Ramblings about the fascinating free hand of Carlos Correa

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While baseball‘s owners are actively trying to compromise the sport’s long-term viability in order to maximize short-term revenues — in addition to locking out the league’s players, a ploy that now poses a real threat to the regular season’s on-time start — I thought I would do something that definitely hasn’t been done to death: speculate on Carlos Correa’s free reign.

Coming this winter, 27-year-old Correa was considered by most to be the top free agent in an impressive class that featured plenty of premium players – particularly in the shortstop division. There was about a month of free reign before the owners implemented a lockout on December 2 and several key signings had been completed by then.

Correa wasn’t among them, and based on the contracts handed out before the deals were frozen — namely Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million) and Marcus Semiens (7 years, $175 million) — there was reason assuming that Correa’s asking price could be met. The former No. 1 overall pick was reportedly looking (/looking?) for a deal similar to the one Francisco Lindor got just before the 2021 season (10 years, $341 million), which would be a little more than that , which Seager got from the Rangers in late November.

It seemed pretty plausible at the time, but for the last two-plus months, the general consensus seems to be that Correa and his camp misjudged his market value, which is likely in part why the two-time All-Star recently hired Most Prominent has names in the industry. Although Scott Boras is known for bringing in the top dollar for his clients, it has to be argued that his hiring could have little impact on Correa’s free agency if it eventually resumes.

Regarding Correa and/or his previous portrayal overestimating his worth, the Tigers’ reported offer of 10 years and $275 million was allegedly rejected. Putting aside the Astros’ unrealistic attempts to keep their hometown superstar, Detroit’s offer is the most serious bid reported.

With Javier Báez signing a six-year deal worth $140 million on December 1, it’s logical to assume the Tigers left for Correa before moving to the cheaper Báez. At the same time, however, they still have about $70 million to spend before crossing the luxury tax threshold under the expired CBA, according to Roster Resource, so it’s possible their offer to Correa could be essentially a permanent offer. If he accepted, Báez could just switch to the other side of second base.

The only other viable destination for Correa – if he’s nothing short of adamant about securing a massive long-term deal – might be Chicago’s North Side. Per RR, the Cubs could still have up to $80 million left to play — again, depending on where the new CBT threshold is.

Since they were sellers at the close, rumors have suggested that the 2016 World Series champions would be aggressive in the free hand. They got off to a decent start by signing one of the best starting pitchers on the market, Marcus Stroman, to a 3-year, $71 million deal.

Though they’ll likely continue to aim high when free agency resumes, there’s a caveat when it comes to how compatible the Cubs and Correa are. They’ll be able to throw buckets of cash at free agents and could easily afford to pay the Puerto Rican native upwards of $30 million annually, but they might not want to commit to a 10-year deal .

Barring a material increase in the CBT threshold in the new CBA, the Yankees and Dodgers, two of the biggest lenders in the MLB, are expected to already be in control, and while the Yankees could use Correa, they’re no longer the Wilderness lenders, who they used to be, and will likely choose to find a short-term bridge to top prospect Anthony Volpe instead. The Dodgers will shortstop Trea Turner to replace Seager, but even if they didn’t have that luxury, it would be hard to picture Correa in a blue Los Angeles uniform.

The Astros technically remain an option, but only if Correa drastically changed his mindset and settled for a lucrative short-term contract paying $35 million or more a year, along with an opt-out after two years as a buster Olney proposed two months ago.

The lockout hasn’t done Correa any favours, and amid a shutdown that is likely to stretch into March, a work decision may not affect the biggest impediment to Correa’s free agency that emerged just before the lockout: insufficient demand.

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