This season opened with the New York Mets signing shortstop Francisco Lindor to a blockbuster 10-year deal. This weekend, I saw the news that Trevor Story, the Rockies’ star shortstop, is being placed on the 10-day disabled list with elbow inflammation. After watching Chicago Cubs superstar Javier Baez swindle the Pirates out of two runs last week, it’s all got me thinking.
The Chicago Cubs All-Star infielder is a one-of-a-kind presence
Major League Baseball still has a wealth of free agent shortstops at the end of this season such as has rarely been seen. Here are just the top names: Carlos Correa (27 years old), Corey Seager (28), Javier Baez (28) and Trevor Story (29).
Story is a two-time All-Star and twice won a Silver Slugger. He has the most homers for a shortstop since 2016 despite the fact that he missed a significant part of that season. But he plays home games at Coors Field, with 82 of his 139 homers coming at home.
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Seager was a Rookie of the Year, finished third in MVP voting and, like Story, was both a two-time All Star and Silver Slugger recipient. He also has NLCS MVP and World Series MVP hardware, to boot. His .495 slugging with a 857 OPS are impressive. He seems to have bounced back from his two surgeries in 2018.
Correa was also a Rookie of the Year, has been an All-Star, and at 6-4 220, has excellent size. He slugs at .477, rarely strikes out, and has an impressive WAR of 28.8. But Correa is injury prone having played more than 110 games in a season only once.
Baez is a two-time All Star, has a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger and was a NLCS MVP himself. His career slugging is .475 with a .778 OPS and a 19.4 WAR. From 2016 to 2019 he never played less than 138 games a season. In 2020 he played 59 of 60 games.
What does this all mean?
Of the four remaining superstar shortstops, I think Baez offers the most to whatever team he ends up with. Before you go calling me crazy, here’s why I say this.
Over the same period that Story has 139 homers, Baez has 119 even with his paltry eight in the shortened 2020 season. He also led the NL in RBI in 2018 with 111, of the other three, only Story has more than 100 in any year. Baez finished second in 2018 in NL MVP voting, higher than any of the others. Though they say he’s prone to strikeouts, he has 714 punchouts in 2,580 ABs over the last five years which is better than Story who has 772 in 2,480 at-bats.
Finally, among these four, Baez alone possesses the one intangible that the others can’t equal: his player personality. People come to watch Javy be Javy. They want to see what amazing thing he will do next. And he often rewards their dedication. That makes him a great draw. And in the end doesn’t it always come down to money?