Two long-awaited actions hung over Houston sports fandom throughout this offseason. One was the eventual dumping of scandal-plagued Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson and the other was the eventual landing spot of Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa. In retrospect, the scandal attached to Correa’s name is a molehill compared to the mountain looming over Watson for the last year-plus.
How ironic that these two situations would be resolved as bookends to a very active 24 hours in Houston sports.
- First Friday morning it was announced that Watson would be taking his incredible talents and regrettable off the field resume to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for 3 first round picks, a third and a fourth over the next three drafts. This was a bit of a surprise considering it was announced Thursday that the Browns were out of the running.
- Then for local NCAA basketball fans, both the Texas Longhorns (with many local alumni) and the Houston Cougars won their first round games to move forward to second round matchups on Sunday.
- Then in the “other” major professional sport, the Rockets let a 4th quarter lead slip away and grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory against the Indiana Pacers. This of course was what most knowledgeable fans wanted as it keeps the Rockets on their trudge towards the worst record in the NBA and a higher percentage shot at the overall number one with the NBA lottery system.
- Finally, on Saturday morning, Carlos Correa shocked the baseball world by signing with the Minnesota Twins on a 3 year $105 MM contract with player opt-outs after seasons 1 and 2.
Minnesota (to this writer’s knowledge) had never really been linked seriously to Correa during the off-season, though a series of trades they made in the last week shipped out Mitch Garver, Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa (briefly acquired for Garver) and prospect Chase Pettty (their top pick from last summer’s draft) while acquiring Sonny Gray, Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez and a pair of pitching prospects, which did clear $41 MM off their payroll. Lately, as more and more teams seemed to go other ways in filling their SS needs it appeared that Correa’s search for a 10 year $350 MM contract was going to fall by the wayside. And Astros owner Jim Crane had made it clear the Astros were still in contact with Correa’s reps on what was likely going to be a shorter contract than the 10 years, but could easily have been near the average value per season that he was looking for.
Correa decided to take what easily could be a single season in the Twin Cities at that $35 MM/yr salary. Correa, who has been a very clutch performer in the playoffs joins a team that has been to the playoffs three of the last five seasons, but has famously lost 18 straight playoff game stretching back to 2004. That includes the last time they went to the playoffs and were swept 2-0 by the Astros with Carlos Correa hitting the key go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of game two.
It is obvious that Correa mis-read the market a bit. Yes, he has been sturdy and dependable in 2020 (only a 60 game season) and 2021 during his walk year. But anyone with a computer knows that in 2017 through 2019 he played in 109, 110 and 75 games. So, he is taking a low risk to him contract. If he kicks butt, he will be able to go back out on the market in a light market for shortstops next season. If he doesn’t, he just lets the $35 MM ride and eventually goes back out on the market at 30 years old.
We may or may not hear what kept the Astro from re-signing Correa, but it is likely tied to not matching that early of an opt out more than the dollars per season.
In the end, the Astros finally can move on – whether it is Trevor Story or Jeremy Pena or some combination of Niko Goodrum and Aledmys Diaz. But they can finally move on to their next phase after losing the best shortstop the franchise has ever seen.