Carlos Correa’s top priority is getting the Astros back to the World Series, so while the star shortstop’s free agency will be a hot topic once the season is over, Correa doesn’t want his 2021 campaign to end any time soon. However, Correa did address his pending trip to the open market while speaking with NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer, and seemed to hint that a reunion in Houston seems unlikely.
The two sides had talks about an extension last spring, with the Astros reportedly floating offers of six years/$120MM and five years/$125MM. Even at the time, however, Correa had a dim view of how serious the Astros were, saying “there were not really any negotiations,” and that the Astros “made it clear to me they don’t believe in long contracts, they don’t believe in big contracts.”
In his more recent remarks, Correa again addressed those preseason contract talks, saying “It was like, ’Take it or leave it; this is what we’ve got.’ And now my value has gone up. If they didn’t want to meet my price in spring training, now that I led the league in [Baseball Reference] WAR at 7.2 and I’m in the playoffs helping the team, I don’t know if they’ll meet my price now.”
Earlier this week, Houston owner Jim Crane said that he feels his team still has “a chance” to retain Correa, and that the Astros will “definitely be in the mix” with the shortstop’s other suitors. The Astros haven’t signed a contract longer than five years during Crane’s tenure, and while the owner indicated that “things can change” on that front, Correa seems to have his eye on a much longer commitment.
Correa celebrated his 27th birthday only a few weeks ago, making him a rare top-tier free agent who is hitting the market at a younger age. “A lot of people don’t believe in 10-year contracts and in long-term deals and all that. But when you look at most of the 10-year contracts they’ve been giving out, the long-term deals, they’re players that are 31, 30, 32,” the shortstop noted. “I’m going to be 27 on my first year. I’m young, I’m healthy, and I perform. So we’ll see what happens.”
While another championship ring would perfectly cap things off for Correa, 2021 has already been an excellent platform year for the impending free agent. Shohei Ohtani was technically the overall bWAR leader due to his unique two-way contributions, but as Correa noted, the shortstop did indeed lead all regular position players in bWAR while hitting .279/.366/.485 with 26 home runs over 640 plate appearances. That also marks his highest number of PA since 2016, as Correa avoided the injuries have hampered him for the previous four years and missed only a week due to a stint on the COVID-related injury list.
Between his youth, All-Star production, and possibly with some doubts silenced about his durability, Correa projects as arguably the top free agent on the market this winter, let alone the top option in a loaded class of shortstops. In addition to his offensive numbers, Correa pointed out that he also led all players in defensive bWAR (2.9) in 2021, “so when you talk about shortstops that can do both things at an elite level, I think you should mention my name.”
While it remains to be seen just how high the bidding will get, Correa stressed that “I want to win. Money’s great and everything, but I don’t want to be miserable in the clubhouse, losing every day.” Wittenmyer’s piece was written through the lens of Correa as a potential fit with the Cubs, so the fact that the Cubs are coming off a losing season and may have more rebuilding to do might rule them out as a legitimate contender to sign Correa this winter. For what it’s worth, Correa did talk glowingly about a pre-draft workout at Wrigley Field in 2012, though the Cubs never got a chance to pick Correa since the Astros quickly pounced on him as the first overall selection.