What Just Happened?

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What Just Happened?

Chicago Cubs

If you’d told me I was going to wake up to a Carlos Correa surprise this morning, I can’t say this is what I would’ve guessed. I also sure wouldn’t have been happy about it. But now I’m tasked with trying to make sense of it. Even if not for you, then at least for myself.

I haven’t been the biggest champion of the Cubs signing Carlos Correa, but I certainly would have liked it. Given the choice of the Cubs signing Correa and NOT signing Correa, I’m taking the one where they get the 27-year-old superstar shortstop. The Cubs would be a whole lot better with Correa on the roster. For some portion of this discussion, it’s that simple. The Cubs did not get a superstar they were at least semi-pursuing. That sucks.

I’m not quite heartbroken this morning, that’s mostly a product of me always thinking it was so unlikely that the Cubs would land him in the first place. But I thought it was unlikely for the Cubs because I expected (1) Correa always wanted to stay in Houston, and (2) Correa was going to get the kind of monster deal that wasn’t going to make sense for the Cubs. Clearly, those things were not the case. So, although I’m not heartbroken, I do have a serious case of the WTFs.

There were clues, I suppose. The failure of the Astros to get a deal done this week. The planted stories trying to rustle up interest from other teams and/or apply pressure. The Twins’ flurry of moves to open up short-term dollars and the shortstop position (we just all assumed it was about Trevor Story, not Correa). The Cubs’ clear reluctance to go to that 10+ year level. The other major market teams being all set. I can’t say we should’ve seen THIS PRECISE outcome coming, but this definitely could’ve been on our radars in hindsight.

Why the Astros wouldn’t do this deal – three-years and $105.3 million, with opt outs after the first year and second year – I have no idea. Their roster seems to be in an ideal situation to retain Correa for at least one more year. They know him better than anyone, yet they wouldn’t match this? Seems odd.

And the Cubs. Why did the Cubs not do this deal? Yeah, that’s where our heads all go, and while I don’t have a perfect answer – and I don’t know what the Cubs’ internal scouting of Correa looks like (but we do know they liked him enough to stay involved) – I can offer some thoughts.

I’ve gotta believe the part of this kind of deal that was not attractive to the Cubs (and maybe not Correa, either) was that it is effectively a one-year deal.

And let’s be quite clear on that point before proceeding: as far as the team upside is concerned, this *IS* a one-year deal. It’s framed as a three-year deal with two opt outs, which is just so annoying to me. It’s a three-year deal only if things go POORLY for Correa. That’s the downside for the Twins. The upside is that he’s really good this first year and then opts out. Sure, there’s middle ground there where Correa is just exactly $35 million good and wants to stick around, but even in that case, you’ve gotta think he and Scott Boras will want to look around for a longer guarantee (and no more draft pick compensation attached). If he’s mediocre? Or injured? Or just flat bad? The Twins are on the hook for two more super expensive years. If he’s Correa being Correa, he walks after a year. So dispense with the three-year deal stuff. This contract is structured to make sure Correa gets at least $100 million if things go absolutely disastrously this year. If they go well and/or as expected, he will opt out, and it was always a one-year, $35 million deal for the Twins.

The Cubs, not quite as win-now’y constructed as the Twins, haven’t made sense on one-year deals for the tip-top free agents attached to qualifying offers (if it came to that). Lower-cost guys without draft pick compensation? Who can help you maybe compete in the first half and/or become flippable pieces in July? Sure. But the draft pick consideration complicates that calculus a bit, because then your return in trade has to be that much better (and if injury or underperformance strikes, it hurts quite a bit more than if a middle reliever you signed on a $3 million deal, and no draft pick, craps out).

It’s the thing I’ve been saying about Trevor Story when people ask about him and the Cubs on a one-year deal (I just never thought I’d be saying it about Carlos freaking Correa): you’re giving up a very high second round pick and bonus pool space, and IFA bonus pool space, for one market rate year of a great player. If you’re a balling out team that looks like a clear playoff contender in 2022, that’s a helluvan attractive offer! If you are, however, a team that projects to be a 78-win team even with Correa (like the Cubs, sadly), then it makes a whole lot less sense, especially at this stage in the offseason. If the Cubs could’ve gotten Correa on this deal a couple weeks ago, then you could make the argument that it would make sense to do it, and also then get a lot more aggressive on your win-now moves. But the ordering was reversed, and this particular deal doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Cubs at this moment. (And the Cubs, in turn, don’t necessarily make a ton of sense for Correa on a one-year deal, either. Don’t forget the two-way street.)

OK, but what about the deals Correa didn’t take? No better-suited team out there would make a better offer? Seriously? I get why he would want this deal if his big offer wasn’t there, but did he not get ANY compelling long-term offers?

Specifically, did the Cubs not offer the seven-year, $200-ish million type contract that had been rumored? If they didn’t, or didn’t offer something else compelling on a medium-term basis (or otherwise communicate what they’d be willing to do (sometimes people play with the word “offer”)), I would be all the more confused. Is Correa’s back really that scary? Was he truly $330 million or bust, so anything in between the one-year and $330 million was never going to be appealing to him? If the Cubs liked him plenty and made a reasonable five to seven-year offer, I’ll have trouble being too pissed about how this played out. But if they didn’t? I’ll always wonder why not, and what would’ve happened if they had. Because that’s the range of offer that MAKES COMPLETE sense for the Cubs.

So, before we get all the information, that’s the part that I’m perturbed about: I’m perturbed that, if Correa wasn’t going to get his monster deal, the Cubs couldn’t land him on the kind of five to seven-year “value” deal they were pursuing. I’m not mad at him or even them, I’m just … I guess I just now feel like that MAY have actually been possible. And it would’ve been freaking awesome. But that didn’t happen – we’ll hopefully find out more on why – and that sucks. The answer is probably as simple as Correa and Boras were never going to take anything in the middle, only the huge guarantee record or the position player AAV record. Still, it’s all just annoying.

Anyway. That’s my best morning take on what just happened, subject to more information coming out.


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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.