In theory, very little should’ve changed in the “here’s where and why I think Player X is going to Team Y” game during the lockout, but with so much time passing, I get why pundits want to drop new predictions for the free agent flurry.
This morning’s installment from David Schoenfield at ESPN lists the top ten remaining free agents, with Carlos Correa at the top. And where does Correa land? With the Chicago Cubs, of course:
So maybe that leaves the Blue Jays and Cubs. Before the lockout, the Blue Jays had pursued Seager and attempted to re-sign Marcus Semien before the Rangers added both players. Correa would be a significant defensive upgrade over Bo Bichette, who could slide over to second to form a dynamic middle infield duo. As for the Cubs, remember they signed Marcus Stroman and acquired Wade Miley, a sign they’re ready to move past their 2021 retooling season. If so, they still need an offensive cornerstone and Correa is the perfect fit — Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal have combined for five home runs in 638 career at-bats, so that’s two powerless middle infielders ….
Prediction: Cubs. The Cubs are the big-market team that best matches need with the payroll flexibility to blow away Correa with a big offer. The current payroll sits at $128 million, well below 2021’s $165 million, let alone 2019’s $237 million.
Part of Schoenfield’s rationale is that the other possible fits don’t look like great fits for Correa (and his contract) at this point, and he’s not wrong about that. We know the Cubs are interested, but we also know that no one believes they are interested at a 10+ year, $300+ million level. And, on the one hand, that almost certainly will take them out of the realistic running, when you start going down through the other possible suitors for a massive contract like that, they all have hang-ups, too.
You can read Schoenfield’s piece for the full look at teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Dodgers. While I still think Correa winds up getting a deal for longer than 10 years (with opt-outs) and at a monster AAV, I also think it’s at least worth hanging around for his rumor mill until he actually signs. You never know about those questions about his back injury, you never know whether he’ll want a shorter-term, even-higher AAV deal, and you never know if maybe the Cubs have been sneaky this whole time.