Let’s start by saying the Yankees’ priority this offseason is to re-sign Aaron Judgefor obvious reasons.
But what happens after? If Judge re-signs, will the Yankees stop spending big to improve their team? If he doesn’t, will the team look to bring in another star or go full bore with their young prospects?
It’s an interesting spot the Yankees are in, and one that will affect their organization for years to come. Whichever way the Yankees decide to go in free agency, they should take a look at the top four shortstops on the market.
Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson and Carlos Correa are all poised to get lucrative deals while immediately improving any team that signs them. And with their infield in a state of flux with prospects ready to break through, the Yankees would definitely benefit from a veteran presence at the position.
But if the Yankees sign one of them, should it be Correa?
Correa has been a fixture for eight years now. Since winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2015 and getting selected to two All-Star Games, Correa has been at or near the top of the list of best shortstops in the game.
With that said, it’ll take a lot of money to bring him to the Bronx and it may be too much for the Yankees.
Correa took a relatively club-friendly deal last offseason when he signed a three-year, $105.3 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. What made it great for Correa was that there was an opt-out after year one, which Correa wound up using. Now, Correa is testing the market again.
Logic dictates he’ll be offered more than the deal he took with Minnesota, especially with teams hoping to lock him in before the other shortstops agree to deals, which could drive up the price of the other shortstops left on the market. But Correa has a lot going for him that could make his deal bigger than the others.
Correa is just 28 years old, younger than the other three shortstops, and has a track record that is arguably better. While those are “pros,” Correa’s credentials could have him get more money on the market.
If the Yankees re-sign Judge, it’ll be for more than $300 million. Are they willing to add another contract worth close to $200 million? If Judge doesn’t re-sign, then the Yankees could try and fill the void with Correa — and that sort of contract seems more manageable.
So, if the Yankees pull the trigger and bring in Correa with or without Judge, where does that leave the organization’s future plans? For years, fans have heard about how highly the team views Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, their top infield prospects. They didn’t go after Correa last offseason because they didn’t want to clog up the position, and that’s what he would do if they signed him.
The other aspect of bringing in Correa is his health. In his career, Correa has missed nearly 200 games due to a variety of injuries. While his last two seasons saw the shortstop stay on the field for more than 135 games each, it is something the Yankees will have to look at very carefully.
Correa would give the Yankees a dual-threat at shortstop the team hasn’t had since Derek Jeter.
In his career, Correa has hit .279/.357/.479. This past season with the Twins, he hit .291/.366/.467 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI. His batting average was third in the majors among shortstops (only behind Turner and Bogaerts). He was sixth in home runs, 12th in RBI and third in WAR (5.4).
Correa was also worth 140 wRC+ in 590 plate appearances this season, which put him at the top of the list of shortstops.
Put Correa’s numbers side-by-side to the Yankees’ everyday shortstop last season, Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
IKF was ninth in average, 15th in WAR, 33rd in home runs and 21st in RBI. Correa is an offensive upgrade over IKF in every way, and that’s also the case on the defensive side of the ball.
Correa was a platinum Gold Glove winner in 2021 and this past season he was no slouch, making just eight errors, tied for second least in the majors among shortstops, and was fourth in fielding percentage (0.983). But Correa was in just the 18th percentile when it came to Outs Above Average.
Still, with the Yankees leaning more to playing better defense, Correa is an upgrade over IKF, who was benched during the season and in the postseason for his fielding mistakes.
The Yankees should also take into account his playoff numbers. Correa has spent six of his eight seasons playing in the postseason, and he has hit .272/.344/.505 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI, including hitting .276 with two home runs and five RBI in the 2017 World Series.
And speaking of that 2017 season. Yes, Correa was a part of the sign-stealing that helped the Houston Astros win. But if he can help bring a title to the Yankees, isn’t it worth bringing him in?
Determining whether to bring Correa in is tricky. A lot of it depends on what happens with the Judge.
If Judge doesn’t re-sign with the Yankees, then Correa is a slam-dunk signing. They can also get Correa to play second or third base to have one of the young kids play alongside him in their infield, but that would involve some rearrangement when it comes to Josh Donaldson and Gleyber Torres.
If Judge does return, then it’ll depend on the years and money. If the Yankees can convince the 28-year-old to take a contract that lets either side get out of the deal early, that will benefit the Yankees’ long-term plans.
However, I don’t see that happening. They then have to decide whether it’s time for Oswald Peraza and/or Anthony Volpe in the infield. If they feel they are ready, then they can forget bringing in Correa.
If not, then go for broke and sign Correa and deal your prospects for another top-of-the-line starter.