With Mookie Betts now suiting up for the Dodgers, expect discussions on the availability of Corey Seager to reemerge. Bradford William Davis first suggested a move for Seager in late-October, in the context of a Dodgers-Indians trade involving Francisco Lindor. In the article, Davis recommended the Yankees prioritize the pursuit of Seager should the Dodgers pull off a trade for Lindor. Could the Yankees really make an effort for the former Rookie of the Year?
Seager, a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger, has been a potent weapon since breaking into the league in 2016. In his first two full seasons in the majors, he averaged 24 home runs, an .866 OPS (130 OPS+), and a 132 wRC+. After a more pedestrian start to the 2018 season, Seager reported numbness in his throwing arm, which had been bothering him at the end of the previous season. An MRI revealed UCL damage, landing Seager on the injured list on April 30. He underwent Tommy John surgery in early-May of 2018 and missed the remainder of the season.
His situation to start the 2019 season bears an eerie resemblance to the shortstop he could replace in the Yankees’ lineup. Didi Gregorius, himself recovering from Tommy John surgery to the throwing elbow, provides an interesting template for comparison. Both are lefty bats amongst what would otherwise be a righty-dominated lineup. However, while Didi struggled to find his swing after returning to the team, posting a concerning .276 on-base percentage and 84 wRC+, Seager did not suffer a similar downturn in production. His OPS+ and wRC+ of 113 suggests he has fully recovered from his surgery.
Production at the plate is not the only area where Seager has a leg up on Didi. In 2019, Gregorius ranked 216th out of 218 qualified infielders in Outs Above Average according to Statcast, while Seager’s OAA of +5 places him 30th on that list. Throw in the fact that Seager is four years younger and about $6.5 million cheaper than Didi, and Seager becomes an even more attractive option.
Speaking of shortstop defensive metrics, Statcast is not kind to the Yankees’ current in-house option. Gleyber Torres grades out at -7 OAA, putting him only nine spots ahead of Didi. While shortstop may be Torres’ natural position, moving him to second and DJ LeMahieu to the hot corner to accommodate Seager would still represent the strongest defensive alignment for the Yankees’ infield.
Why would the Dodgers be so eager to part ways with their young shortstop? Speculation linking a Seager departure has not gone away since initially being suggested in the Davis article. Bob Nightengale reported in a USA Today article that the Dodgers included Seager in an offer for Betts in December. More recently, Ken Rosenthal reported in The Athletic of interest from the Reds in acquiring the lefty. Seager’s escalating arbitration salaries and the ascendance of star prospect Gavin Lux are possible explanations.
The Dodgers traded away a top young player in Alex Verdugo to land Betts. The Yankees have ready-made replacements to restock the hole created by the departure. Outfielders including Clint Frazier and Estevan Florial would instantly fill those gaps, but maybe they would consider pitching prospects like Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, and Clarke Schmidt,
On the surface, adding Seager to an already-crowded infield would seem like overkill. However, he provides insurance against both injury and regression. Particularly in the case of Torres and LeMahieu, the drop-off in production between them and their replacements (Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada) is cause for concern. Additionally, should Gio Urshela take a step back at the plate, or Miguel Andujar not rediscover his form from 2018, Seager provides a welcome safety blanket.
Seager would certainly be a luxury acquisition at this point, considering he is surplus to requirements given the current infield construction. Regardless, there is little downside to upgrading a current strength. Seager’s injury history must be mentioned, with injuries to his left hip and hamstring in addition to the reconstructed elbow, however his strong showing in 2019 alleviates some of those worries. If he can continue on his trajectory as one of the premier hitting shortstops in the league, the Yankees would be getting a franchise player at the height of their championship window.