With MLB implementing a lockout yesterday, it will likely be some time until fans learn the fate of the sport’s presently unsigned free agents. Per the parameters of the lockout, teams are unable to contact players or make any transactions during this period. Touted by many as the best player on the free agent market, Carlos Correa will have his eventual contract delayed as well, though that doesn’t mean he won’t have his fair share of suitors when the lockout concludes. Prior to yesterday’s announcement, Mark Berman of Fox 26 (KRIV) tweeted a list of teams Correa’s camp has been contacted by at some point this offseason. The Astros and Yankees were teams already known to have reached out, but Berman adds the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Braves to the mix as well.
At first glance, some of these newly reported teams may seem like imperfect landing spots for a shortstop who will command a 9-figure salary. Then again, it’s hard to fault any big market team for performing due diligence on a high caliber player like Correa. It’s not presently known when these teams contacted Correa’s agent or how serious these check-ins were, but any team even passingly reported as having communications with Correa’s camp could clue fans into where the star shortstop will end up signing.
Starting alphabetically with one of the more curious fits, Atlanta concluded it’s pennant-winning season with Dansby Swanson entrenched at the shortstop position. While Swanson didn’t quite replicate his production from 2020, he did pop a personal-best 27 home runs and provided defense that was generally regarded as passable or better. The 27-year-old will enter 2022 under his last year of team control, however, perhaps creating a scenario where Correa is signed and Swanson is peddled to a team still in search of a new shortstop. Any movement from Atlanta on the Correa market would likely come after there’s resolution (or, in order to afford Correa, a breakdown) on the Freddie Freeman front.
Boston ended 2021 with a prominent name at shortstop as well, Xander Bogaerts. The 29-year-old Bogaerts continues to rate as one of the league’s more consistent run producers, winnning his fourth Silver Slugger award after a .295/.370/.493 (127 OPS+) showing. Like Swanson in Atlanta, Bogaerts may find himself in his last year of team control if he opts out of the remaining three years on his contract like he is widely expected to do. A Correa pursuit would require some infield shuffling, but would make for an imposing addition to an already strong Red Sox lineup. It would also provide cover for a Bogaerts departure while drastically increasing infield defense.
Chicago has less standing in the way of a Correa run than the previous two teams, as they have the payroll space and an acute need for more offense. Nico Hoerner projects as the current Cubs shortstop following the midseason Javier Baez trade, and to his credit he acquitted himself well to the position. As solid as the former first-rounder was through 44 games though, batting .302/.382/.369 (105 OPS+), he’s only a year removed from a 57 OPS+ showing in a similar amount of games. Hoerner is also defensively adept enough that he could slide to any number of other positions to make room for the more powerful Correa. It remains to be seen if the Cubs are willing to spend additional funds to inch back towards competitiveness or if the Marcus Stroman signing will be their signature offseason acquisition.
Lastly, LA serves as an intriguing landing spot for the All-Star Correa. Like other teams here, the Dodgers have a strong shortstop already in place— Trea Turner. The speedy Turner though can play second base, allowing second basemen Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux to operate in the utility-type roles in which they’ve grown accustomed. One question for the Dodgers front office, however, is if they’d be willing to spend upwards of $300MM on a shortstop when they just let their last superstar shortstop leave for a similarly rich contract. There’s also the 4-year-old elephant in the room, the 2017 World Series in which Correa’s Astros infamously defeated the Dodgers. It’s unlikely any still-lingering weirdness would tank mutual interest (money tends to do the most talking in free agency, after all), but it could serve as a dealbreaker in the event another team were to pursue Correa with the same amount of fervor.