The Offer Carlos Correa Reportedly Received Before the Lockout Began, and the Concept of a "Relative" Cubs Bargain

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The Offer Carlos Correa Reportedly Received Before the Lockout Began, and the Concept of a “Relative” Cubs Bargain

Chicago Cubs

Without any active negotiations right now, there’s going to be a lot of status quo on the biggest rumors. With the Chicago Cubs and Carlos Correa, it’s going to keep looking something like this: Correa’s bat and glove make a ton of sense for the Cubs in the abstract, and the fact that he’s only 27 makes it slightly more plausible for a team like the Cubs to sign him. They will stay involved, but it’s hard to see them being the team to make the largest and longest offer. Keep recruiting him, Stro, just in case.

I’ll be sticking to that position throughout the lockout, absent some earth-shattering new info. I’m not ruling it out, and I can see a coordination of moves over the next year or two where signing Correa to a 10-year deal makes a lot of sense for the Cubs. Truly, I can. It’s just that I can also see them deciding they don’t want to lock in a 30+ year-old Correa on a monster deal in the future years when they believe they’ll be more competitive. So, I tend to think it’s gonna take a relative bargain arriving for the Cubs to decide to jump.

But let’s talk about that word “relative” for a moment, because I think sometimes folks get the wrong idea. That doesn’t mean the Cubs would sign Correa only for a hilarious, under-market deal (which will never actually happen). Instead, it means that I tend to think they would sign him only if his market price winds up being solidly below their internal evaluation of his value over the life of the deal.

Here’s the important thing: *we can’t know* exactly how the Cubs are projecting his value over the next ten years. It’s entirely possible that they think he’ll be “worth” $350 million over those ten years, and thus a “relative” bargain to them is almost anything below $350 million! So you can’t just talk about these numbers in an absolute way (“The Cubs will never go over $250 million, they only want a bargain!”), because we are talking about a relative bargain. Heck, for all we know, the Cubs believe 10/$350 for Correa *IS* a relative bargain, and they’d jump on that deal. I tend to think that’s unlikely when I survey the landscape – you can play with the numbers however you want – but hopefully you understand my point.

I raise it today because of something Buster Olney wrote at ESPN:

(The Astros’) history with Correa is complicated, of course, because he has turned down two offers in the past year. Separately, owner Jim Crane has assured others in the organization he is not interested in extending an offer beyond six years. According to one source, Correa was offered a $275 million deal by the Tigers, spread out over 10 years. If Correa can’t find an offer similar to the $300 million-plus agreements of Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager, it’s possible that he and the Astros could explore a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual salary — say for $35 million a year — with an opt-out after two years.

Interesting stuff, no? Stray thoughts:

⇒ 10 years and $275 million for Correa definitely falls into that range of … dang that seems like a bargain to me for almost any team. So the fact that the Tigers were willing to offer it makes sense, the fact that Correa wasn’t going to accept it before the lockout makes sense, and the fact that the Tigers then pivoted to Javy Báez at 6/$140M makes some sense. But it also makes you wonder if the Tigers will try to go for a two-for like the Rangers did with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. I tend to think the rest of the Tigers’ infield looks plenty strong without also adding Correa, but they may have a lot of money left to play with.

⇒ The Cubs *better* be willing to at least consider 10/$275 million on the small chance that it was actually the high-market offer for Correa, and the Tigers decide to step back post-Báez. Just in case. If Correa signs for that number or less, yeah, it’ll be fair to be chapped.

⇒ But he won’t. He’s gonna either do better in the overall guarantee, or better in the AAV. Olney mentions the Astros specifically here, but you’ve gotta believe a lot of teams would be willing to try a shorter-term, higher-AAV deal for Correa (Michael was wondering about it earlier this week). If it comes with a very early opt-out, as Olney suggests, then it does start to become a little more plausible.

⇒ That said, I’m thinking a short-term Correa deal is going to be for more than a $35 million AAV. If Seager can get $32.5 million over 10 years, then a short-term Correa deal feels like it’s going to have to REALLY beat that AAV to make sense. Could you talk him into a four-year, $160 million deal? With an opt-out after two years? If you could, would you be comfortable knowing you might only get two years of Correa at $40 million per year (with the risk that he tanks and then you’re on the hook for another two years at $40 million per)? For a team like the Cubs, as much as you want to stay short-term, I’ve gotta believe that there are other teams out there who would want Correa on a deal like this even more than the Cubs (VERY “win-now” teams that would be incentivized to keep topping the AAV by a dollar, however high it climbs).

⇒ There’s a lot more creative accounting you could do, though. Maybe it’s an eight-year deal with an AAV similar to Seager’s, but it comes with multiple early opt-outs, and maybe it’s massively front-loaded, so that Correa really gets to have his cake and eat it, too (gets paid early, can hit free agency again at 29 or 30, or gets plenty of security on the long-term deal if he tanks and doesn’t opt out). Or maybe he gets a monster guarantee, but there are wild deferrals and options and what-have-you that totally change how we think about the value of the deal. We probably limit ourselves when we discuss only the years, the AAV, and a single opt-out. This could get a lot more creative than that.

⇒ Ultimately, my old standby rule is going to apply, since Correa is a tip-top of the market free agent: take the deal you think is way too much, and then add a year and a couple million to the AAV, and that’s what the guy will get. If that plays out, Correa’s getting something like 12 years and $400 million, which I have a hard time seeing as a deal the Cubs will internally value as a “bargain.” But the fact that the Tigers’ offer was so much below that, the fact that none of the other early suitors made a more serious offer to try to lock him down before the CBA expired, the fact that you could argue a lot of erstwhile big bidders could be out, and the fact that these shorter-term, high-AAV discussions are even out there … it all does make me wonder if *maybe* a relative bargain deal for the Cubs will become possible.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.