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Hot Stove Preview: Top Free Agent Shortstops Available

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Our free agent breakdown continues with the top shortstops hitting the market this winter. If you haven’t done so already, check out Bill’s lists of top catchers and starting pitchers.

1. Stephen Drew

Drew signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Nationals entering the 2016 season, where he primarily served as a backup infielder and power bat off the bench. He saw just 70 games due to recurring bouts of dizziness and “vertigo-like symptoms,” which the Nationals elected to treat with cortisone shots as they tried to puzzle out a diagnosis for the 33-year-old.

When healthy, Drew batted at a .266/.339/.524 clip with eight home runs and 21 RBI. He returned from the disabled list in September with an .813 OPS in 19 games and provided some key RBI in the Nationals’ hunt for a fourth division title, though he later went hitless in four games during the NLDS. While he’s spent the bulk of his 11-year career at shortstop, he’s been primarily used as a second baseman by both the Yankees and Nationals over the last two seasons.

2. Erick Aybar

Aybar was dealt to the Tigers mid-season for utility player Mike Aviles and minor league catcher Kade Scivicque, but failed to flourish on Detroit’s roster. He produced a career-low batting line of .243/.303/.320 over 126 games, and contributed just one home run and eight RBI for the Tigers down the stretch. Working in his favor is the fact that he’s the only free agent shortstop not currently playing a utility/backup role, but his veteran status and declining offense likely won’t command a high salary when 2017 rolls around.

3. Alexei Ramirez

After losing Matt Duffy to a season-ending Achilles injury, the Rays picked Ramirez up from the Padres to finish out their 2016 season. Ramirez was on the books for a one-year, $4 million deal with San Diego when he was sent to Tampa Bay, and split 145 games between the two clubs while batting .241/.277/.333 with six home runs and 48 RBI. It was a down year both offensively and defensively for the 34-year-old, who was coming off of an eight-year career with the White Sox, during which he held a cumulative .273 average and earned two Silver Sluggers and an All-Star distinction. He showed some range at second base and in the outfield, but profiles almost exclusively as a shortstop in this season’s free agent market. A return to his previous offensive output and stolen base numbers could net him a decent contract in 2017, though it likely won’t differ too much in length and price from his arrangement with the Rays.

4. Ruben Tejada

Tejada was expected to cover for an injured Jhonny Peralta when the Cardinals signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million contract in 2016, but the 26-year-old landed on the disabled list in April after injuring his quad in spring training. With rookie All-Star Aledmys Diaz‘s breakout at shortstop, Tejada was relegated to a backup spot once he came off the disabled list, and batted .176/.225/.235 through the end of May before getting designated for assignment. He picked up a short-term stint with the Giants in June, taking a minor league contract and seeing 13 games in the majors before getting DFA’d to clear roster space for starter Matt Cain. Despite finishing the season with a career-worst .176 average and five RBI, he profiles as a career .252/.327/.320 hitter and a decent utility infielder, and could give teams a cheap backup option around the horn in 2017.

 

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.