Shortstop Carlos Correa is one of the top free agent available and he is unsurprisingly drawing plenty of interest. Jon Heyman of The New York Post reports that eight teams are interested in his services, but the Twins are expected to “go hard” in their attempts to retain him.
Heyman doesn’t mention any teams by name other than the Twins, who are already known to be making a concerted effort to keep Correa in Minnesota. It was reported earlier this week that they have made multiple offers to him, with varying lengths between six and ten years, presumably with higher salaries on the shorter deals and lower salaries on the longer deals. In addition to the Twins, Correa has already been publicly linked in some way to the Giants, Dodgers and Cubs. Since Heyman says eight teams are involved, it appears there are four “mystery teams” at the table.
As to who those mystery teams are, we can only guess, though there would be some logical fits. Mariners’ president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has said the club is planning to pursue shortstops to play second base in deference to J.P. Crawford. The Phillies are known to be looking for a shortstop this winter. The Braves will need to replace Dansby Swanson if they can’t re-sign him but they might not have the financial ability to go after Correa. The Orioles have been speculated as a fit given that general manager Mike Elias was working for the Astros when Correa was drafted and developed, though they don’t have a track record that would suggest they’d give out the type of contract it would require to land him.
One surprising team that could be in the mix is the Padres. Heyman doesn’t directly connect the club to Correa but he does say they are considering the free agent shortstops. The Padres have been extremely aggressive in recent years and president of baseball operations A.J. Preller shouldn’t really be counted out on anyone, but it’s still unexpected to see the club connected to this market. The Friars got by without Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2022, who missed the first half of the season due to a wrist injury and the second half due to a suspension for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.
In his absence, Ha-Seong Kim stepped up and had an excellent season. He hit .251/.325/.383 for a wRC+ of 105 while stealing 12 bases and providing excellent defense. All of Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average gave him positive grades, allowing him to produce 3.7 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs. With Tatis set to return in 2023 once he serves the final 20 games of his suspension, it would seem the position is already crowded enough as it is. However, Heyman’s report indicates the club is open to the idea of moving Tatis to the outfield, something he’s dabbled with in the past, while bumping Kim into a utility role.
It had been previously reported that the club was considering an alignment of Kim at short, Tatis at second and Jake Cronenworth at first. It seems that this new plan would be somewhat similar but with Tatis going to the outfield, perhaps replacing Jurickson Profar, who is now a free agent, in left. Regardless of how it would eventually play out, Heyman lists Xander Bogaerts as their preferred option for this plan. Marino Pepén also connects the Padres to Bogaerts, though he says they are behind the Phillies and the Red Sox in the bidding.
Payroll might be a factor for the Friars, as Roster Resource currently pegs their payroll at $210MM and their competitive balance tax number at $230MM, just under the first CBT threshold of $233MM. The club has nudged over the CBT line in the past two years, but signing a marquee shortstop would surely mean blowing past the first threshold and flirting with the second, which is $253MM. As a third-time payor, the Padres are already facing a 50% tax on all spending over the first the first threshold plus a 12% surcharge on spending over the second. That means every dollar they go over $253MM would be taxed at a 62% rate. The club has continually surprised onlookers with their aggression in recent seasons, meaning it shouldn’t be completely ruled out. But it would be quite a noteworthy escalation, especially with the club connected to other big free agents like José Abreu and Kodai Senga.
As for the Giants, who have been connected to the free agent shortstops for some time, they will have to answer the Brandon Crawford question if they succeed in signing a new shortstop. He’s been with the club since being drafted back in 2008 and has been a mainstay at shortstop for them since 2011. He turns 36 in January, has one year remaining on his extension and is coming off a down year in 2022. He made multiple trips to the injured list and posted a batting line of .231/.308/.344, wRC+ of 87. DRS and UZR were down on his work in the field, but he did earn 7 OAA.
As to how the club would handle a new shortstop with Crawford on the roster, it seems that it would depend who the shortstop is. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Crawford would move to third base if they signed Correa, but Trea Turner or Dansby Swanson would be installed at second base. That’s likely a reflection of the fact that Turner and Swanson have lesser throwing arms than the other two. According to the Statcast arm strength leaderboard among shortstops, Swanson comes 48th out of 50 while Turner is 26th. Crawford is a bit higher at 19 while Correa is at #6. Correa’s excellent arm strength arguably makes him a fit for third base, but his overall defense is superior to Crawford’s at this stage of their careers. Regardless of how sensible the arguments may be, it’s at least a bit surprising that the Giants are apparently willing to supplant Crawford at shortstop under the right conditions.