Maybe all that needs to be said about Carlos Correa was said here.
But there are still things to be discussed as the Astros shortstop reaches the Nirvana of free agency at the ripe old age of 27.
Correa is perhaps the most prominent symbol of the Astros’ renaissance from the mid-2010s to today. Yes, Jose Altuve has been with the big club longer, suffering through the worst of the Astros’ self-induced swoon of three 100+ loss seasons in a row. But, Correa was the first piece obtained during those dark times as the number one overall pick in the draft in 2012 MLB draft. He debuted in 2015, which was the big turnaround year for the franchise as they made the playoffs and came within a few outs of making the ALCS.
Perhaps it is also symbolic of Correa that he did not suffer through the bad times like Altuve did. Since he showed up, the team only missed the playoffs in 2016, which was still a winning season. He has had a blessed major league existence as his team has been to six playoffs, three World Series and five ALCS appearances in seven seasons.
The argument can be made that the Astros’ success rate would not have been this great without Correa. It is a chicken or the egg argument that is a rather complex one. He definitely made this team better and had some big-time clutch moments in the playoffs….when healthy. And there is the rub, and there is the critical tipping point of whether Carlos Correa will fulfill the expectations of his next decade long multi-gazillion dollar contract. Is he the guy who played in 58 of 60 games in 2020 and led the team in games played in 2021, or did he miss 53, 52 and 87 games in 2017 through 2019?
MLBTradeRumors.com has Correa as the number one free agent on the market due to his youth (relatively young for a free agent), position and overall skills. They predict he will get a contract for 10 years / $320 MM. The Astros are rumored to have offered him 5 years / $160 MM, ironically the same amount of contract per year at half the years. Correa’s problems and potential health issues are that he probably will put up 5 seasons out of 10 worth that $32 MM per season. But there is a good chance that he will have 5 other seasons that are probably worth about $10 MM per season through injury and advancing age. How do you cover for a guy you give that much money to, who could (based on 2017-2019) miss 30-50% of three consecutive seasons?
No matter how you look at it, there is no argument that Carlos Correa is the best Astros shortstop of all time. No one has combined his type of defense and offense in one package as he is the career leader for Astro shortstops in runs scored, home runs, RBIs, OBP, OPS and WAR. Before his appearance with the team, the best shortstop offensive performances were by short term veterans like Denis Menke and Miguel Tejada. He has combined with Jose Altuve to be a terrific DP duo in the field, and you have to look at someone like the late Ken Caminiti to find an Astro with the kind of cannon that he possesses in that right arm.
But we have likely seen the last of Carlos Correa in an Astros’ uniform. They could afford to pay him what he wants in the short term, but there is a special thing with this team: sustainability. They have survived and thrived despite losing George Springer, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton, and all the other folks they have let go elsewhere because they could find a more sustainable way to replace them. They are not the Florida Marlins who come up for air once a decade and then sink into the depths of the morass. They have been an excellent team since 2015 because they make tough decisions that are better in the long run. They are no longer cheap as they could be accused of back before the revival. They are consistently one of the highest spending teams in the majors year to year. But they have not tied themselves to long term contracts, and it is hard to see them going more than 6 years on Correa, and that will not get this done.
Carlos has been a positive, and whoever is playing shortstop for the Astros is not likely to match his production. But it won’t be him out there, and that is a little hard to picture right now.