On the back of the big Cubs-Carlos Correa rumor last night (“mutual interest,” Cubs are “serious,” Cubs don’t want to go 10 years), I have been mulling what a shorter-term deal for Correa could even plausibly look like. I want to say up front that I still tend to think Correa is going to be able to get a very long deal – with opt out(s) – but it’s at least worth thinking about just HOW big the annual value would have to be, and what the contract structure would have to look like, for the Cubs to land Correa on a shorter deal.
Up first, a thought on what it means to be a “short” deal. In no universe is Carlos Correa, age 27, going to take a one or two or three-year deal. That might be “short”-term for some players, but for a guy like Correa, short-term is more like five years. And, moreover, there’s no chance he’ll sign a short-term deal like that for his last remaining prime-age seasons unless he’s getting an opt out. So you have to factor that in there, too.
Note that five years isn’t entirely coming out of thin air – that was reportedly the final offer from the Houston Astros before Correa hit free agency: 5/$160 million. No one expected him to take that deal, and thus it probably puts a hard floor of $32 million in average annual value (AAV) on any short-term deal Correa would even consider.
But if Correa were actually going to take a shorter-term deal, then the AAV is going to have to be truly wild. Much higher than $32 million. Probably a record-breaker.
The current record for AAV is the one just set by Max Scherzer at $43.3 million, though you could argue that’s a reaaaaally unique situation that isn’t comparable to a player like Correa. So, fine, maybe you throw that one out. The next highest AAV deal is Gerrit Cole’s ($36 million), but obviously that’s another imperfect fit. Next up is Mike Trout at $35.5 million, which is another really tough comp because Trout is the best player in baseball and also that was an extension. Anthony Rendon is next up at $35 million, and now we’re getting into more interesting comp territory (Rendon’s deal was seven years). As for shortstops, Francisco Lindor is at $34 million, and Corey Seager is (now) at $32.5 million. But those two guys got ten years.
You take all that together and just do some mental math, and you come to the conclusion that a shorter-term deal on Correa – even at five years – is gonna have to have an AAV up in that Cole range, at a minimum. You could argue it would have to approach $40 million, all things considered. Heck, maybe it would have to top Scherzer if it was only five years.
None of that is to say that a shorter-term deal is impossible or unwise for the Cubs. Indeed, there are arguments that, even for Correa, a hypothetical five-year, $200 million deal is a better bet than a ten-year, $300 million deal. Aging curves are a brutal reality. I’m only saying that, if you want to start thinking about a shorter-term deal on Correa – and it sounds like the Cubs do – then you have to think about going absolutely bonkers with the AAV.
By the way: if the luxury tax level gets a meaningful bump in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, you can bet that a lot of large market teams are going to be even more interested in a shorter-term, higher-AAV deal for guys like Correa.