This year’s free agent class is fairly well-loaded overall, and it is particularly heralded for the crop of shortstops hitting the market. Within that crop, of course, is the top overall free agent on the market, Carlos Correa. Once he wraps up his year with the Houston Astros, Correa will receive and reject a Qualifying Offer, and then it’ll be off to the races.
Working to shake off the dual specters of “injury-prone” and “trash-can-banging,” Correa put up his most full season since 2016, and his best offensive season since 2017. At .279/.366/.485, Correa posted a 134 wRC+, played well above-average defense at shortstop, and was worth 5.8 WAR, 8th most overall in baseball this year among position players. It was certainly the kind of year you’d want to put up at age 26 heading into free agency.
For that reason, and thanks to his considerable talent and youth, Correa is gonna get paaaaaaaaaid in free agency. No, I don’t think the 10-year, $341 million Francisco Lindor deal is going to be reasonably attainable – that felt at the time, and also still feels in hindsight, like a new owner HAVING to make sure he’d locked down a newly-acquired player before the season started. But I do think that’s going to be a part of the conversation Correa and his agent want to have with teams, either in years or AAV.
It seems foolish to project where he actually lands given the expiring CBA in December, but I think it’s fair to say he could approach a $300 million guarantee.
Now here’s where you want to dream that it’ll be the Cubs that gives Correa that deal. I get it. I can’t deny I don’t let that dream weave its way into my mind periodically, especially given Correa’s age. So I’ll let you dream on it while reading the latest from Gordon Wittenmyer, and reading about how Correa totttttally wants to sign with the Cubs:
Carlos Correa vividly recalls a day not long ago when he daydreamed about being a Cub.
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) October 14, 2021
Correa says all the lovely things about the Cubs and Wrigley Field that every impending free agent should say. Wittenmyer, who is not known for overly-flowery takes on the Cubs, certainly tees up the situation nicely:
Maybe the Yankees try to upgrade the premium position for their contender? Maybe the cash-flush Tigers go after Correa as a long-term building block in their one-of-these-days rebuild?
Or maybe the Cubs — whose top shortstop prospects are all in the low minors and years away from the majors — see Correa as a rare long-term free agent value for his age and total-package qualities. That includes versatility that could eventually mean moving off shortstop as a potentially good-production third baseman as he ages (the position he played when sharing a World Baseball Classic infield with Lindor and Javy Báez for Puerto Rico in 2017) ….
And if there was a player that fits the Cubs’ needs at a time they have the flexibility to go big for the right guy, it might be this one — a high-performance player physically and mentally, who brings a clubhouse presence and even an appreciation for the place of modern analytics in that clubhouse and in winning.
So there you go. There’s your path for dreaming. LET YOUR DREAMS RUN WILD MY FRENTS!!! ANYTHING IS POSSIBBBBLLLLLLE!!!
I did it, too. I started thinking about how much payroll space there is, and about how long it could be before the Cubs have an internally-developed shortstop actually ready to take over (if that happens at all), and how easily Correa could slide over to another position after age 30, and so on and so on.
But step back with me for a moment.
Yes, the timeline does still work because of Correa’s youth. But the reality is that Correa’s best seasons would STILL project to be in the next two or three years, and that means other teams may have more incentive to ball out on their offers to him than the Cubs (the Yankees make a ton of sense in that regard, as do the corner-turning Tigers). It doesn’t mean the Cubs *wouldn’t* want him. It just means that other teams may rationally value him at $X more than the Cubs would rationally value him at this time.
That is to say, I would be very surprised if the Cubs were aggressive on Correa at this time. It would take a surprising market turn where he’s just not seeing those 7+ year, $250+ million offers coming in, and the Cubs have internally evaluated that at 6/$180M, there’s just way too much value NOT to sign him (which, I mean, yeah, obviously there would be!). So, if for whatever reason, he’s available at that price, and the Cubs say, “Well, this isn’t our ideal timing, but how can we not sign this guy right now for that price? We’ll figure out the rest later.” (Those are all made up numbers to illustrate the point.)
That’s just not going to happen, though. Absent an overarching offseason plan that I cannot reasonably conceive of at this moment, I do not think the Cubs will be seriously pursuing Carlos Correa. If they do, then it means they must have the inside track on tons of other, equally-impactful moves for 2022-23, *and* ownership has informed the front office that the baseball budgets five+ years from now are going to be gargantuan (yet another thing I just don’t see happening).
I am usually on the more optimistic side of things, but in this instance, I just don’t see the dreams of a Cubs pursuit becoming a reality.