So this is more atmospheric than hard reporting, and you should couch your intrigue and excitement accordingly. But I think it is mighty, mighty interesting to hear how Carlos Correa’s current team might be thinking about his upcoming market.
On the Twins Chin Music podcast, which is hosted by Jim Souhan and LaVelle Neal of the Minnesota Star Tribune, and Twins TV analyst Roy Smalley, the trio were discussing Correa’s future in their latest episode. The setup to the discussion was about how Souhan keeps hearing from Twins people that they love Correa and they want to retain him (he can, and is expected to, opt out of the remaining two years and $70.2 million on his contract). Then Souhan asks Neal what the chances are that the Twins actually do get Correa back.
Neal’s response, it turns out, was all about the Chicago Cubs:
“He’s gonna still want at $35 million a year for X amount of years on a long-term deal. I’m not sure he’s going to get it. But it only takes one idiotic owner to agree, and I’m worried that owner has already presented himself. And that’s Tom Ricketts of the Chicago Cubs, who has pledged to spend money this offseason, and they were interested in Correa in the past. So I’m wondering about a Correa to Cubs deal as a way ownership shows the Cubs fan base they are ready to be a contender again, and that means they would sign him to a ten-year deal at a ridiculous amount of money. That’s the only team I can think that would probably bite on that.”
I have a number of reactions that leap to mind …
First, this is not a REPORT situation, so it’s not as if Neal is saying he’s heard the Cubs have some backroom arrangement to sign Correa after he opts out. It’s more that he’s saying he wonders if the Cubs have already declared themselves that team, so to speak.
Second, this speculation does carry weight, though, because it’s coming directly out of Minnesota. Is Neal just pulling this out of nowhere, or is it something those around the Twins are concerned about, too? Remember, the Cubs *DID PURSUE* Correa last year before the lockout, and at just 28 years old, he still makes plenty of sense for the current Cubs on a long-term deal. We know they are going to be in the market for one of these impact shortstops. There is a lot of surface level sense here, and I suppose I just appreciate hearing it out of Minnesota, too, rather than my own speculation or generic national reports.
Third, we do expect the Cubs to spend aggressively in free agency this offseason. That doesn’t mean they’ll land Correa, specifically, or any player in that mega-contract tier of free agency. But it’s sensible to include the Cubs in this kind of conversation.
Fourth … eh, I’m not so sure Tom Ricketts has “pledged” that the Cubs will spend money this offseason so much as consistently indicated that the money is there if the deals make sense to the front office. We don’t know that it means Ricketts – or the front office – would be interested in or comfortable with an eight-to-ten-year deal for Correa. There’s a bit of a leap there that I’m not willing to make. They MIGHT be willing to go into that range, but it’s definitely not as if Ricketts (or Jed Hoyer) has indicated publicly that they are ready to sign a $300 million contract. They would simply never say that kind of thing out loud.
Fifth, I don’t *think* Cubs ownership would sign a mega-contract as a signal to fans, as opposed to permitting a mega-contract to be signed because it’s a component of the best path back to contention. But maybe I’m splitting hairs a bit there? I do think ownership and the business side are going to want to be able to present a more compelling product next season. I think that matters to them. I don’t think that means you go out of your way to get a splash face just to sell tickets and cable subscriptions on the back of that player, but I do think it means trying to add significant impact to the roster this offseason. And that should be a guy like Correa, among others.
Sixth, it’s interesting that Neal doesn’t expect any other teams out there to consider Correa on a truly monster contract. It’s not notable that he doesn’t see many suitors at 10/$350 million – I don’t think that Correa will approach that number – but it’s notable that the Cubs are the ONLY team he thought worth discussing.
Seventh, the actual contract for Correa is a little hard to predict, even if I might offer an expectation that the guarantee could wind up in the $250 million(?) range. We know that the market wasn’t there for him last year at the 10+ year, $35M AAV range he was looking for, which is why he took the unique contract with the Twins in the first place. We also know that, since then, Correa got a year older and put up a very good season at the plate (.289/.365/.468/140 wRC+), but maybe stepped back with the glove? We also know that he’s going to have missed roughly 30 games again this year. He’s not tied to the qualifying offer this time around, but it’s another strong shortstop class. All in all, I can’t say his market should be stronger this year, though it’s always hard to predict what happens in the first year of a new CBA. Sometimes a lot of surprising teams are ready to go wild at that moment.
Oh, and eighth, I don’t think $35 million per year for Carlos Correa is “idiotic,” though I think going to that level on a ten-year deal would probably be a good bit too long. Ideally, you’d bump that AAV up a good bit and keep the term much shorter.