With no end in sight for the Major League Baseball lockout, we can turn our attention to rumors and best fits for the remaining free agents. Shortstop Carlos Correa is still on the market and will still command an enormous deal no matter the consequences of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The 27-year-old burst on to the scene as a 20-year-old rookie for the Houston Astros in 2015. Amidst a season in which he slashed .279/.345/.512 with 22 homeruns and 22 doubles in 432 plate appearances, Correa also earned the coveted American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Correa followed his inaugural season with two All-Star Appearances. Thus far, he has tallied 133 career homeruns and a .277/.356/.481 line all leading to a possible $300 million contract. Correa finished the 2021 season with, arguably, his best season yet as he racked up a 7.2 WAR (career high). With that in mind, there are a limited number of teams able to afford Carlos Correa.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor received a 10 year, $341 million contract in his age-27 season. Lindor was coming off a sub-par COVID 2020 season. Lindor has a career 31.1 WAR whereas Correa has 34.4 WAR. Value is in the eye of the beholder. With this information, we can assume Correa will hover around the 10 year $320-$360 million mark when all is said and done.
New York Yankees and Carlos Correa
The New York Yankees will always be considered a contender for top notch free agents based on their past spending history. In 2021, the New York Yankees payroll finished at $205 million. If the 2022 season were to commence, the Yankees are already on the hook for $211 million in payroll this year. Will that prevent them from signing Carlos Correa? Probably not. Right now, they trail the New York Mets ($235 million) and Los Angeles Dodgers ($214 million) in payroll with additional room for movement.
Gleyber Torres started 108 games at shortstop for the New York Yankees. Tyler Wade (31 games), Gio Urshela (28 games), and Andrew Velasquez (28 games) made up the remainder of the starts. All told, these four players contributed a grand total of 1.7 WAR for $8.65 million in 2021. That would be a terrible investment on any team. Once thought to take over the long-term shortstop position after a breakout 2019 season, Torres has struggled. In 2019, Torres mashed 38 homeruns in 604 plate appearances, a year after hitting 24 homeruns in his rookie season. Since 2019, Torres has hit only 12 homeruns in over 600 plate appearances leaving much to be desired from the decision makers. Torres could potentially move to second base full time where has has played 193 career games or he could function as a super utility infielder.
After a terrible 2021 season ended without a playoff birth, the Chicago Cubs are definitely looking to return to their glory days of the Theo Epstein era. New General Manager Carter Hawkins is going to look to put his stamp on this historic franchise and what better way to begin than by signing a cornerstone shortstop superstar.
Before he was traded, Javier Baez was the number one shortstop. After, however, we saw a hodgepodge of players including Andrew Romine (16 games) and Matt Duffy (5 games). Even second base prospect Nico Hoerner started at shortstop 12 games. A glaring need for stability exists at shortstop for the Chicago Cubs.
Baez was responsible for most of the success at shortstop with a 2.7 WAR. Sergio Alcantara took up the mantle and started 55 games accumulating 0.5 WAR. The 5’9” 151 pound 24-year-old struggled in 255 plate appearances. A .205/.303/.327 line with not much power and average amount of speed does not amount to a full-time job come next season.
The Chicago Cubs payroll currently sits at $98 million after hitting $153 million last year leaving room to spend as they fill some glaring holes on their roster. Chicago could be an attractive location for Carlos Correa with it’s history and the beautiful Wrigley Field.
Houston Astros and Carlos Correa
The Houston Astros maintain a spot on this list as the team who drafted Carlos Correa. Maybe Correa will be pulled back to Houston by nostalgia or creating a long-lasting legacy in Houston. Whether or not the Astros can afford to bring Correa back is another story. Currently, they have $157 million on the books for 2022 payroll.
For historical context, in 2021 the Houston Astros had a payroll of $191 million. The Astros have room to spend just like the two other contenders; New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs. The decision, obviously, rests with Correa. The question becomes what does Carlos Correa value if all three offers match up? Would he value staying and being successful in a smaller market like Houston as he grows and raises his family? Or does he want to, justifiably, leverage bigger markets for a stronger financial legacy?
At this rate, we may never know based on the MLB owners insistence on killing the game of baseball.