The Philadelphia Phillies brought Didi Gregorius back on a two-year/$28 million deal this past offseason, but that may not keep them from being major players in a potentially historic free-agent shortstop class after the 2021 season.
MLB Network‘s Jon Heyman says that the Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers are viewed around the sport “likely to become big players for star shortstops” next offseason. As a reminder, next year’s class could include Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Javier Báez.
Will all five of those All-Star-caliber players reach the market? Probably not. For example, Heyman reported this week that Lindor and the New York Mets are beginning conversations on a long-term deal that could keep him in Queens for quite some time. Additionally, Heyman said earlier this month that the Chicago Cubs, in addition to the Mets, seem to have more confidence in their ability to hammer out an extension than the current employers of the three remaining shortstops.
So, let’s say for a second that Lindor and Báez are off the board by the team free agency begins next offseason. That would still leave you with Story, Seager and Correa as options.
Story, 28, is a two-time All-Star that hit 72 home runs and drove in 193 runs between 2018 and 2019. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Story led the National League in triples and stolen bases. Additionally, Story has 45 defensive runs saved at shortstop during his five seasons in Colorado.
Seager is the reigning World Series MVP, having homered eight times and driven in 20 runs during the Los Angeles Dodgers World Series run last year. He’ll turn just 27 next month, so on the surface, it’s hard to imagine one of the sport’s deepest-pocketed teams allowing him to walk in free agency. That said, the Dodgers gave Mookie Betts a 12-year/$365 million extension that will begin this year, and they do have to consider eventual extensions for 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger and star righty Walker Buehler.
Once compared to a young Alex Rodriguez, Correa played in just 219 of a possible 486 games between 2017 and 2019. That’s a cause for concern, but he was also worth 9.9 fWAR over that period, so when the 26-year-old has played, he’s been excellent. Correa played in 58 of 60 games in 2020, so if he’s able to stay healthy over the full 162-game slate in 2021, there’s going to be teams lining up for the former No. 1 overall pick.
Gregorius, 31, homered 10 times and posted an .827 OPS in 2020, making him one of the team’s best offensive pieces. Still, he had -2 defensive runs saved at shortstop last year, so as he ages, his fielding is unlikely to improve. With that in mind, Gregorius being under contract for 2022 shouldn’t prohibit the Phillies from being players on the shortstop market. Gregorius could move to second base, third base or DH (should it return to the National League) if another shortstop is acquired. The Phillies could also consider trading him.
Bryson Stott – who the Phillies selected in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft – is 23, so by 2022, he should be pushing his way into the picture. It’s unclear how the Phillies would proceed with Stott in the event that they signed one of the aforementioned shortstops, especially if Gregorius was still in the picture.
There’s also Jean Segura, who is due $14.25 million in 2022, the final year of his contract. Both Heyman and FanSided‘s Robert Murray reported in November that Segura was drawing trade interest. Ultimately, though, the Phillies love Segura’s defensive flexibility and contact skills, and the expectation is he’ll be the opening day second baseman in 2021. Both from a financial and logistical sense, Segura would probably have to be traded next winter to make the addition of a shortstop feasible.
Truthfully, some of these issues will solve themselves. But if you’re wondering what the next big-picture speculation piece would be now that J.T. Realmuto is signed for five seasons, you may have received your answer.
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