Yankees Free Agent Target: Corey Seager

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The hot stove has really warmed up over the last week or so. There were rumors that some free agents would sign new deals ahead of the expiration of the CBA on December 1st, and that has indeed been the case. Eduardo Rodríguez, Noah Syndergaard, and Justin Verlander are already off the market. Corey Seager, the subject of today’s free agent target profile, could sign before the end of November too.

Scott Boras represents Seager and it’s unusual for Boras clients to sign early in the offseason. We’ve seen the players he reps wait until late January to put pen to paper, but perhaps this year will be an exception because of the potential lockout. Either way, Seager, who turns 28 in April, is in for a massive contract as one of the game’s best shortstops. The Yankees have been connected to him, so let’s dive in.

Background

Seager was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and grew up in the nearby area. He’s the youngest of three professional baseball player brothers; you’re likely familiar with Kyle, the longtime Mariners’ third baseman who’s also a free agent, but perhaps unfamiliar with Justin, who peaked at Double-A.

While Kyle and Justin signed out of college, Corey went pro out of high school. The Dodgers picked him with the 18th overall selection in 2012 and paid him a $2.35 million bonus to pass on his commitment to the University of South Carolina.

Performance

Seager appeared in 46 games in rookie ball after the draft, but made his full season debut the year after. It didn’t take long for him to climb the minor league rungs. He reached Double-A by late 2014, started there again in 2015, but quickly forced the Dodgers hand. Seager made his major league debut at 21 years-old as a September call up. He tore the cover off the ball too: in 113 plate appearances, Seager posted a ridiculous .337/.425/.561 (175 wRC+) as LA won the division title.

From there on out, Seager has been the Dodgers’ starting shortstop. And for the most part, he’s been terrific, at least offensively. There were a couple of so-so seasons marred by injuries (2018 and 2019 — more on those shortly), but even then he still recorded a 111 wRC+ in 160 games. For his career, Seager is a .297/.367/.504 (132 wRC+) hitter who makes plenty of contact (18.5 percent strikeout rate). He’s right up the Bombers’ alley, especially as a left-handed bat.

On the defensive front, Seager is arguably the worst among the top free agent shortstops. Nonetheless, he represents an upgrade at shortstop in comparison to Gleyber Torres, though I acknowledge that’s not saying much. Now, it appears that Seager has made some big improvements defensively since early in his career. In ’16, Seager recorded -16 OAA. He posted +5 OAA from 2017 through 2020, only to net -6 OAA this year. Other defensive metrics, like FRAA and DRS, peg Seager as slightly below average. Seager tends to make the plays he can get to, as his error count isn’t particularly high, but his range leaves a bit to be desired.

Long story short: Seager offers an elite left-handed bat and should be able to play tolerable defense at shortstop. He may not be long for the position, but fortunately, the Yankees do have prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza waiting in the wings.

Injury History

Seager is no stranger to the injured list, especially in recent years, though I don’t think it’d be fair to call him injury prone. He’s been on the injured list for extended periods three times since 2018, and two of those three injuries seem like one-time issues.

In 2018, Seager started the season healthy but didn’t play after the calendar flipped to May because of Tommy John surgery. He was ready to go for Opening Day 2019, but a left hamstring strain in June cost him a full month of play. Pre-injury, he had a 117 wRC+, but afterward he had a 107 wRC+ that season, indicative of him not feeling quite right that entire second half.

This year, Seager suffered a right hand fracture on a hit by pitch, resulting in him playing just 92 games. The good news is that it wasn’t an issue when he came off the injured list at the end of July: he raked to the tune of a .335/.417/.592 (169 wRC+) over the final two months of the season.

Ultimately, it seems like Seager’s been a victim of bad luck more than anything else. That hamstring strain is the only one that could portend trouble, and we know the Yankees themselves have had issues managing those in recent years, but the organization seems to have turned a corner. Plus, it’s not like the hammy has been a problem for Seager ever since.

Contract Estimates

Does he make sense for the Yankees?

Yes. I can more or less write the same thing I did when profiling Carlos Correa. Seager is still young, is a terrific hitter, and a competent defender at shortstop. He may not be for long at the position like Correa, but the Yankees have a couple of prospects who could reshuffle the infield in the near future anyway.

Although MLBTR’s contract estimate says otherwise, I’ll be stunned if Seager’s deal starts with a 3. In that sense, he represents something of a bargain for Hal Steinbrenner. He also comes without the baggage of Houston’s cheating scandal. Those two things could make him a more palatable choice, even if Correa is the better player.

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9 Comments

  1. Naaka

    Wonderful player love to have him in town, but he’s not exactly adding to the run prevention side of the ball…. A slight upgrade over Torres isn’t what they should be looking for, especially if he requires an 8 to 10 year deal.@ a $30M AAV

    We’re assuming he’s gonna move to third base as his range continues to plummet, will that be a successful transition, and is he willing to move there?

    If Scott Boras wasn’t pulling the strings I might feel differently, but he’s guaranteed to get his client over paid…

    Yanks like to keep the AAV as low as possible, but in this case less yr’s higher AAV, they already have Cole and Stanton, and soon Judge, that’s gonna be some old dudes eating large chunks of the payroll as they decline

    5 yr’s $225M, he can opt out after yr 3.. I know it’ll never happen, but is Mookie Betts worth the money?

  2. Steve

    But what’s his opinion on Jeter’s gold gloves?

    I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve got a bad feeling about any of these shortstops on a long term deal.

  3. Wire Fan

    The 7/196M Fangraphs # seems low. If he signs early Boras will need to be blown away. Maybe 8/225M? 240?

    A low strikeout, left handed middle of the order bat is exactly what the Yankees need… So they should get two of them

    DJL
    Judge
    Olson
    Stanton
    Seager
    Urshela/Gleyber
    Gallo
    Hicks/eventual IR fill in
    Sanchez

    Bench – Gleyber (who will play 2nd most days while DJL rotates around), Gardy, Wade, Higgy

    They may need to pick the SS prospect they like most and put the other in a package deal for Olson (which I’d be fine with). I assume Voit is dealt this winter for some close to the majors minor league depth (probably pitching)

  4. Mike

    The commitment to Eddard carries on…

  5. The Original Drew

    My heart says Seager, my head is saying Semien at best. =/

    • John

      Semien might be better on a short term basis – probably more likely to stay on the field, comparable offence (with a few more Ks), better defense – plus he’s already got experience at other positions if one of the prospects is good enough to push him off short.

      Could be the smarter move, rather than the fantasy baseball / Eddard signing strategy.

  6. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    Seager needs to be signed, Derek, and the price should not matter one iota. If he asks for $300 million you give him $310 million to get the deal done. That was always George’s philosophy but Hal anxiously waits for the weekly advertiser so he can cut out the latest coupons. Seager plays the position we need most, he hits .300, he’s left handed and hits for power, he’s not a cheater. He checks all the boxes so I just don’t understand what the hold up is unless it’s Hal looking for spare change in the couch cushions. We already lost out on Verlander. Sign Seager, sign Freeman, sign Robbie Ray and trade for Olson and we’re instantly the best team in baseball.

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