With the 2022 season behind us and the Hot Stove ready to burn, we're taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency.
Name: Carlos Correa
Team: Minnesota Twins
Age (as of Opening Day 2023): 28
2022 stats: .291/.366/.467, 22 HR, 64 RBIs, 70 R
Like fellow free-agent shortstop Dansby Swanson, Correa was the first overall pick in the MLB Draft, selected by the Astros in 2012.
The American League Rookie of the Year in 2015 and a two-time All-Star, Correa hit the free-agent market for the first time last winter, but he was unable to secure the long-term deal he was seeking. Correa signed a three-year, $105.3 million deal with the Twins, then opted out of the final two years of the contract to give free agency another try.
The infielder had a solid season with the Twins, posting an .834 OPS in 136 games. Minnesota failed to reach the postseason in 2022, but Correa is no stranger to October baseball, belting 18 home runs with an .849 OPS in 79 career playoff games with the Astros.
Will Correa find the long-term deal that eluded him a year ago? That’s one of the biggest questions of the offseason.
The Twins loved everything Correa brought to the team in 2022, from his on-field performance to his leadership skills. Minnesota will make a big push to retain Correa, potentially making him an offer that would represent the biggest contract in club history, surpassing Joe Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million deal.
Chicago has been attached to virtually all of the free-agent shortstops, but Correa is believed to be the Cubs’ primary target. The two sides were linked last season and could finally find common ground on a deal this offseason, as the Cubs are expected to be one of the more active teams in free agency.
San Francisco appears to be targeting Aaron Judge, but if the slugger returns to the Yankees, the Giants could pivot to the shortstop market. Brandon Crawford has only one year left on his contract and could move to second base, freeing up shortstop for Correa. The Giants have plenty of money to spend this winter, so that won’t be the issue if they want to pursue the shortstop.
If the Yankees are unable to re-sign Judge, they will have to figure out a way to replace some of that offense. Prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza are expected to get a shot at the shortstop job next spring, but could losing Judge make New York re-think that idea in favor of a proven star? Also of note: Yankees fans might not be crazy about the idea of adding Correa, one of the faces of the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing scandal.
It feels more likely that the Red Sox would pay to bring back Xander Bogaerts than to pursue one of the other free-agent shortstops, but if Bogaerts leaves, Boston could be in the mix for Correa. Manager Alex Cora knows him well, and there are questions about Trevor Story’s ability to play shortstop, given his arm issues over the past couple years.
Turner is expected to depart as a free agent, opening the shortstop spot in Los Angeles. Correa would be a good fit in the lineup, but like the Yankees, the Dodgers will have to consider the fan base, which continues to have issues with prominent members of the 2017 Astros.
“An athletic, well-rounded shortstop just entering his prime years, Correa is a middle-of-the-order threat whose offensive attributes include the ability to hit for average, power and get on base. He has a low-maintenance swing with good bat speed and strength. The power hasn’t quite played in production to the level that I think is possible, given the amount of hard contact he makes, but he’s a potential 30-home-run hitter who is selective, doesn’t strike out, can draw a walk and can also hit for average.
“Defensively, he is a large man who may eventually need to move off the position, but he has good hands and is a reliable defender at shortstop. The question about health and his back in particular will likely be the only things that could diminish what should be a huge contract for a franchise-type player.”
Correa’s talent is undeniable, but he has had issues staying on the field over the years. The shortstop has topped the 140-game mark just twice in his career, reaching the 130-game mark in another. He did play 58 of 60 games in the shortened 2020 season, but Correa had a three-year stretch from 2017-19 in which he played in 109, 110 and 75 games.
For comp's sake
Correa has played 101 more career games than Corey Seager, and still his .279/.357/.479 slash line compares nicely to Seager’s .287/.357/.494. The counting stats are also similar enough -- 155 HR/553 RBIs for Correa, 137 HR/447 RBIs for Seager -- for Correa to seek a deal in the range of Seager’s 10-year, $325 million pact with Texas.