The MLB offseason is in full swing with the Winter Meetings quickly approaching next week. Outfielder Aaron Judge headlines a robust free-agent class, but it’s the group of shortstops that may draw the most attention.
Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson are the main shortstops to watch, with the first three being the most sought-after. Several teams need a shortstop this offseason with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies among the suitors.
Ed Hand joined Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast "Baseball Isn't Boring" and talked about the free agent shortstops, including how he'd rank Turner, Correa, and Bogaerts.
“First of all, any one of those guys, you’re lucky to have them on your team,” Hand said (5:34 in player above). “This is, ‘What do you want to order: steak, chicken, or fish?’ They’re all pretty good choices.”
Hand has Turner ranked as the best shortstop available – and best player not named Aaron Judge – with Bogaerts as the second-best shortstop at sixth overall, closely followed by Correa at seventh overall. This trio is the cream of the crop at shortstop in this free-agent class, although the order can be debated.
“With Correa, his batting average is a bit lower than theirs. The power’s a little bit better. The defense is the best of the three, so why would I rank him behind those two?” Hand continued. “Injury history. He’s the youngest of the group, he’s spent more time on the injured list of those three. With his size and skillset, it’s not going to get any better as he gets older. I could see him being the type of player that has to move off of short earlier than anticipated despite his excellent defense.”
Correa’s injury history and potential need to be moved to third base or first base – or designated hitter – diminishes his value a bit. These type of big-money free agents are guys that need to be on the field for their teams, not on the IL.
While Correa being ranked behind Bogaerts is a bit surprising, Turner being the top shortstop isn’t. However, it may surprise you to learn that Hand had Turner ranked as the top overall free agent – even above Judge – up until the latter portion of the season.
“Turner has pretty quietly been just an unbelievably impressive player for his whole career and I think some of it was missed because even though he won a World Series with the Nationals, I think more people were paying attention to Juan Soto. And with LA, more people are paying attention to Freddie Freeman there. Even that trade when he came over Max Scherzer was the guy people were looking at,” Hand said.
“His impressiveness, I think, gets kind of lost amongst guys that might be a little flashier in the moment but two-time All-Star, Silver Slugger, he was the 2021 batting champion. He has a career average over .300 which in this day and age is pretty unheard of. Good fielder, very athletic, steals a ton of bases.”
Unlike Correa, Turner’s athleticism is one of his strengths. He has already shown that he’s versatile enough to play second base and center field if his new team has other plans at shortstop in the future.
“So from an athleticism perspective, versatility, just his pure hit tool, yeah, I’d say Turner is a pretty easy pick for me.”
Correa has some longevity question marks and Turner is head and shoulders above the other two, but Bogaerts is solidly in the middle. The 30-year-old has spent his entire career with the Red Sox and has been as consistent as they come.
“I almost think that his ability as a player is underrated,” Hand said of Bogaerts. “He’s put up very good numbers – career slash line of .292/.356/.448. Four-time All-Star. Five-time Silver Slugger. And he’s going up against Correa every year for that Silver Slugger, he’s always winning it. Two-time World Champion is the other thing here.”
Bogaerts doesn’t draw rave reviews for his power like Correa or his speed like Turner, but he may be the most solid option of the three.
“I think Correa has more power than him; I don’t think he’s a better pure hitter,” Hand said. “I think Xander is honestly the better, more consistent pure hitter of the two.”
The debate and conversation around Turner, Bogaerts, and Correa will continue throughout the offseason until one – or all – are signed. Free agent activity should begin to ramp up with the MLB Winter Meetings kicking off on Sunday.