We’re in that mode now, even as baseball is shut down and no transactions can actually proceed any time soon. Obsessing about the possibility of Carlos Correa joining the Chicago Cubs. The other teams. The possible contracts. The roster implications. The 2022 outcomes. So on and so forth. I can’t help myself.
To that end, a couple reads at ESPN today are worth your team, and not only because each contemplates the possibility of Correa landing with the Cubs. There’s a whole lot to dig into, though obviously our focus will be on the arguments for and against the idea that the Cubs will be/should be seriously involved.
Bradford Doolittle looked at the market for Correa and Trevor Story, the other top free agent shortstop still on the market, and analyzed each team as a fit. The Cubs show up among the teams that are kinda-sorta-a-fit, though that places them in a group of 17 teams, and they’re in the lowest tier of those teams. So, not exactly select company. Here’s what he said about the Cubs:
The Cubs have raised the floor of their 2022 roster with some of their moves so far. The money is there to give Correa whatever he’s asking, and he’d raise the ceiling as well as the floor. Still, it seems hard to believe the Cubs would invest $300 million-plus on a player so soon after hitting reset. Also, Chicago needs to see if Nico Hoerner can be the answer at shortstop, and if Hoerner and Nick Madrigal are going to lock down the middle infield over the next few years.
Not sure I agree about needing to see if Hoerner can be the guy at shortstop when we already know he can be elite at second base, and we know the Cubs kinda want to see him move around, and we know that he certainly isn’t going to be THE reason the Cubs don’t pursue Correa. I’d probably view the Cubs as a better fit here than Doolittle seems to.
But the point about whether Correa is the right huge contract fit for the Cubs at this time is the singular question we’ve all been asking since October. There are scenarios where Correa at $300+ million makes sense for the Cubs right now, but those scenarios are a little trickier than they are for some other teams. The better-fitting teams, according to Doolittle, include the Yankees, Angels, Tigers, Phillies, Dodgers, Giants, Astros, Blue Jays, and Nationals. I could pick nits on a couple, but by and large, I do see the logic in what Doolittle writes. There are a lot of teams that should make at least as much sense as the Cubs.
(Also of note from Doolittle: he does the thing I always say we should do when it comes to top free agents, and adds a year and some AAV to whatever deal you think might be reasonable. Thus, topping Corey Seager’s deal in both years and AAV, Doolittle winds up giving Correa an 11-year, $385 million deal. Pretty hard to see that actually happening – and certainly even harder to see from the Cubs, whose interest is reportedly shorter-term – but we do this dance every year with the tip-top free agents. They keep shocking us.)
Meanwhile, David Schoenfield writes about the pros and cons of Correa, perhaps no better summed up by the fact that he’s been the third most valuable player in baseball over the last seven years if you go by WAR per 650 plate appearances … except Correa has reached 650 PAs in a season just once in his career, back in 2016. We probably don’t do enough to underscore (1) just how much of a superstar Correa is, and (2) just how much time he’s missed. He’s not quite been a Byron-Buxton-level extreme on those two items, but he’s been in that kind of ballpark.
As for a specific Cubs-related discussion, Schoenfield definitely has a different take on the Cubs. He lists six primary suitors for Correa, and the Cubs are among them. Here’s some of what he said:
While the perception is the Cubs are still in rebuilding mode, take note of their major offseason acquisitions: signing Stroman and acquiring Wade Miley from the Reds. Given that Stroman has an opt-out after two seasons, those are two “win now” moves, and a rotation of Stroman, Miley, Kyle Hendricks and Adbert Alzolay could be sneaky good.
That top three is a pitch-to-contact trio, all the more reason to sign the Platinum Glove winner. Current shortstop Nico Hoerner is hardly a roadblock, and there is plenty of room in the payroll to go after Correa and others. Remember what Cubs president Jed Hoyer said at the end of the regular season: “We plan to be really busy active in free agency.” Team chairman Tom Ricketts sent a letter to season-ticket holders in October declaring, “We have the resources to compete in 2022 and beyond, and we will use them.”
A Correa signing would align with what Theo Epstein and Hoyer did in 2015, when they signed Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal coming off a 73-89 season in 2014. The Cubs need a centerpiece, face-of-the-franchise offensive player. The Cubs look more and more like a good fit.
That’s almost a full counterargument to Doolittle’s take re the Cubs. There *ARE* reasons for the Cubs to be in on Correa right now, and those reasons tend to be enough to sell me on the idea that there are at least *SOME* contract structures that make sense for the Cubs. Shorter-term, nuts AAV? Lotta sense. The 10+ year, $35-ish million AAV? It gets a little harder for me to agree that the Cubs should absorb the potentially ugly latter six years of that deal in order to get the first four years for the current Cubs team. I’m not saying I’d be angry or anything! I’m just saying that’s the calculus you have to think about. That, plus being honest about some of the warts/risks associated with Correa, specifically, as discussed in Schoenfield’s article.
(I could pick nits with the Lester/Correa comparison, by the way, given the differences in the rest of the organization (those pre-2015 Cubs were pretty clearly ready to turn a corner (even if others didn’t see it at the time)); the current Cubs are not particularly close to having that kind of crashing wave of arriving talent just yet. Then again, the current Cubs might have a little more talent on the big league roster already than the mid-year 2014 team did. Still, I don’t quite see the teams’ situations as comparable.)
Both articles are worth your time, especially if you’re obsessing about this like I am. A reminder, last week’s set of rumors suggested the Cubs are “serious” in their interest, though they want to try to make a seven-year deal happen (albeit with early opt-outs).