12:43PM: In an update to his original story, Rosenthal writes that the Astros are “not engaged in any active conversations on Correa.” The team has, however, been in touch with LeMahieu.
11:39AM: The Astros are “floating” Carlos Correa’s name in trade talks with other teams, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (subscription required). This isn’t the first time that Correa has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate, though last year, then-general manager Jeff Luhnow shot down the possibility.
The root cause of Houston’s openness to a Correa trade remains the same — the team considers it “unlikely” that the shortstop will sign an extension before he hits free agency. Correa is now only one season away from hitting the open market, as he is slated to be part of an elite group of shortstops headlining the 2021-22 free agent class.
Beyond Correa’s contract, naturally, the Astros face an entirely new set of issues that weren’t present when they thought about moving Correa last winter, ranging from the sign-stealing scandal that ousted Luhnow and then-manager A.J. Hinch, revenue losses caused by the pandemic, to Justin Verlander being lost to Tommy John surgery for the 2021 season. Plus, the Astros also face the loss of two other notable position players, as George Springer and Michael Brantley are both free agents.
Moving Correa on top of losing both Springer and Brantley could almost make 2021 into something of a mini-rebuild type of season for Houston, though there hasn’t been any indication that the Astros are looking to take much of a step backwards. For instance, the Astros have had talks with Brantley and (as a replacement for Springer in center field) Jackie Bradley Jr.
However, Rosenthal reports that the Astros aren’t likely to pursue any of Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, or DJ LeMahieu, as since those players rejected qualifying offers, Houston would have to give up draft picks in order to sign them. This isn’t an appetizing thought for an organization that already lost multiple picks as part of their punishment for the sign-stealing scandal. Re-signing their own free agent in Springer (who also turned down a QO) wouldn’t cost the Astros any picks, of course, though Houston might prefer to restock their draft coffers with the compensatory pick received if Springer signed elsewhere.
Trading Correa would also theoretically net a good return for the Astros, though a lot of factors will impact his market. Teams might not be keen on paying a premium for just one year of Correa’s services, and there are several other options available to shortstop-needy teams in both free agency (Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Ha-Seong Kim) and in trades (Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez).
Correa is coming off a season that saw him hit only .264/.326/.383 over 221 plate appearances in the regular season, but he caught fire during Houston’s postseason run, with a whopping 1.221 OPS over 55 PA. Correa is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn $8.8MM under the “37 percent” calculation method of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.