round, the Reds were shut out by the Braves for 22 innings.
For Cincinnati, a team that needs an offensive spark, Semien is the best fit, as he can replace Freddy Galvis with consistently solid production, with a much higher ceiling. We will probably never see him repeat his outstanding 2019 season, where he ranked 1st among all shortstops in FanGraphs WAR and 2nd in wRC+ (among qualified hitters), but he can slide into the leadoff spot in Cincinnati’s lineup.
The Reds lacked a true leadoff hitter in 2020, and Semien could fill that role perfectly. The Reds should look to sign George Springer first, but if they miss out, Semien could fit atop their lineup at a cheaper price. Signing Semien would fill multiple holes, at shortstop and the leadoff spot, ahead of their big hitters Nicholas Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez.
Philadelphia Phillies: With shortstop Didi Gregorius’ contract expiring following this season, the Phillies may look for an upgrade. Gregorius had a good year and is one of the top shortstops on the free-agent market, but he is a bad defender at the position that it matters the 2nd most.
The Phillies have shown no hesitance to spend in free agency, signing Bryce Harper to the biggest contract in MLB history, then signing SP Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118M contract after last season. The Phillies finished third in 2020, following a fourth-place finish in 2019, despite projecting as contenders after the Harper signing.
In 2021, the NL East should be a very competitive division once again. The New York Mets will be at full strength following next season, the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals should bounce back and the Marlins are no longer “Bottom Feeders” and the Braves are a true World Series contender.
If the Phillies want to keep up with New York and Atlanta signing either Semien or Simmons could be a massive upgrade for the Phillies, who desperately need to cover the production of catcher J.T. Realmuto, who may be on his way out of Philadelphia. Bringing Semien to Philadephia would help them compete with the rest of their division and putting a player with a .354 OBP (since 2019) ahead of superstar RF Bryce Harper.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers backed into the expanded playoffs, for the third-straight postseason berth, on the final day of the regular season, largely due to having one of the worst offenses in the league. Since losing to the Dodgers in seven games in 2018, the Brewers have not made it back to the NLCS, and an upgrade at shortstop could put them over the hump.
Milwaukee’s ownership is known to avoid spending, but upgrading at shortstop is so important, that they could take a look at Jose Iglesias (160 wRC+, 1.6 WAR) or Didi Gregorius (116 wRC+, 1.4 WAR). Milwaukee struggled after letting Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal last offseason, and they should have some money to spend with some expiring deals.
Next year’s success for the Brewers will rely, once again, on the production of 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich, who struggled to start the 2020 season. The Brewers really missed the offense of Grandal and Moustakas, but Jedd Gyorko stepped up and played a massive role (118 wRC+, 1.7 WAR).
Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia was the worst qualified hitter in baseball in 2019 (67 wRC+), but he had a better year in 2020 (96 wRC+). Arcia is a bad hitter and below-average fielder, and replacing him with Semien, Gregorius or Iglesias could give the Brewers their best chance to repeat their 2018 success in 2021.
The Brewers did trade for SS prospect Luis Urias in the deal that sent Grisham and Davies to San Diego, but he played a lot at third base last year, and could continue to play there next season. The Brewers desperately need a spark at the top of their lineup ahead of a top-three hitter in the league in Christian Yelich.
New York Yankees: Let me preface this; I like the fit of Andrelton Simmons to New York but only if D.J. LeMahieu walks. Gio Urshela is a great defender and LeMahieu is solid, but Voit and Torres are awful defenders. By adding Simmons, they could slide Torres to second base, where he had a 5 DRS season in 2018.
On a team with the offensive firepower of the Yankees, Simmons anchoring their defense with one of the best defenders in baseball. The Yankees could pair this with the acquisition of a platoon bat in the outfield or a reliever to bolster their pen.
The Yankees should avoid overpaying DJ, and signing Simmons to a one or two-year deal could be the best way to do so. If they can sign LeMahieu back for a short-term contract or a low AAV (around 18M), then obviously they should go with the AL MVP frontrunner.
The Yankees would be losing one of their most productive hitters, but they can use Aaron Hicks in the leadoff spot and still have a very solid lineup while building a great infield defense.
Los Angeles Angels: With Simmons’ contract ending following this season, they will be in the market for shortstops. It is likely that they re-sign their Gold Glove shortstop but if he walks, they will probably be in the running for a new middle infielder.
Second basemen David Fletcher is also an option to slide over to short, and they could use their #7 prospect Jahmai Jones at second base. They could be looking for an infielder in free agency, but I think they are best off sticking to in-house options.
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