What should fans expect from a prospective extension between the Houston Astros and Carlos Correa?
Unlike a number of other players these days, Carlos Correa isn’t afraid to say what he thinks and to show loyalty to the only professional franchise he’s known. We’ve long suspected he would at least be open to discussing a contract extension with Houston, but now he’s come right out and said that he wants to be with the Astros for the rest of his career.
The front office would be silly to not engage in discussions with their star shortstop, and GM James Click confirmed the team is open to the idea and has had discussions about it. Why wouldn’t they? Aside from being one of the most talented shortstops in the game, Correa has also stepped up to become a real leader in the clubhouse.
Just because both sides have interest doesn’t necessarily mean a deal will get done, of course. Because of his age (26), skill level and the fact that he plays a premium position, Correa will command a lofty price tag. The fact that his results, at least on offense, haven’t lived up to his talent will surely be a factor in negotiations. We’re already seeing that this offseason as the two sides prepare to go to arbitration.
How To Value Correa
He drew early comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, and his ceiling is as high as any shortstop in the game. Any extension is going to cover his prime (late 20s through early 30s), which you don’t often get. He’s shown the ability to be a top shelf defender and a middle of the order bat and has been money in the playoffs, especially in 2020.
However, he’s coming off a career-worst .709 OPS in the 2020 regular season, and in fact he’s had a below average adjusted OPS in two of the past three seasons. He has played in more than 110 games only once in his career, and thus far his numbers have fallen short of the admittedly sky-high expectations for him.
If you’re going to extend him, you’re essentially betting that he stays reasonably healthy over the next several years and at least plays at an All-Star level, if not an MVP level. If you don’t think he can do that, there’s no point in having these discussions. But the chances of him doing that, combined with how good he is in the locker room, would make him a worthwhile investment.
How Much Money Will He Get?
If Francisco Lindor signs an extension with the Mets before Correa signs with the Astros, that should provide more of a blueprint to follow. Correa is about 10 months younger and has slightly less career WAR through six seasons, so whether he’d match what Lindor gets remains to be seen. Lindor also has more hardware in his career. But it should be fairly close.
Either way, I think a starting point for the Astros would be to offer $250 million over 10 years, which averages out to $25 million per season. George Springer just got that annual value from Toronto, and he’s about five years older than Correa. A 10-year deal would run through Correa’s mid-30s but not involve the risk of paying him a premium salary into his late 30s or 40s.
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Correa probably wouldn’t accept that offer, of course, but it’s a starting point. He might push for a couple more years added on to the deal given his relative youth, so even a 12-year deal could be a possibility. More than likely he’ll end up with a higher average annual value as well; Manny Machado got $30 million a year and Bryce Harper even went north of $25 million.
With that being said, I think it’s certainly possible Correa matches Machado’s guarantee of $300 million over 10 years, though I wouldn’t expect him to meet Harper’s overall guarantee of $330 million, which was spread out over 13 years. Ultimately it will depend on whether Correa more greatly values the length of a deal or the average annual value.
Regardless, the Astros have to be prepared to fork over close to $300 million if they want to make Correa an Astro for life. It’s certainly a steep price and would by far be the richest contract the franchise has ever doled out, but they also must consider the cost of not extending their star shortstop. After letting the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole and Springer leave in free agency, can they really afford to let another star just walk away?
If they want to keep the team competitive and the fans happy, they might not have a choice. Houston fans have already seen DeAndre Hopkins, Russell Westbrook and James Harden leave town recently, in addition to the former Astros named above. Deshaun Watson reportedly wants out as well, and JJ Watt’s future is uncertain. Maybe it’s not fair for Jim Crane to shoulder such a burden, but such is the state of Houston sports.
Keeping Correa in Houston is something the Astros simply must do. If they want the team to remain competitive, he’s one presence they will absolutely need, both on the field and in the clubhouse. It will be pricey, and the contract could even become an albatross a few years down the road, but it’s the price you pay to keep your stars. And it’s a risk worth taking.