Top Five MLB Shortstops in the 2023 Free Agent Class
Nearly all the top talent from the this year's free agent class belongs at the shortstop position, headlined by four All-Star caliber players.
Last offseason was supposed to be the year of the shortstop, with a handful of All-Star shortstops hitting the free agent market at the same time.
If we include Marcus Semien and Trevor Story as shortstops (having played a majority of their careers at the position prior to free agency) there were five nine-figure deals handed out at the position last offseason. Semien had been a shortstop prior to 2021, and had the ability to move back to the position depending on the team he signed with, but got his $175 million contract to play next to a fellow free agent shortstop instead.
Corey Seager landed the biggest deal, a 10-year, $325 million pact to play next to Semien in Texas, while Carlos Correa received the deal with the highest AAV ($35.1 million). Story signed a six-year, $140 million deal to play second base for the Red Sox, while Javier Baez received the exact same contract to play shortstop for the Detroit Tigers.
While that crop of free agent shortstops got all the hype, when we look at the market this year, it might be even better. There are three 6-win shortstops hitting free agency at the same time, and Correa is back on the market just a year removed from his own 6-win campaign.
Teams have the chance to significantly upgrade and solidify their most important position by signing any one of these guys this offseason.
1. Trea Turner – 6.3 fWAR
Age: June 30th, 1993 (Current Age: 29)
2022 Traditional Stats: .298/.343/.466, 21HR, 43 XBH, 100 RBI, 101 R, 131 Ks, 708 PAs
2022 Advanced Stats: 128 wRC+, 18.5 K%, 6.4% BB%, .169 ISO, .335 wOBA
As referenced in his Jon Hamm narrated free agent hype video, Trea Turner has the second-highest fWAR among all positions players dating back to 2019. Aaron Judge is atop the leaderboards with 22.3 wins above replacement (11.4 coming this year), but Turner is not far behind at 20.0.
Turner is a five-tool player, who has led MLB in stolen bases since 2016, pacing the entire league by 27 bags. Across that span, Turner has led the NL in steals twice and triples once. He also led all of baseball with his .328 average in 2021, winning a batting title, while he has led the league in total hits twice as well.
A career .302/.355/.487 hitter, with 124 home runs, 230 stolen bases and a 124 wRC+, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better and more consistent player to invest in this offseason. At 29 years old, heading into his age-30 season, Turner may not get more than seven years in free agency, but he will get paid regardless.
Based on his performance, durability and even his versatility to sign as a second baseman or center fielder in the right situation, Trea Turner is likely to make more money than any free agent this offseason not named Aaron Judge.
2. Carlos Correa – 4.4 fWAR
Age: September 22, 1994 (Current Age: 28)
2022 Traditional Stats: .291/.366/.400, 22 HR, 47 XBH, 64 RBI, 70 R, 121 Ks, 590 PAs
2022 Advanced Stats: 140 wRC+, 20.5% K%, 10.3% BB%, .176 ISO, .363 wOBA, -3 OAA
Correa is not coming off the best season from this free agent class, yet he might still be the best overall player. If there is one free agent shortstop that is going to get a bigger bag than Turner it is Carlos Correa and for good reason.
Turner is an incredible talent and his durability puts him over the top, but if we were to put them in a vacuum, would you really not take Correa over him?
Correa is the player on this list that is most capable of putting together a Bryce Harper-esque run in the postseason, where he puts the team on his back in their road to the World Series. He has the postseason track record already to prove it.
Having just turned 28, age is on Correa’s side to maybe still sign a 10-year deal, but missing 26 games due to injury this year won’t help that. His defense took a step back this year too, but again he is just a year removed from a fantastic campaign where he won the Platinum Glove.
While the next two guys are coming off better seasons, Correa is the best player available when he is right and has an additional few years of his prime to work with.
