Yankees: Could Javier Baez be in NYY’s price range come free agency?

We’ll say this as nicely as possible: if Gleyber Torres doesn’t turn his play around, he will not be the New York Yankees starting shortstop come 2022. Heck, he might not even be the starting shortstop come the trade deadline.

There’s a reason for all the speculation dating back to the end of the 2020 season linking the Yankees to the upcoming star-studded free agent class after this year.

Plenty of trade rumors connected the Bombers to Francisco Lindor, but he went to the Mets and inked an extension. That’s no longer on the table.

But then you have Corey Seager (who seems like a long shot), Carlos Correa (who doesn’t really seem like a fit), Trevor Story and Javier Baez.

Depending on how things shake out, there’s a chance none of those players hit free agency and instead opt to sign extensions with their current teams. Even if that doesn’t happen, the Yankees are still presented with a problem.

They reportedly do not want another $200 million contract on the payroll, and you can bet at the very least that’s what Seager and Story will cost. But what about Baez? If Torres continues to falter, would the Yankees look in his direction if the price is right?

Can the Yankees turn to Javier Baez? Would they?

Baez will be 29 next year, so age certainly isn’t by his side. And neither is his current stretch of play. Though his defense is still top-notch, his offense has been bad since the start of 2020.

He has 2021 to get back on track and prove he can still be the All-Star player he was in 2018 and 2019. If he doesn’t, teams won’t be paying a premium for him. He’s not a high OBP guy and he strikes out a ton. And aside from Chicago’s World Series run in 2016, he’s been really bad in the playoffs.

At this point, based on a “what have you done for me lately” standpoint, his defense is his saving grace.

Baez was probably right to reject that extension from the Cubs, but we’re not going to sit here and pretend like it wasn’t a risk. The flair, emotion and talent he brings to the game is undeniable, but back-to-back lackluster campaigns right before free agency will drive almost anyone’s price tag down.

Would the Yankees be interested if this number settles in the $140-$150 million range or lower? It’s hard to judge. While they’d get superior defense up the middle, they’d likely get another streaky bat in a lineup that’s already characterized as boom or bust. Nonetheless, at this point, Baez looks like an exponential upgrade over Torres, who doesn’t seem to have a grasp on the defensive end and has lost his footing offensively.

Regardless, this is merely something to ponder and keep track on as the season goes on, because changes will be made if Torres cannot establish himself in the coming months.