As the big free agents quickly come off the board, the biggest name of all remains. Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft and general all-around superstar for most of seven years with Houston, remains available, despite fellow middle infielders Javier Báez, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager having signed months ago.
That, perhaps, is part of the issue; along with Trevor Story, who also remains unsigned, this has been for years seen as the most incredible shortstop free agent class anyone could remember, even with Francisco Lindor taking himself out of it a year ago. It’s not that Correa isn’t desirable, but it’s probably not working in his favor that there have been several other options, too.
Still, the Correa rumors keep flying, and as spring games begin in Florida and Arizona, it stands to reason that he’s going to be making his decision in the next few days.
But where? As we did with Freddie Freeman recently, it’s time for a 30-1 roundup, from least likely to most likely, at least as far as we can read the tea leaves.
No, won’t be here
30-25) Reds, A’s, D-backs, Orioles, Pirates, Guardians
It should be clear enough, based on the offseasons in Cincinnati and Oakland so far, that these two teams are not really in the “add a giant contract” portion of their existence. Even if Arizona, Baltimore, or Pittsburgh were ready to make such a commitment, it’s extremely difficult to see Correa willingly joining a team coming off a last-place finish.
It’s at least a little fun to see him powering up the offense in Cleveland, but this isn’t their style, not when they have Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez available anyway – and especially not if they really do trade away José Ramírez.
Have already made their big moves
24-21) Blue Jays, Rangers, Mariners, Rockies
We suppose we shouldn’t put anything past the Blue Jays right now, especially not after we just linked to a report that they may be interested in trading for Ramírez, but a trade for Ramírez is also a trade for his very team-friendly contract, which is a fraction of what Correa is going to earn. Besides, if they’re making another move, it has to be for the lefty bat they desperately need.
Texas, you might remember, already signed two shortstops in Semien and Seager. We’ll try our best not to fall into the but they don’t have a third baseman, hmm hole, at least for today. Seattle did just trade for Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez, you might remember, and really seems to not want to displace J.P. Crawford. And Colorado? The only thing more stunning than the Rockies' signing of Kris Bryant would be if they could convince Correa to join up, as well.
All set at shortstop, thanks
20-15) Mets, Braves, White Sox, Royals, Red Sox, Giants
It’s not that all six of these teams have players who are indisputably better than Correa, because they don’t. But it’s not like Correa is displacing Lindor, right? Keep going down the list, in order. Correa is clearly better than Dansby Swanson, but with Austin Riley at third and Ozzie Albies on either side of him, it’s not like there’s really even anywhere to shift him.
It’s a little different in Chicago, where Correa is better than Tim Anderson, and there’s at least a nominal spot open at second, because newly signed Josh Harrison is probably better served as a utility player than a starter, but it’s hard to see them asking Anderson to move. The Royals have more shortstops than they know what to do with.
The Red Sox? Fully staffed on the left side with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, and with bigger concerns in the rotation. Brandon Crawford, in San Francisco, is coming off a resurgent season, and while the day will come when he’s no longer their shortstop, this isn’t how it will happen.
Sure, if it’s really a one-year deal
14-9) Rays, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Padres, Dodgers
Here’s the possible elephant in the room: The one-year deal. Sounds unlikely? Probably, but Ken Rosenthal floated the premise that if Correa can’t find a long-term deal to his liking in this abbreviated Hot Stove March, maybe he’d take a record-setting single-year deal and try again next winter.
Maybe, and maybe not. But if there’s any glimmer of truth to it, it sure would open the door to teams who – for reasons financial, roster-wise, or otherwise – might not be interested in the big, long-term deal Correa wants. For example, the Rays never sign deals this large – and have a pretty good shortstop themselves in Wander Franco – but there’s been so much smoke about them trying to get Freeman that if they fail there, you could at least see them doing something wild here.
Maybe that applies, too, to the Marlins, forever in need of a bat. Maybe the quiet Cardinals, stumbling due to spring pitching injuries, pivot here rather than stick with the disappointing Paul DeJong. Could be that the Brewers ask Willy Adames to play third, if they could actually pull this off. Could be that the Padres, reeling from the loss of Fernando Tatis Jr., go for the patented A.J. Preller stunner, worrying about where to play Tatis when it’s worth worrying about?
This style fits the Dodgers, anyway, who aside from Mookie Betts, generally shy away from long-term commitments in favor of high-value, short-term offers. It’s not like Trea Turner couldn’t play second, after all, and it would be really their style to see Andrew Friedman turn around and deal Gavin Lux for Luis Castillo, or some such move.
The Tigers, getting greedy
Detroit’s clearly a team on the rise, and they already gave a six-year deal to Javier Báez to play shortstop. But hey: If the Rangers can sign two shortstops, why can’t the Tigers? Beyond the obvious connection to manager A.J. Hinch, the baseball fit is easy, because Báez can just play second, as he’s done for years. Want to really jump-start that rebound back into competitiveness? This is how it’s done.
Squint and you can see it
7-4) Nationals, Cubs, Angels, Twins
Now we’re into a quartet of teams that find themselves in very different competitive situations, but who could really all make the case that signing Correa, right now, is the right thing to do.
Start in Washington, coming off 97 losses. That was more an aberration than the plan, though the prospects for 2022 aren’t looking all that brighter at the moment. Then again, they don’t tank, and they don’t rebuild. They’re trying to convince Juan Soto to commit to a long-term deal to stay. They have a history of signing very big contracts with very big free agents. Their current shortstop is, and this is true, Alcides Escobar. It’s not that crazy.
You can kind of copy and paste most of that, aside from the Soto part, for the Cubs, who have added Seiya Suzuki and Marcus Stroman to a team that still needs a lot more help. Correa is young enough that he’d still be plenty productive for when the Cubs are truly ready to win again in a year or three.
For the Angels, and the Twins, you have a pair of teams who want to win, and who have a lot to like about their core, but neither club has an obvious path to glory as their rosters stand. And neither team has a shortstop right now, with options running short.
The obvious best fits
Maybe we’re dreaming too much here, given that the team did just trade for a shortstop (Isiah Kiner-Falefa) and a third baseman (Josh Donaldson) and signed a first baseman (Anthony Rizzo). And yes, as we all know, the team has several shortstop prospects they value highly, though it’s worth noting that Anthony Volpe is 20, hasn’t yet made it out of A-ball and it’s never, ever a problem to have too many good players.
But as much as we like Kiner-Falefa, he’s a below-average hitter (81 OPS+ career) and the advanced metrics are split on his defensive value. As a multi-positional player, he brings a great deal of worth. Is he a starting, everyday shortstop, in the absolute meat grinder that is the AL East? We’re a lot less sure of that.
Philadelphia made a big step forward in adding some thump to its offense when it signed Kyle Schwarber to a four-year deal on Wednesday. As strong an addition as that might be, what it didn’t do was help the team’s porous defense. What it didn’t do was answer the question of who is playing shortstop, because Didi Gregorius hit all of .209/.270/.370 with a below-average glove.
We’re not sure the Phillies have another big contract – a much bigger contract – in them. But at the moment, they’re not clearly better than third in the NL East, and how do you have Schwarber, Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, J.T. Realmuto and Zack Wheeler and not keep going?
Hey, why mess with a good thing? If you’re a team who saw first-hand the effects of Houston’s 2017 cheating scandal, and you’re worried about how Correa will fit in, well, going back home solves that problem right away.