The Philadelphia Phillies will be in the market for a new shortstop this offseason. That much is certain. Which of the star free agent shortstops it will be, however, remains up in the air.
First, reports came out linking the Phillies to Silver Slugger winner Trea Turner. Rumor has it, Turner would like to reunite with former teammate Bryce Harper in Philadelphia.
Then, it was Xander Bogaerts who was said to have Dave Dombrowski’s attention. Jon Heyman of the New York Post had reason to believe the Phillies were showing “real interest” in the four-time All-Star, who played under Dombrowski during his tenure as President of Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox.
Turner and Bogaerts are both excellent players, and the Phillies would be a better team with either one of them in the fold. That being said, the very best shortstop they can sign isn't Turner or Bogaerts. It's Carlos Correa.
Let me explain.
Correa has the best defensive reputation among the free agent shortstops. He is a former Gold and Platinum Glove winner, and his slick fielding certainly passes the eye test. The advanced metrics weren't quite as kind to him in 2022 as they have been in years past, but he is young, athletic, and should be a top-tier defensive shortstop for many seasons to come.
With Alec Bohm at third base, the Phillies would be smart to target the best fielding shortstop available. While Bohm made great strides last season, he is still a poor defender. An elite defensive shortstop would help to make up for his shortcomings on the left side of the diamond.
Correa is more than a year younger than Turner and nearly two full years younger than Bogaerts. The Phillies already have an aging core, so it would be nice to add a star player who won't turn 30 for another two years.
Turner and Bogaerts will both play their age-30 seasons in 2023. Correa won't play his age-30 season until 2025.
Age is a particularly important consideration for shortstops, since many of them have to move off the position as they get older. The Phillies, however, will need their new shortstop to handle the position for several years, with Bryson Stott and Alec Bohm entrenched at second and third base for the foreseeable future.
Correa is more likely than either Bogaerts or Turner to remain an above-average shortstop for at least five or six years.
The Qualifying Offer
Both Turner and Bogaerts rejected qualifying offers earlier this month, which means the Phillies would face penalties for signing either one of them. What's more, the team will face harsher penalties for signing QO free agents this offseason than ever before. Teams that exceed the luxury tax must sacrifice two draft picks and $1 million in international bonus pool money for the first QO offer free agent they sign, plus two further draft picks for signing an additional QO free agent.
If the Phillies were to sign two QO free agents, they would have to give up four of their top six draft picks and $1 million in international bonus pool money. That's a lot to give up, especially considering the team has already surrendered picks and bonus pool money in four of the last five years. It's hard to say if ownership will be willing to sacrifice that much in one offseason.
Correa was not eligible to receive a qualifying offer, since he already rejected one last November. Therefore, signing Correa instead of Bogaerts or Turner would decrease the drawbacks of signing a QO pitcher too. That includes names like Carlos Rodón, Chris Bassit, and Nathan Eovaldi.
To be clear, I'm not saying the Phillies should avoid QO free agents. Philadelphia's competitive window is wide open, and they must be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes in order to improve the team for the upcoming season. But all else being equal, I'd rather they improve the team by spending money than giving up draft picks.
The only "downside" to signing Correa is the cost. Given his age, his QO status, and his immense talent, he should be able to command a higher salary than any of his fellow shortstops on the free agent market. MLB Trade Rumors predicts he'll sign the second-largest contract of the offseason, behind only Aaron Judge.
Philadelphia, however, should not let money stand in their way. The World Series run surely brought in plenty of revenue (and it will continue to do so throughout next season) and they would be fools not to capitalize on that momentum.
Carlos Correa will cost a pretty penny. But he'll also make the Phillies a better team in 2023 and for years to come.
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