baseball

Evaluating fit of free agent shortstops for Phillies

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Turner seems to be the free agent shortstop most Phillies fans want Dave Dombrowski to sign before Spring Training. But it isn’t like anybody should be disappointed if they acquire Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts or Dansby Swanson. Any of them would help the Phillies.

But what do we know about the four shortstops?

MLB.com’s best and brightest (ie not me) recently dug deep into the numbers. Me? I cherry-picked a few highlights for you.

Debut: 2015
bWAR: 29.7
fWAR: 31.6

Career: .302/.355/.487 (122 OPS+), 124 HR in 849 games
2022: .298/.343/.466 (121 OPS+), 21 HR in 160 games

Turner’s .489 slugging percentage is third behind Trevor Story (.513) and Corey Seager (.492) among shortstops with 2,000 or more plate appearances since 2016. He has 99 homers since 2018, ranking sixth among primary shortstops.

Turner is +3 outs above average as a shortstop the past four seasons, according to Statcast. That ranks 22nd out of 43 qualified shortstops. So, he rates about average defensively, which is just fine because Turner is fantastic at everything else.

Turner has been one of baseball’s five fastest players on an annual basis throughout his career. The guy can fly.

Debut: 2015
bWAR: 39.5
fWAR: 31.3

Career: .279/.357/.479 (129 OPS+), 155 HR in 888 games
2022: .291/.366/.467 (140 OPS+), 22 HR in 136 games

Only six AL/NL shortstops have posted a better OPS+ through their age-27 seasons than Correa’s 129 OPS+: Alex Rodriguez, Arky Vaughan, Nomar Garciaparra, Ernie Banks, Hanley Ramirez and Corey Seager (minimum 2,000 plate appearances with at least 50 percent of games played at shortstop).

He recorded -3 OAA this season, but he has graduated as an elite shortstop in the past. He was second in MLB with a +20 OAA in 2021, winning his first Gold Glove.

Correa’s 7.2 WAR in 2021 led all MLB shortstops. He had a 5.4 WAR in 2022. Correa’s combined 12.7 WAR the past two seasons ranks ahead of Turner (11.4) and Bogaerts (10.7).

Correa has an injury history. He has played more than 136 games only once since 2016. He has spent time on the injured list with a torn ligament in his left thumb, back issues (twice), fractured rib, a bruised finger and COVID-19 (twice).

Debut: 2013
bWAR: 34.9
fWAR: 34.2

Career: .292/.356/.458 (117 OPS+), 156 HR in 1,264 games
2022: .307/.377/.456 (131 OPS+), 15 HR in 150 games

Bogaerts rolls out of bed and hits. The only other player in baseball in each of the past five seasons not to finish better than a .285 batting average and 125 OPS+ is Freddie Freeman.

He entered this season with a career -40 OAA at shortstop, which is a troubling number for a Phillies team that already struggles defensively. But Bogaerts posted a career-high +5 OAA in 2022. Is it a blip? Bogaerts credited a different pre-pitch routine for his improved play, so he believes it is sustainable.

This past season, Bogaerts saw five-year lows (excluding the shortened 2020 season) in home runs (15), hard-hit rate (39.5), barrel rate (6.5) and average exit velocity (88.1 mph). Again, is it a blip, or the beginning of a downward trend?

Debut: 2016
bWAR: 14.5
fWAR: 16.2

Career: .255/.321/.417 (95 OPS+), 102 HR in 827 games
2022: .277/.329/.447 (115 OPS+), 25 HR in 162 games

Swanson had a 90 OPS+ entering the season, then had one of the best seasons of his career, posting a career-high 115 OPS+ in 2022. He squared up the ball better than he had previously, too, posting a career-high hard- hit rate (46.3). But Swanson also had the second-highest strikeout rate (26.1) and lowest walk rate (7.0) of his career.

Swanson has always been a solid defender, posting a combined +16 OAA from 2016-21. Then he led all shortstops with +21 OAA in 2022, earning his first Gold Glove.

Swanson is the iron man in his group. He has missed two games over the past three seasons, both coming in 2021. He could have sat in the regular-season finale in Miami this year, but he played, making him the only player this year to start all 162 games.

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