Teams In Need
The most obvious potential buyers at the shortstop position are the Phillies and Brewers. Both of these National League contenders have former top prospects available at the position, but thus far they haven’t really panned out.
There’s a clear opening at the position for the Padres and Tigers, but it’s far from evident that either team will make a significant acquisition. For the San Diego organization, it wouldn’t be surprising if they seek another gap-filler while waiting for top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. to finish his development. In Detroit, there’s perhaps an argument to be made for opportunism, especially if the club finds a chance to pick up a relatively youthful player for an appealing price tag.
It’s at least be arguable that the Diamondbacks ought to look to improve at shortstop (or, alternatively, second base), but that may not prove worthwhile if the organization decides on a sell-off. Likewise, the Marlins and Orioles could certainly stand to improve at the position but no doubt won’t be aggressively paying for near-term improvement.
The Yankees will at least need to bolster their depth to open the season following the announcement of Tommy John surgery for Didi Gregorius. Whether that opens the door for a bigger move remains to be seen. Corey Seager will have had much more time to recover from his own TJS, so there’s not much reason to think the Dodgers have a real need at the position.
Though the White Sox got improved glovework from Tim Anderson, and are committed to him through an extension, perhaps there’s still room for a move there. There’s greater cause to seek improvement in Oakland, given the team’s competitive outlook, though there’s less of a case for bumping Marcus Semien after a solid overall campaign driven by his own strides on defense. Teams like the Braves and Pirates have existing options but perhaps shouldn’t be ruled out entirely from the market.
Likely Regulars: Manny Machado is obviously the prize on the infield market this winter. It remains to be seen whether he’ll insist on playing short — and, if so, how that’ll impact demand. On the off chance that Elvis Andrus opts out of his deal with the Rangers, he’d surely be able to secure a regular job even in spite of a tough season. Otherwise, it’s difficult to see any other market entrants as truly everyday players in 2019.
Timeshare/Utility/Reserve Options: That’s not to say that there aren’t some other free agents who have been regulars in the not-so-distant past. Jordy Mercer, Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis, and even Alcides Escobar have racked up quite a few plate appearances in recent seasons. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising for one or more of those glove-first players to see action in 120+ games in 2019, though that’ll likely occur with a second-division club. A slate of other players — Asdrubal Cabrera, Eduardo Escobar, Marwin Gonzalez, and Jed Lowrie — will reach the open market with much more impressive hitting resumes. In each case, though, it would rate as a surprise if they were tasked primarily with playing short rather than other spots on the infield.
The Blue Jays have an interesting mix of solid/youthful (Aledmys Diaz, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Richard Urena), injury-plagued/aging (Troy Tulowitzki), and fast-rising/unproven (Bo Bichette) options on hand. Whether they’ll choose to deal from this group, which could also fan out across the Toronto infield and farm system, remains to be seen. The Phillies could elect to part with J.P. Crawford or Scott Kingery, depending upon how they tackle an interesting upcoming offseason. There’s also some potential extra depth in Texas, though the Andrus contract (4/$58MM with opt-out) isn’t a positive-value asset and the Rangers have plenty of ways to find playing time for Jurickson Profar.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have yet to figure out what to do with Addison Russell, who’ll sit out the first month or so of the 2019 season owing to a suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy. He’s projected to earn $4.3MM and is coming off of his worst season at the plate. If the Chicago organization decides it’s time to move on, other clubs that like Russell as a player will have to contemplate his suspension as well as the allegations of emotional and physical abuse that led to it.