With the offseason upon us, we're taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency.
Name: Corey Seager
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Age (as of Opening Day 2022): 27
2021 stats: .306/.394/.521, 16 HR, 57 RBI
The shortstop was the Dodgers’ best player during their 2020 title run, sweeping MVP honors in both the National League Championship Series and the World Series. He added two more home runs in this year’s NLCS against the Braves, giving him 13 career postseason homers -- 10 of them coming in 30 games dating back to the start of the 2020 playoffs.
Where will Seager fall in the star-studded shortstop class? Will his injury history scare potential suitors away? Let’s take a look at what this winter could look like for the 27-year-old.
Seager indicated a willingness to return to the Dodgers, the team that selected him in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Seager has played all seven seasons of his career for Los Angeles, but the Dodgers have Trea Turner signed for 2022, eliminating the need for a shortstop. With so many other key free agents on the roster -- Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Taylor and Kenley Jansen among them -- it remains to be seen whether the Dodgers will spend what it will take to retain Seager, who could move to third base if he returns.
GM Brian Cashman made it clear he plans to upgrade the Yankees’ shortstop situation this winter, putting them in the mix for all five of this offseason’s big-name free agents at the position. Seager has thrived in a big market and would not be intimidated by New York, which is something the Yankees tend to take into consideration when assessing free agents.
The Rangers have money to spend this winter, and many expect them to be involved in the bidding for a number of the free-agent shortstops on this year’s market. Seager has a relationship with Rangers manager Chris Woodward, who was the Dodgers’ third-base coach from 2016-18, which could help Texas in its recruitment efforts.
Chicago has roughly $40 million committed in salaries in 2022 and ’23, and just $7 million locked up for 2024, so the idea of the Cubs spending on a big free agent or two this winter seems quite likely. Having traded Báez last summer, the Cubs will likely test the waters on the free-agent shortstops, with Seager among the potential targets.
The common perception is that Detroit will make a big play for Correa, who played for manager A.J. Hinch for a number of years in Houston. But if Correa winds up elsewhere, the Tigers will likely make a bid for another shortstop; Seager is widely considered the second-best player of the group, which should make him attractive to Detroit.
Like many of the other teams on this list, the Phillies are expected to be among the teams looking to make a big splash at shortstop. Philadelphia’s roster is short on postseason experience, so adding a player who has recently won a ring -- and been a big part of that title run -- would be appealing.
“A perennial All-Star caliber player, Corey is an offensive-minded contributor capable of producing in the middle of the order who also plays a premium defensive position. He is a physical player with a low-maintenance swing that has no wasted movement; it is short, direct and powerful. He can hit for average and power while being patient enough to walk. Defensively, he is a steady defender who may need to move off of shortstop at some point beyond his prime years, but the offensive production will be more than enough at third base if that’s where he ends up.
"A long-term investment isn’t without risk, though, because he has struggled to stay healthy over the last five years, only eclipsing the 600-plate appearance mark twice over his career, back in 2016 and ‘17. Corey is the best free agent available this winter, in my opinion, for a variety of reasons, but at 27, with his overall talent and skill set, I think whoever is lucky enough to land him will be satisfied with their return on investment.”
Seager’s injury history might be the only thing preventing him from challenging salary records for shortstops. He played just 95 games in 2021 due to a broken bone in his right hand, the second time in the past three complete seasons that he missed a significant chunk of time. The introduction of the universal designated hitter would be a boost for Seager, who has dealt with back, elbow and leg issues at different points in his career.
FOR COMP'S SAKE
Seager’s numbers through his age-27 season are comparable to those of fellow free agent Trevor Story at the same point. Story had hit 30 more home runs with only 11 more RBIs, though Seager had played 636 games compared to 603 for the Rockies' shortstop. Story enters free agency with a big advantage numbers-wise, but he’s entering his age-29 season, giving Seager an advantage when it comes to youth. Both shortstops should find solid markets for their services this winter.