3. Xander Bogaerts – 6.1 fWAR
Age: October 1, 1992 (30 years old)
Traditional Stats: 150 G, .307/.377/.456, 15 HR, 53 XBH, 73 RBI, 84 R, 118 SO
Advanced Stats: 134 wRC+, 19% K%, 9% BB%, .149 ISO, .363 wOBA, 5 OAA
Since 2015, there is only one shortstop in baseball who has graded out as a better player than Xander Bogaerts based on fWAR. Francisco Lindor paces the league at 42.0, and then you have Bogaerts at 34.0. That puts him ahead of all the guys on this list, including last year’s top free agent shortstop, Corey Seager.
Bogaerts has been one of the most consistent performer’s in baseball, carrying a .292/.356/.458 career slash line into free agency. He is also coming off a career-year, which saw him post an fWAR over 6.0 for the first time, thanks to rejuvenate season defensively at shortstop.
Coming into the year, there was real questions about whether Bogaerts long-term home was at short, with some even wondering if Trevor Story was the better defensive option. Bogaerts proved doubters wrong and will now find plenty of suitors who will want him to continue to play the position.
At the same time, over a long-term deal and with the elimination of the shift, teams may still be hesitant to commit to Bogaerts as a shortstop for the next seven seasons, as compared to some of the better defensive shortstop on this list, like Correa or Swanson.
4. Dansby Swanson – 6.4 fWAR
Age: February 11th, 1994 (28 years old)
2022 Traditional Stats: 162 G, 696 PA, .277/.329/.447, 25 HR, 58 XBH, 96 RBI, 18 SB
2022 Advanced Stats: 116 wRC+, 7% BB%, 26% K%, .170 ISO, .337 wOBA, 21 OAA
If we were basing this solely off 2022, there is no question that Dansby Swanson would be higher on this list. Career-year almost feels like an understatement when it comes to describing Swanson’s 2022 season.
The 28-year-old was the best defensive shortstop in baseball (20 OAA), all while hitting 25 home runs and stealing 18 bags. Swanson set career-highs with 99 runs scored and 96 runs driven in and had his best ever wRC+ at 116.
The one knock on Swanson is that he does not have the track record of the other shortstops on this list, having never posted even a four-win season prior to his 6.4 fWAR 2022 campaign. Still, if we are projecting forward, there might not be a safer long-term bet.
Swanson has been an Iron Man over the last three seasons, having missed just two regular season games. Nobody has played more baseball games than Dansby Swanson since 2020, as he paces all shortstops by 15 games and leads the league with 482 out of a possible 484 games played.
Trea Turner’s durability is right there with Swanson, but you have to think Swanson’s game will age better over the next seven years, particularly defensively. We likely saw the ceiling of what Dansby Swanson could produce this season, yet from what we saw it seems like his floor is now higher than most shortstops in baseball.
5. Elvis Andrus – 3.5 fWAR
Age: August 26th, 1998 (34 years old)
2022 Traditional Stats: 149 G, 577 PA, .249/.303/.404, 17 HR, 49 XBH, 58 RBI, 18 SB
2022 Advanced Stats: 105 wRC+, 6.8% BB%, 15.9% K%, .155 ISO, .310 wOBA, 3 OAA
Elvis Andrus is clearly the red-headed stepchild of this crop of free agent shortstops, but that does not mean he can’t bring great value to his next team.
Having debuted as a 20-year-old all the way back in 2009, Andrus is entering his 15th MLB season. That is an absolutely remarkable accomplishment for any big leaguer and is a real testament to his longevity. He also just happens to be coming off his best season in five years.
After spending the first four and a half months of the season in baseball purgatory out in Oakland, Andrus was given the chance to fill in for Tim Anderson in Chicago and help the White Sox make a push for the playoffs. While the team didn’t get there, Andrus still shined.
Across 43 games played, Andrus hit .271/.309/.464, with nine home runs, 25 runs scored and 28 RBIs. He also swiped 11 bags, bringing his season total to 18. Nearly posting a 20-20 season is rather impressive, especially since he was still able to be a good shortstop.
He will come a lot cheaper than the other shortstops on this list and on a much shorter deal. While Andrus can’t solidify someone’s shortstop position for the better part of a decade, he can still contribute and be a quality starter for a few more seasons.