Carlos Correa entered the offseason as the top name on most free-agent rankings — including here at MLBTR — and remains unsigned as MLB and the MLBPA navigate a lockout that certainly doesn’t look anywhere near a resolution. There’s been plenty of discussion and speculation as to where he’ll ultimately land, but ESPN’s Buster Olney sheds some light on interest that Correa has already received, reporting that the Tigers put forth a 10-year, $275MM offer at one point this winter.
Presumably, that offer came before Detroit signed Javier Baez at six years and $140MM, although it’s at least possible to see how Detroit could make room for both players on the roster and payroll alike. It’s a notable offer, to be sure, but it’s also $66MM shy of what Francisco Lindor received from the Mets, $50MM shy of Corey Seager’s deal with the Rangers and a ways south of the range many pundits projected heading into free agency.
The reported Detroit offer also further underlines that the Astros’ recent offers to Correa are well shy of meeting the mark. Houston was said to have put forth an offer of five years and $160MM just prior to free agency, but that seemed like a nonstarter from the jump. Olney writes that Astros owner Jim Crane has told colleagues that he won’t make an offer of more than six years in length, which only reinforces the expectation that Correa is likely to sign with a new team for the 2022 season.
Of course, the burning question for most MLB fans and onlookers is a simple one: “where?” The Rangers nabbing a pair of high-end shortstops (Seager and Marcus Semien), on the surface, should have strengthened Correa’s market. Two of his top competitors signing with the same team should have kept another spot open elsewhere. However, the Tigers have signed Baez to that aforementioned six-year deal, and the Yankees — at least according to multiple pre-lockout reports — weren’t interested in the top-of-the-market shortstops, instead preferring shorter-term options to serve as a bridge to prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza.
It remains plausible that the Yankees and several other big-market teams will more aggressively jump into the market post-lockout, once a (presumably) new luxury-tax threshold is set in stone. Olney hears from some agents who believe the Yankees and Dodgers could engage in the market for stars like Correa or Trevor Story once the forthcoming luxury tax structure is known. Those players’ representatives are surely hoping that will be the case, although even if the Yankees, Dodgers, etc. choose to eschew a mega-deal, that shouldn’t necessarily leave Correa out in the cold.
Houston’s interest will remain in place, barring a signing of Story or the acquisition of another notable infielder. Mark Berman of Fox 26 reported earlier this month that each of the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves have also been in contact with Correa’s representatives at some point during the offseason. When those clubs reached out and the extent of each respective team’s interest isn’t clear, but it stands to reason at least some of that group will reengage with Correa’s reps whenever the transaction freeze ends.
That’s a nice “safety net” (for lack of a better term), and as the Braves’ and Cubs’ reported interest reflects, unexpected suitors tend to emerge for players at the top of the market. Few gave the Padres legitimate consideration when Manny Machado hit the market following the 2018 season, for instance. Broadly speaking, the top free agent each winter tends to get paid, particularly when said player is atypically young to reach the market — as is the case with the 27-year-old Correa. It’d be entirely unsurprising for other unexpected teams to join the bidding, viewing Correa as a rather unique opportunity to add an All-Star-caliber player who remains squarely in his prime.
Correa is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, having hit .279/.366/.485 with 26 home runs across 640 plate appearances. That offensive production was 34 points above the league average, by measure of wRC+, and it came over Correa’s biggest workload since 2016. Advanced defensive metrics were also particularly high on his work on the other side of the ball, for which he received his first Gold Glove award en route to a fifth-place finish in AL MVP voting.