This year, the Astros are facing what is probably their biggest dilemma in recent history in terms of off-season moves. Carlos Correa, the Astros’ star shortstop since 2015, has been unemployed for three months now and what we know is that he was asking for a $330-$350 million contract before the MLB lockout. And the question here is: Is Houston ready to unload that kind of money or is it preparing to live without its de facto leader?
Carlos Correa’s position before the lockout (or agent switch) was that he wanted $330M to $350M. But $330M was the clear minimum ask. Will still be interesting to see if he can beat Corey Seager’s $325M deal.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 19, 2022
Let’s begin with undeniable facts. Correa has been a leader, a true force for a team that is better with him on the field. He just won the Gold Glove for his outstanding defense, was selected to go to the All-Star Game, and finished fifth in the AL MVP award besides having another stellar postseason run. Plus, he’s only 27 years old, an age that makes us think his best years could be ahead of him.
But there’s another undeniable truth: giving a 300 million, 10-year contract to just one player is something that takes a lot of thought. At the end of the day, plenty of things can go bad as trying to predict the future is not that different than signing someone for a decade. Besides, it could mean sacrificing other acquisitions for getting just one contributor.
To be honest, at least from this writer’s standpoint, it’s difficult to believe the Astros will re-sign Correa for $330 million despite the fact that we all would love to see him back in H-Town. In recent years, the Astros have let Gerrit Cole go to the Yankees and George Springer to the Blue Jays. Cole signed for $324 million while Springer went to Toronto for $150 million. Maybe Houston was preparing to retain Correa instead when they said goodbye to Cole and Springer, but who knows.
To back up what I’m saying, the Astros have made at least three known offers to Carlos. Three proposals that ended up being far, far away from Correa’s reported asking price of $330-$350 million for nine-ten years…
- Spring training: Six years, $120MM
- Also during spring training: Five years, $125MM
- Hours before hitting the open market, in November: Five years, $160MM
Correa always said no. So I see a possible scenario: either Correa lowers his expectations about his next contract to stay where he’s loved or the Astros have to live without him in 2022 and beyond.
If we go through the next seasons without Correa at short, people need to adapt. Prospect Jeremy Peña, expected to be Correa’s successor should he sign somewhere else, is unlikely to provide the kind of offense Carlos does — and he doesn’t have to. If 24-year-old Peña wants to succeed, he will need to be a master of overcoming all the pressure of filling the huge void.
According to ZiPS, Pena projects a 1.7 WAR in 96 games while Correa is at 5.3 in 140 contests. In other words, subbing Correa with Pena could cost the Astros three wins in the 2022 season assuming Pena is a full-time starter. However, is it possible to buy some more wins by saving Correa’s big contract and spending those millions on other pieces? That’s another perspective the Astros could study.
For us, there’s not much more than waiting to see what happens after the MLB lockout. Will Correa be back? Will the Astros prefer to spend less money and sign Trevor Story? Will the Astros go for a stopgap until Peña is completely ready? Will Aledmys Díaz be the Opening Day shortstop? Too many questions that will be answered as weeks go by. But if I were you, I would psych myself up to watch the Astros play without Correa.