Astro fandom was nudged on Tuesday with news from Ken Rosenthal that the Astros were potentially looking into trading Carlos Correa, since they did not think they could re-sign him. This, later on, morphed into a bit of a non-story from Rosenthal that the Astros were not in active conversations on trading Correa.
But it brings up the question about what is going to happen with Correa. The situation is, as most of us know, that Correa is entering his last season of being arbitration-eligible and will be a free agent after the 2021 season if something does not happen before then. Correa, even with his injury problems is the best all-around shortstop in the history of the team. His defense has brought him to the cusp of the Gold Glove (which he might have reeled in for 2020 except for the sign-stealing scandal) and he has a better bat with power than any other Astro SS.
So what could happen going forward? Here are some options:
Let It Ride – The Astros could decide to go through arbitration with Correa heading into 2021, which will result in a fairly low salary in the $8 – 10 MM range. They could let him play out 2021 when he should be playing very well as he heads into free agency and wave bye-bye heading into 2022 or…..jump into the free agency competition for Correa after Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander come off the books.
Intervention – They try to work out an extension with Correa. They tell him they know he is worth more than he can get in arbitration and they are willing to give him – say – $15 MM in 2021 and then a bit more for the following 4 to 6 years ($20+MM?). Being one season away from free agency he may decide to bet on himself. However, perhaps by the end of the offseason and see where the free agent market has gone, he might want the sure thing in the hand.
Trade-Off – Like Rosenthal hinted at, the Astros could decide to trade Correa this off-season and get back some needs. They need OFs, backup C, another starting pitcher (can’t have too many), veteran relief pitchers, a shortstop to fill in behind Correa and/or prospects. How much would a guy who can play at an elite level at a high skill position, but who also has injury problems be worth with one season left before free agency? Do they deal based on his so-so offensive 2020 regular season or his inspiring 2020 playoff run?
Other Thoughts – They may be thinking hard about the replacement for Correa. One choice would be to move Alex Bregman to shortstop, his natural position and fill in behind him at 3B, which theoretically is an easier task. In-house they have let Jack Mayfield (who has played some SS) go. SS Freudis Nova is so well thought of that they moved him onto the 40 man roster. But he is not quite 21 years old and has not played above Class A. He also was not put on the Astros 60 man roster for 2020 including the U of H and Corpus camps. Maybe they could fill in behind Bregman with Abraham Toro, who has not hit well in a couple shots with the big club. Maybe they could move Gurriel back to 3B and bring in Taylor Jones for 1B. Maybe they could sign a 3B as a free agent or trade for one. Maybe they could give Aledmys Diaz more reps.
Any way you look at it, if Correa leaves, they will undoubtedly be weaker on the infield. This comes down to whether they feel the need to get as much as they can for Correa now or get as much as they can out of Correa in 2020.
If you were GM James Click what would you do?