On Saturday, the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to terms with shortstop Didi Gregorius, bringing him back to town on a two-year deal. Gregorius was the third notable free-agent shortstop to sign during the week, joining Marcus Semien (Blue Jays) and Andrelton Simmons (Twins). Just like that, every shortstop ranked among the 60 best free agents this winter has found a home for the 2021 season.
Alas, not every team was able to fill their need before the limited supply ran out. Two playoff teams last year, the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics, are ostensibly still on the lookout for a new starter at the six spot. If Opening Day were tomorrow, the Reds would have to choose between the overmatched Jose Garcia and the stretched Kyle Farmer; the A's, meanwhile, would be picking between Vimael Machin and Chad Pinder, who has three starts at shortstop over the past three years.
It's enough to make even an unbiased observer ask: are there any shortstops left? We've surveyed the land, and below we've laid out the Reds and the A's options. (Note that the players are not presented in any particular order.)
With Nolan Arenado reportedly heading to the Cardinals, it's reasonable to wonder about Trevor Story's availability. Rival teams do not believe that Colorado's ownership is willing to trade Story just yet. Rather, the Rockies seem more likely to pursue an extension with him ahead of his date with free agency next winter. That doesn't mean Story will play ball -- not after seeing what just happened with Arenado after he signed his own long-term deal -- but it does diminish the chances that he's traded within the coming weeks. (It's unclear whether the Reds or A's would be willing to absorb Story's $18.5 million salary anyway.)
Earlier this winter, we laid out why we believe the Rays will trade Willy Adames over the next 12 months. Essentially, it boils down to a combination of them 1) having incoming shortstop depth (in the form of Wander Franco and Taylor Walls), and 2) trying to take advantage of the shortstop market before a number of All-Star types hit the market next offseason. Of course, the Rays aren't going to just give away Adames, and that's where things get complicated. Would the Reds or the A's, both of whom have been timid this winter, part with the necessary prospect capital?
Perhaps the Reds or the A's could convince Cleveland to give up Amed Rosario, a piece of its return on Francisco Lindor, for significantly less than it would take to wrestle away Adames? Rosario is coming off a poor season and wouldn't seem to fit in Cleveland's long-term plans -- remember, the Fightin' Franconas also netted youngster Andres Gimenez, and he's the superior fielder of the two. Add in how Rosario is already arbitration-eligible, and maybe Oakland or Cincinnati could convince Cleveland that it's better to take something now for Rosario rather than risk another bad season, after which he might be non-tendered and lost for nothing.
The Pirates don't have much else to move from their big-league roster, as we illustrated last week, but they do have two shortstops who could appeal to the A's or the Reds: Erik Gonzalez and/or Kevin Newman. Gonzalez has more than four years of service time and would seem likeliest to go. He's a skilled defender, and that's the nicest thing you can write about his bat. (Former Pirates GM Neal Huntington once compared him to Freddy Galvis.) Newman, who will become arb-eligible after the season, showed more offensive promise in 2019. He's an extreme contact hitter with speed and little power, and that's the nicest thing you can write about his glove.
If none of the above pursuits work out, how about … um, Elvis Andrus? The Rangers are committed to giving Isiah Kiner-Falefa a look at shortstop, leaving Andrus without a definitive role. Assuming Texas views the rest of Andrus' contract ($28.5 million) as a sunk cost, it might be willing to pay down some of it to facilitate a move and reap some savings. The catch is that the $15 million club option on his 2023 season becomes his call if he's traded or claimed on waivers -- in other words, the Reds or A's would have to be willing to pay out at least $15 million. That's not too bad over three seasons, though, especially if teams believe his value is accurately reflected in his recent WAR totals: he's been worth at least one win in every season but last, according to FanGraphs, and worth at least two wins in four of the last five years, per Baseball Reference. Andrus is no longer exciting, but he may beat the alternative.