I should also mention the in-house option of Aledmys Diaz, should the front office decide to spend in other areas. Diaz is average offensively and below average defensively at shortstop. He’s a fantastic utility piece, but doesn’t project as an everyday shortstop.
There is also Jeremy Pena and Pedro Leon in Triple-A, who may not be ready for the task as an everyday starter at the beginning on next season.
None of these options are Correa and if one of them ends up as an Astro your expectations should be adjusted accordingly. Much like losing George Springer prior to 2021, it’s going to hurt emotionally and on the field. The young center fielders were excellent in 2021, but they weren’t Springer. While the next shortstop may be above average, he won’t be Correa.
The decision is ultimately a simple one. If you want a Correa level shortstop and bat, you pay Correa and accept the consequences as it relates to salaries and the ability to acquire other needed pieces.
If you make any other decision, you’ve passed on a team leader in the prime of his career and accept the consequences of that choice.