For Yanks, it's 'year of the shortstop'

November 11th, 2021

A new shortstop is at the top of the Yankees’ priority list. The club is taking an aggressive stance to open the free-agency period, sparking early conversations with representatives for and .

Widely viewed as two of the top available talents on the market, Correa and Seager are in the hunt for nine-figure contracts this winter. General manager Brian Cashman said that he expects the Yankees’ payroll to rise in 2022, coming off a season in which they reset their Competitive Balance Tax commitment.

“It’s certainly the year of the shortstop, with a lot of high-end talented players coming out at the same time,” Cashman said. “It’s an impressive group of players, no doubt. I’m sure that they’re excited about the opportunities that are going to present for them. I’m sure the agents are looking forward to doing business.”

The Yankees opened 2021 with as their primary shortstop, abandoning that experiment by returning Torres to second base on Sept. 13. Torres committed 18 errors at shortstop, third in the American League behind the Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette (24) and the Rangers’ Isiah Kiner-Falefa (19).

“Ultimately, once he moved over to second, it was almost a relief for him,” Cashman said of Torres.

The price tags for a replacement could be high -- Correa and Seager also received qualifying offers from the Astros and Dodgers, respectively, attaching Draft pick compensation -- but Cashman and the Yankees have plenty of choices.

Correa and Seager headline a loaded shortstop crop that also includes Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Javier Báez, giving Cashman lots to discuss at this week’s General Managers’ Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif.

Cashman engaged with Jon Rosen, who represents Correa, and Scott Boras, who represents Seager and Semien.

Cashman said that Correa’s ties to the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scandal would not impact a potential fit in pinstripes. The Astros ended the Yankees’ season that year in a seven-game American League Championship Series, but Cashman told the Houston Chronicle that fan reaction “is not going to enter my calculus right now.”

“Correa is just a very talented player, obviously,” Cashman told the Chronicle. “Puts up numbers with the best of them. He’s obviously had an incredible career thus far. Certainly not afraid. He’s pushed forward, regardless of the circumstances.”

Correa has reportedly received a five-year, $160 million offer from the Astros, according to FOX 26 in Houston. He could be seeking a deal similar to the 10-year, $341 million pact that Francisco Lindor received from the Mets. Seager, meanwhile, was the 2020 World Series MVP and would offer left-handed pop to a lineup that sorely lacked it at times in ’21.

The Yankees were also among 15 to 20 clubs scouting a showcase held by free-agent pitcher Justin Verlander this past week, held at Eric Cressey’s West Palm Beach, Fla., facility. Cressey is the Yankees’ Director of Player Health and Performance and vouched for Corey Kluber’s signing after a similar showcase in January. Verlander received a qualifying offer from the Astros.

Cashman said that he has largely been in “human resources mode” since the end of the club’s postseason run, reaching terms on a three-year extension for manager Aaron Boone while overseeing changes on the coaching staff. Former Mets manager Luis Rojas and former big league third baseman Eric Chavez are among the candidates to interview for positions.

But now Cashman seems ready to turn his attention to the Hot Stove, perhaps primed to make a strike before the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

“There’s a lot of impact there, a lot of difference-makers there,” Cashman said. “They’ve been difference-makers in their own environments and potential difference-makers in their new environments. It’s the beauty of free agency, so it’ll be fun to watch it play out.

“I don’t know where and what will play out, but I do know we’re looking forward to lining up a better team than we ended the season with. That’s always the goal.”