HOUSTON -- For the second time in three years, the Astros will head to arbitration with star shortstop Carlos Correa.
Friday was the deadline for teams to exchange desired salary numbers with the teams, and the Astros were able to come to agreements with right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. ($6.5 million, per sources) and utility player Aledmys Díaz ($3 million, per sources) but couldn’t reach a deal with Correa. The shortstop filed at $12.5 million, and Houston countered at $9.75 million (midpoint of $11.125 million), a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
“Obviously, it's always disappointing when we can't come to a decision before we have to file numbers, but that is why the process is in place,” Astros general manager James Click said. “We feel like we've put our best foot forward. I thought that his group did a really good job of being up to speed on the market and the factors that go into arbitration, and I think we had a very respectful conversation, but at the end of the day we had an honest disagreement, and that's why the system is in place.”
While teams are allowed to continue negotiating until an arbitration hearing in early February, the Astros, like most teams, prefer to cease negotiations after numbers are exchanged in favor of going to a hearing. In 2019, Correa was awarded $5 million by an arbitration panel, while last year, he agreed to an $8 million deal to avoid arbitration.
Correa hit .264/.326/.383 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 58 games in the regular season before batting .362/.455/.766 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 13 games in an electric postseason. He was a Gold Glove finalist after making one error in 212 chances in the regular season and leading the American League in defensive runs saved.
Click said Correa and the Astros have had some conversations about an extension for the 26-year-old, who will be a free agent after next season. He doesn’t expect a second arbitration hearing with Correa to have any effect on a possible extension.
“We have nothing but the utmost respect for Carlos and his group,” he said. “Again, I can't emphasize this enough: I think they came very well prepared and I think we were very well prepared, but we just see different things in the market and that's why the system is there to help us resolve those.”
McCullers, 27, rebounded nicely after missing the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery. He went 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 11 starts, going 2-2 with a 2.17 ERA with a .094 WHIP is his final eight starts in the regular season. He posted a 4.91 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings in three playoff starts.
Díaz, 30, has spent as much time on the injured list as he has playing in his two years with the Astros, missing 86 games (56 in 2019 and 30 last year) with injuries while appearing in 86 regular-season games. When healthy, he’s been a solid hand with his ability to play first base, second base, third base and left field. Last year, he hit .241 with three homers and six RBIs in only 58 at-bats after missing half of the season with a groin injury.