Don’t expect the Houston Astros to spend big on Carlos Correa or anyone else.
I’ll admit to being one of the many fans who wanted the Houston Astros to sign Carlos Correa to a long-term deal. His talent is undeniable and he’s turned into a real leader for this team on and off the field. But alas, it looks like no deal will be happening before the star shortstop reaches free agency this coming winter.
The Astros never came close to offering what Correa wanted. The Mets just gave $341 million to Francisco Lindor over 10 years, and while I don’t think anyone would legitimately argue Correa is worth that amount, he’s certainly entitled to want more than what GM James Click was putting on the table. Six years and $120 million, then five years and $125 million, just won’t get it done.
He will only be 27 when he reaches free agency, so looking for a 10-year deal isn’t unreasonable. He’s turned into an elite defensive shortstop, and while his injury history and offensive inconsistency gives room for pause, his ceiling as a hitter is limitless. He seems poised for a big season in 2021 if he can stay healthy, and that would make him a very rich man.
Not Their M.O.
Correa told reporters that the team told him it doesn’t believe in big, long-term contracts, and history bears that out. In the Jim Crane era, the longest free agent deal the Astros have given out is the four-year, $48 million deal for Josh Reddick. They were never seriously in the bidding for Gerrit Cole or George Springer, who signed deals for nine and six years, respectively.
They did give Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman big extensions, but Altuve’s only lasts until he’s 34 years old, and Bregman’s expires when he’s 30. They gave big money to Justin Verlander, but only for two years (and he’s making only one start total in those two years). The recent extension for Lance McCullers takes him through his age-32 season.
Paying top dollar for Correa until he’s in his late 30s just isn’t something this franchise is going to do. In a sense, that’s smart. The list of long-term MLB contracts that have turned into albatrosses is long. The Giancarlo Stanton, Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano deals all look bad, and even the deals given to Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto aren’t looking good on the back end.
And those are just the longest deals. Plenty more names — Jacoby Ellsbury, Chris Davis, Ryan Howard, Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Mike Hampton, Carl Pavano, John Lackey, Barry Zito, David Wright, Gary Matthews Jr, Justin Upton, Jason Bay, the list goes on — have failed to live up to what they signed for, either due to injuries or underperformance.
This all just underscores how much risk is involved when giving out a long-term deal. The chances of the player actually being worth all that money are less than 50-50. They might be worth it for the first half of it, but the back ends of those deals always look bad. And with Correa’s checkered injury history, the risk may be even greater.
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Who’s On Short?
If Correa has another difficult year, then maybe the Astros could get him back on a shorter contract. But if he stays healthy and mashes, he’s as good as gone. Someone will give him the money he wants, but it won’t be Houston. So with him out of the picture, who plays shortstop for this team in 2022?
Don’t expect it to be any of the other big name free agents. Trevor Story, Javier Baez and Corey Seager all figure to command big contracts as well, so the Astros likely won’t be involved there either. If they can find a relative bargain on someone like Andrelton Simmons or Marcus Semien, they might go in that direction.
Otherwise they’ll probably look internally. Much will depend on how prospect Jeremy Pena progresses this season. He’s already a strong defender at the position, so it will depend on if his bat continues to improve. If he looks like the real deal, they could turn the job over to him or look to find a stopgap until he’s ready to take over.
The Astros could also shift Bregman over to shortstop and let someone like Abraham Toro take over at third base. If Toro hits well in the minors this year and the team doesn’t trade him, that could provide a clue to how they figure to act.
But the bottom line is this: The Astros will not be handing out eight or 10-year deals to anyone. If Correa and the other big name free agents are going to command that, Click will stay away. We may not like it when it comes to our favorite players leaving, but it also means the franchise won’t be hamstrung in the future by bad contracts.