After starting the first couple of weeks of the 2021 season on a hot streak, Carlos Correa fell into a pretty nasty slump. By May 11 he was slashing an anemic .239 BA/ .290 OBP/ .693 OPS. It looked like Carlos might have made a mistake in not taking the Astros’ off-season extension offer, even if it seemed a low ball number.
Well, since the point when Correa tweaked his plate approach and lowered his leg kick, he has been on fire, and suddenly it looks like the Astros should have proffered a more serious offer in the offseason. In the 28 games between May 12th and his ninth-inning game-tying home run on June 15th, his numbers look like this….
.362 BA/ .485 OBP/ 1.123 OPS/ 27 runs/ 8 doubles/ 7 HRs/ 20 RBIs and 25 walks vs. 18 Ks
In doing this, he has suddenly climbed to the top of the list of shortstops hitting the free agency market this coming off-season. Let’s take a quick look at this.
Carlos Correa. 26-year-old Correa is near the top for almost every category for shortstops this season. He is slashing a healthy .293 BA/ .382 OBP/ .888 OPS with 45 runs scored, 12 HRs and 36 RBIs while still playing a stellar shortstop in the field. On top of this, along with good health in last season’s abbreviated season, he has been healthy this time around (knock on your Louisville Slugger). He looks like he is on the way to a huge payday – elsewhere.
Trevor Story. 28-year-old Story, after receiving MVP votes the last 3 seasons for his work in Colorado, has fallen down in his contract year (to date). His slash is a so-so .245 BA/ .322 OBP/ .724 OPS with 29 runs, 5 HRs and 24 RBIs on the season. Story was already fighting the fact that his road numbers have always lagged a long way behind these numbers in the thin air of Colorado. A drop down in this season could further cost him some big bucks in the off-season.
Corey Seager. 27-year-old Seager was last year’s World Series MVP and set up to cash in after this season. On the plus side, he was performing pretty well this season, maybe a small step worse than his career norms – .265 BA/ .361 OBP/ .783 OPS with 20 runs, 4 HRs and 22 RBIs through 37 games. And that is the rub for right now as a misdirected pitch left him with a broken hand back in May, and he will likely have missed two months by the time he returns. If he shows his usual potency with the bat down the stretch, that should not affect his free agency much, but he could struggle to find himself returning in the middle of the season.
Javier Baez. The 28-year-old Cub was second in the MVP voting in the NL in 2018 and a strong All-Star in 2019. But…..he fell badly in 2020 (.203 BA/ .238 OBP/ .599 OPS) and has not fully recovered in 2021 (.235 BA/ .270 OBP/ .744 OPS). His meager seven walks against a major league-leading 88 Ks point to the basis of his problems. Without a roaring comeback in the rest of this season, he may well struggle to cash in big time in this off-season.
Andrelton Simmons. Simmons is 31 years old, and only a few years ago with the Angels, it was being bantered that he was on the cusp of passing Correa as the best SS in the AL West. He has continued to be one of the smoothest fielders around, but his bat has never equaled Carlos or the other gentlemen on this list. This year with the Twins, he has struggled with his new teammates and is slashing .244 BA/ .323 OBP/ .643 OPS with 2 HRs and 14 RBIs. He will be in the bargain basement end of the available shortstops heading into 2022.
Brandon Crawford. The Giant’s SS at 34 years old is headed towards his finest offensive season. He is slashing .253 BA/ .339 OBP/ .876 OPS with 15 HRs and 44 RBIs. Crawford’s age will certainly affect the length of any contract he signs, but he will likely get a nice annual salary out of a strong season in his contract year.
A lot can happen in the next 3-1/2 months of the season, but as long as Correa stays on the field a reasonable amount of time and performs up to his talent, he may well be the highest-paid of the shortstops available in this coming off-season.