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Rambling about Carlos Correa’s fascinating free agency

Yes, another one of these. But maybe somewhat insightful?

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UFC 271: Adesanya v Whittaker 2 Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

While baseball’s owners are actively trying to harm the sport’s long-term viability in order to maximize short-term earnings — in addition to locking out the league’s players, a ploy that now poses a real threat to the regular season starting on time — I thought I’d do something that definitely hasn’t already been done to death: speculate about Carlos Correa’s free agency.

Coming into this winter, the 27-year-old Correa was considered by most to be the top free agent in an impressive class that featured heaps of premium players — especially in the shortstop department. There was roughly a month of free agency before the owners implemented a lockout on Dec. 2, and several major signings were completed before then.

Correa was not among them, and based on the contracts that were handed out before transactions were frozen — namely Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million) and Marcus Semien’s (7 years, $175 million) — there was reason to believe that Correa’s asking price could be met. The former No. 1 overall pick was(/is?) reportedly seeking a deal akin to the one Francisco Lindor received shortly before the 2021 season (10 years, $341 million), which would be slightly more than what Seager got from the Rangers in late November.

It seemed fairly plausible at the time, but over the last two-plus months, the common sentiment seems to be that Correa and his camp misjudged his market value, which is likely partially why the two-time All-Star recently hired the most prominent name in the industry. Though Scott Boras is known for getting his clients top dollar, there’s a case to be made that his hiring could have little impact on Correa’s free agency when it eventually resumes.

In regard to Correa and/or his prior representation overestimating his value, the Tigers’ reported offer of 10 years, $275 million was ostensibly rejected. Aside from the Astros’ unrealistic attempts to retain their homegrown superstar, Detroit’s offer is the most serious one that’s been reported.

Since Javier Báez signed a six-year deal worth $140 million on Dec. 1, it’s logical to assume that the Tigers went after Correa before moving on to the less expensive Báez. At the same time, however, they still do have roughly $70 million to spend before breaching the luxury tax threshold under the expired CBA, according to Roster Resource, so regardless of where that line will be after a new labor deal is hashed out, it’s possible that their offer to Correa could essentially be a standing one. Were he to accept, Báez could simply move over to the other side of second base.

The only other feasible destination for Correa — if he’s downright adamant about securing an enormous long-term contract — might be Chicago’s North Side. Per RR, the Cubs could have as much as $80 million left to play with — again, depending on where the new CBT threshold is.

Ever since they were sellers at the trade deadline, rumors have indicated that the 2016 World Series champions would be aggressive in free agency. They got off to a decent start by signing one of the top starting pitchers on the market, Marcus Stroman, to a 3-year, $71 million deal.

Though they’re likely to continue aiming high when free agency resumes, there is a caveat when it comes to how compatible the Cubs and Correa are. They will be able to throw buckets of money at free agents and could easily afford to pay the Puerto Rican native upward of $30 million annually, but they might not want to commit to a 10-year contract.

Barring a substantial increase to the CBT threshold in the new CBA, the Yankees and Dodgers, two of the biggest spenders in MLB, are already projected to be in the tax, and though the Yankees could use Correa, they’re no longer the wild spenders they used to be, and will probably opt to find a short-term bridge to top prospect Anthony Volpe instead. The Dodgers will shift Trea Turner over to shortstop to replace Seager, but even if they did not have that luxury, it’d be hard to envision Correa in a blue Los Angeles uniform.

The Astros technically remain an option, but only if Correa were to drastically alter his mindset and settle for a lucrative short-term contract, one that pays $35 million or more per year, along with an opt-out after two years, as Buster Olney suggested two months ago.

The lockout has done Correa no favors, and amid a standstill that seems likely to prolong into March, a labor resolution may not impact the biggest obstacle in Correa’s free agency that began to take shape right before the lockout: insufficient demand.