Astros, Carlos Correa not reaching deal bodes poorly

Oct 8, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates after hitting a three run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning during game four of the 2020 ALDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates after hitting a three run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning during game four of the 2020 ALDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros did not reach a pre-arbitration deal with Carlos Correa.

Already faced with the certainty of losing George Springer and the possibility of losing Michael Brantley as well, Houston Astros fans were looking for some good news on the Carlos Correa front. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened, as the team failed to reach a pre-arbitration deal with its star shortstop, meaning the two sides are headed for arbitration.

Correa is set to hit free agency after the 2021 season, though I’ve been a strong proponent of the team signing him to a big extension this offseason. He’s posted subpar offensive numbers in two of the past three seasons and has been injury prone throughout his young career, so there is reason to hesitate. But the reasons to sign him dwarf the reasons to let him go.

Besides being a premier defender at a key position, Correa’s ceiling is arguably the highest of any Astros player. He’s a beast in the postseason, and he stepped up in a huge way to become the team leader in 2020. If the franchise intends to be a contender beyond this season, having Correa in that locker room and on the field is one of the keys to success for them.

Murky Outlook

While the Astros agreed to deals with Lance McCullers Jr. and Aledmys Diaz prior to Friday’s deadline, they did not do so with Correa. Arbitration hearings usually aren’t conducive to a strong player-team relationship, as the team is essentially arguing that the player is worth less money. The team went to hearings with Gerrit Cole and Springer in the past, and they’re both gone now.

The Astros were in this position with Springer again last winter, but owner Jim Crane stepped in after GM Jeff Luhnow was fired to make a deal with the outfielder and avoid arbitration. But James Click is running baseball operations now, and I don’t see it likely that Crane overrides him. Barring some sort of unforeseen miracle, there will be an arbitration hearing, likely sometime in February.

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There is a small chance that the two sides could work out an extension in Spring Training or during the season, but I’m not seeing that as a likely outcome right now. If a long-term deal was in the works, it likely would have been reached already, or the two sides would have at least agreed to a salary for 2021. The fact that they couldn’t agree isn’t going to help the chances of them suddenly agreeing to an extension.

This isn’t the outcome most fans wanted, and it’s certainly not the one I’d want either. Correa hasn’t quite lived up to his enormous potential, but he’s still just 26 years old and is a hugely important piece of this team. The door isn’t completely closed on him remaining in Houston for the long haul, so it’s not time to lose all hope. But the chances aren’t looking good right now.

If Correa does reach free agency, I just don’t see it likely that Click will fork over enough money to retain him, especially with top prospect Freudis Nova looking like a future impact player. It’s a shrewd, detached way of looking at the situation, and as a fan I certainly want Correa to come back. But don’t hold your breath.

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