Going into the offseason, there were many parallels between the top two free agents, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. Both were shortstops reaching free agency at the age of 27 and coming off excellent platform seasons. Seager, along with agent Scott Boras, secured a ten-year, $325MM contract from the Rangers prior to the lockout. Correa, however, did not sign before transactions were frozen and then hired the Boras corporation to represent him in January. Once the lockout is lifted, his continued search for a contract will be one of the top storylines to follow. Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes a look at some of the options, including the Dodgers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers and Cubs, while Ken Rosenthal and Corey Brock of The Athletic, look into the fit with the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively.
The Dodgers, of course, had Seager as their shortstop in recent years and just saw him depart for the Rangers. The expectation has been that they were comfortable enough with that loss because they could rely on Trea Turner to take over at short. If the Dodgers were to then pivot to Correa, however, that would likely involve Turner moving over to second base, much like he did when he and Seager were on the roster together after he was acquired from the Nationals at last year’s trade deadline. Since Turner is just one year away from free agency, signing a long-term deal with Correa could be a way to proactively address the shortstop void one year before it’s absolutely necessary. This scenario seems to have been already considered by the Dodgers’ brass, as Sherman reports that they offered Seager a $275MM deal before he signed with the Rangers. However, he also notes that it might not be as simple as swapping Correa in for Seager, as Correa’s role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal might not go over so well with fans of the Dodgers, since they were defeated by that now-infamous team in the 2017 World Series.
That same issue is present with another reported suitor, the Yankees, as they were felled by the Astros in the 2017 ALCS. But Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman has previously stated that the reaction of the fans “is not going to enter my calculus right now.” Since Gleyber Torres was moved to second base last year, it was expected that the Yankees would be major players in this year’s shortstop market. However, they may be willing to eschew a big splash, preferring to target a short-term stopgap option to hold down the position until it’s taken over by one of their prospects, either Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe. It’s also possible that this is merely a posture for negotiating purposes and that the club may emerge as a genuine suitor for Correa. Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets that they did check in with Correa prior to the lockout, but seemed to prefer Seager. Since Correa was reportedly looking for a contract slightly above what Seager eventually got, it may be difficult for a deal to come together.
The Blue Jays have less of an obvious need for Correa, given the presence of Bo Bichette at short. Sherman opines that the club could sign Correa and then bump Bichette to either second or third, but then downplays the possibility of them dishing out a contract nearing Correa’s asking price. Given the fact that they were reportedly in the mix for Seager prior to the lockout, the possibility can’t be ruled out entirely. The sign-stealing situation clearly isn’t an issue for the Jays, as they’ve already signed George Springer, Correa’s teammate in Houston. But even if they do have the payroll to make a big splash after the lockout, they may use it to make a run at Freddie Freeman instead.
The Tigers have long been considered a speculative fit for Correa, given the fact that their manager is A.J. Hinch, who previously managed Correa in Houston. However, they already made a big investment at shortstop when they signed Javier Baez prior to the lockout. Although Baez played some second base with the Mets last year in deference to Francisco Lindor and could theoretically do the same again, it still would be shocking to see them double down in such an aggressive fashion. Sherman also speculates that the Cubs could be a dark horse here. The club was primarily focused on tearing down last year, trading away most of the core pieces from their previous competitive window, including Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Since the offseason began, they have been surprisingly active in making additions, bringing on Marcus Stroman, Yan Gomes and Wade Miley. However, those players were all brought aboard with short-term commitments and pivoting to the type of lengthy deal that would be required to sign Correa seems unlikely at this stage.
As for the Red Sox, Rosenthal lays out a scenario where Correa takes over as their shortstop given that his defense is far superior to that of Xander Bogaerts, who could be shuffled over to second base. However, he also points out that, given the lockout-shortened Spring Training to come, there will be less time for Bogaerts to develop his skills at a new position than there would be in a more normal year, perhaps making the plan too awkward to implement successfully. After this season, Bogaerts can opt-out of the three years and $60MM that will be remaining on his contract, something that he seems likely to do if he has another healthy and productive season. Signing Correa now could be a way for Boston to preemptively replace Bogaerts, but as Rosenthal points out, the club hasn’t signed a free agent contract larger than $14MM since Chaim Bloom became the club’s chief baseball officer. Suddenly dropping $300MM on the table would be a huge departure in strategy. However, it’s exactly because of that avoidance of significant commitments that the club’s future payroll is fairly blank. If Bogaerts does indeed opt out after this season, that would leave Chris Sale as the only serious commitment on the books.
For the Mariners, Brock doesn’t believe it likely that there’s a match here. However, he points out that, if Correa is interested in going to Seattle, they have the money to make it happen. The club’s payroll for the year is currently around $87MM, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. From 2015 to 2019, the club’s annual budget hovered in the $120-160MM range, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That leaves plenty of breathing room, if the club is willing to push up to those spending levels again in an attempt to build on last year’s 90-win campaign. The team’s president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto previously stated that the club wouldn’t supplant J.P. Crawford as the team’s shortstop, but it’s hard to imagine that strategy is so etched in stone that they wouldn’t consider adding a talent like Correa if the stars aligned for them to do so.
Clearly, there are many ways Correa’s market could play out once the lockout ends. With the freezing of transactions and contract negotiations, we can’t really know the intentions of any of these parties until that ice breaks and dominos start falling again. Due to the compressed timeline that will eventually exist between the signing of a new CBA and the start of the season, this will all have to play out in an expedited fashion. And with Boras also representing many other high-profile free agents like Bryant, Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto, Carlos Rodon and more, that figures to make the situation all the more frenzied.