Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is officially a free agent. The White Sox declined his $14 million option for 2024, allowing him to test the open market. There is still the chance for Anderson to return to the team on a discounted deal. But considering the way the 2023 season went for the White Sox, it is likely that the former MVP candidate will be playing his baseball elsewhere next year.
Anderson is coming off the worst season of his career — posting an OPS of .582 in 123 games while costing the White Sox 16 runs defensively. He was also arguably the worst position player in the league, as his WAR of -2.0 ranked last among all field players. Now that he is a free agent, Anderson will look to prove that 2023 was simply a singular down year and not part of a larger decline. It is worth noting that Anderson batted above .300 every year from 2019 to 2022 while battling injuries and was an All-Star each of the previous two seasons.
Can Tim Anderson bounce back? Here are three clubs who should give him a shot.
After trading Ahmed Rosario mid-season, the Guardians got almost no production from the shortstop position. Gabriel Arias, a former top-100 prospect, is a solid defender at short but had an OPS of just .628 across 122 games. Brayan Rochhio, Tyler Freeman, and Jose Tena all also had at least ten starts at short; none of them had an OPS over .665. On a team that prioritizes getting on base over hitting for power, and leadoff guy like Tim Anderson would fit right in in terms of playing style. The big question would be, would the clubhouse welcome him after the conflict Anderson had with the Guardians in 2023? The 30-year-old is worth a gamble for a team that likely will not be contending in 2024.
Brandon Crawford held down the shortstop stop in San Francisco for 13 seasons. Now, the 36-year-old is a free agent, and the Giants do not have an obvious replacement for him. Casey Schmitt, the #94 overall prospect before 2023, hit just .206 and finished with a -0.5 WAR. Paul DeJong and Marco Luciano also saw time at short, neither to great effect. The Giants could choose to move the talented Thairo Estrada to shortstop permanently (he had 24 starts there in 2023), but then that leaves a hole at second base.
San Francisco Giants shortstops finished the year with a combined WAR of -3.2 — the second-worst in the league. Ironically, the only team with a lower WAR at the position was the White Sox. With the Giants in flux, as they welcome a new manager and also push for a playoff spot, Tim Anderson is an ideal low-risk, high-reward player to replace Brandon Crawford at shortstop.
Few teams love infielders who have speed and contact-hitting ability more than the Miami Marlins. Sure, three of their four infielders with the most starts at their position finished with a negative WAR (the other was MVP candidate Luis Arraez), but Miami did manage to make its first playoff appearance in a non-shortened season since its World Series-winning year in 2003. Joey Wendle led the way for the Marlins at shortstop, racking up 107 appearances there while posting an OPS of just .554. — somehow worse than Anderson's. Only his solid defense prevented him from being a complete negative for the team.
If he can regain his All-Star form, Tim Anderson would be a big upgrade at shortstop for Miami, and for a team that shuns big spending, Anderson would be worth the gamble at a cut-rate price.