League execs believe Correa will get largest deal in loaded SS class

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By , Audacy Sports

It doesn't quite come with the hype that the 2018 Bryce Harper-Manny Machado-led free agent class did, but this winter does have a chance to present the deepest crop of free agent shortstops that baseball has ever seen.

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Audacy Sports MLB Insider Jon Heyman recently polled 25 anonymous executives on who they believes will get the largest contract out of a group that could include Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Trevor Story. Not surprisingly, Correa got the most votes:

Correa -- who is the youngest of the aforementioned trio, set to turn 27 later this month -- was ranked as the No. 1 potential free agent at any position this offseason in our recent countdown.

A former No. 1 overall selection, Correa is slashing .280/.371/.486 with 22 home runs, 74 RBIs and a 5.2 fWAR in 2021. He's certain to receive and decline the qualifying offer from the Houston Astros this offseason. Having already passed on a six-year/$120 million contract extension offer from the Astros, Correa recently referred to 2021 as his "last year" in Houston. While he's had some issues staying healthy in his career, Correa played 58 of 60 games in 2020, and has appeared in 128 games in 2021.

Seager got the second most votes, which is fitting considering we ranked the defending World Series MVP as the No. 2 overall potential free agent this upcoming offseason. Seager has played in just 74 games this season, but has MVP-caliber talent when healthy. With the recent addition of Trea Turner -- who, inexplicably got a vote in Heyman's poll even though he won't be a free agent until next offseason -- Seager could very play for a new team next season, unless he accepts the qualifying offer.

Meanwhile, it's especially interesting that Marcus Semien got one more vote than Trevor Story.

Semien signed a one-year/$18 million deal with the Blue Jays last offseason, and has a 6.1 fWAR, the second-highest mark among position players in baseball this season. That said, Semien will turn 31 next week and has largely played second base for the Blue Jays, as opposed to his natural position of shortstop. Once a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, Semien had -6 defensive runs saved in his final season with the Oakland A's, so it would be interesting to see if teams actually view him as a shortstop this winter.

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Story will certainly sign a deal to play shortstop, but as with most players in his late-20s, he's not as good of a defender as he once was. Story has three defensive runs saved in 2021, as opposed to a staggering 21 two seasons ago. Set to turn 29 in November, Story's .794 OPS in 2021 marks a disappointing contract year at the plate as well.

What teams figure to be major players this winter in the shortstop market? Heyman reported in March that the San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers were seen around the league as "likely to become big players."

The Giants are likely out now that they've re-signed Brandon Crawford, but the Phillies and Tigers could very well be in the hunt. Didi Gregorius is under contract in 2022 with the Phillies, but he's been very underwhelming in 2021, especially defensively. The Tigers have a winning record since the All-Star Break, and figure to re-emerge as one of the league's major spenders as some of their highly-touted prospect start to mature.

Keep an eye on both the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers as well. The Mariners currently have J.P. Crawford at shortstop, who is a tremendous fielder, just like Isiah Kiner-Falefa is for the Rangers. Neither, though, are especially strong offensive players, which creates the possibility that both teams will spend on offensive upgrades this winter in an attempt to snap postseason droughts.

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