This whole Carlos Correa situation makes me fall back on one of my favorite baseball philosophy movies “Moneyball”. Here’s a short scene with Brad Pitt playing the Oakland A’s GM, Billy Beane and Jonah Hill playing the super nerd, Peter Brand, he brings in to help him work through the loss of Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen and Jason Giambi.
Peter Brand: “There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening. And this leads people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams. I apologize.”
Billy Beane: “Go on.”
Peter Brand: “Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs. You’re trying to replace Johnny Damon. The Boston Red Sox see Johnny Damon and they see a star who’s worth seven and half-million dollars a year. When I see Johnny Damon, what I see is… is… an imperfect understanding of where runs come from. The guy’s got a great glove. He’s a decent leadoff hitter. He can steal bases. But is he worth the seven and half-million dollars a year that the Boston Red Sox are paying him? No. No. Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions. And if I say it to anybody, I’m-I’m ostracized. I’m-I’m-I’m a leper. So that’s why I’m-I’m cagey about this with you. That’s why I… I respect you, Mr. Beane, and if you want full disclosure, I think it’s a good thing that you got Damon off your payroll. I think it opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.”
The baseball world is down the block and around the corner from where they were a decade or two ago on how metrics are pulled and applied to the game. But often, the guys who pull the trigger on mega-contracts are trying to put fannies in the stands or are trying to appease an owner who is still “medieval” in his thinking.
When the Astros lost George Springer, they did not replace his run production by bringing in GS 2.0. They knew offensively that they had a good shot of offsetting his loss by filling his spot with someone who was OK. They had an ace in their back pants in knowing that they would have Yordan Alvarez return and that there was no way that Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman would all be as bad to mediocre as they were in 2020.
Similarly, when they’ve had to absorb the recent losses to their pitching staff (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, et al.) they did not panic and throw money around like a major league owner (lol) or throw in the towel. They combined bringing in some reasonably priced options and pairing them with internal resources. Need a closer? Here’s Ryan Pressly. Need some back end of the bullpen options? Welcome, Ryne Stanek and Kendall Graveman. Need to replace three Cy Young candidates? Come back from TJ surgery, Lance McCullers. Learn some control Framber Valdez. Jump up from the minors Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia.
If Carlos Correa leaves, as is likely at this point, it is not the end of the world. Can they replace him offensively? They are not expected to replace him completely at a reasonable price. But do they need to replace his offense completely? No, they don’t. What if they have a SS who is 60-70% as effective as he was? Is there anywhere else to pick up the offense? In 2019, Alex Bregman scored 122 runs, hit 37 doubles, 41 HRs and knocked in 112 runs. In 2021, Bregman, who was fighting leg injuries and a wrist injury requiring surgery, scored 54 runs, hit 17 doubles, 12 HRs and knocked in 55 runs. A little swerve back to the norm might fill the gap right there. Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez were good to very good last year, but they were only 24 – there could be a bit more to milk from them as they mature. Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers showed spurts of sound playing in their first major league experience. They certainly could do more.
Carlos’ defense? Now that is something they will not replace totally, and they just have to minimize the damage as they go along.
Anyways, the key is that $35 MM per year for a decade or so can be used other ways – on extensions for Tucker and Alvarez, more bullpen help, more rotation help, maybe even more international help. Carlos helped win many games, but they also won a lot of games when he was under the weather. Not signing him opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities.