Is a Hinch-Correa reunion on the menu?

November 18th, 2021

The question of whether the Tigers have the competitive and financial might to woo free-agent shortstop has been one of more intriguing early storylines this baseball offseason. But whether or not the Tigers can get a foot in the door on one of the top free agents in the game this winter, they can still get a meal between two former colleagues and friends.

Photos circulated on social media of Hinch and Correa having brunch together on Thursday at Tiny Boxwoods restaurant in Houston. It’s the latest plot twist in what is arguably Detroit’s most intriguing free-agent courtship since Ivan Rodriguez came to Detroit in 2004.

It doesn’t mean the Tigers are closing in on another big addition in what has already been a major offseason for them. Neither Tigers general manager Al Avila nor Correa’s agent was at lunch. Nothing is close, and the Correa sweepstakes is still believed to be in its early stages. Still, it’s a reminder of the ties that could potentially help bind the two back together.

In fairness, even if the Tigers weren’t interested in signing Correa, they’d likely be sharing a meal. Hinch managed the Astros for the first five seasons of Correa’s career, years that were important for his life as much as his game. Hinch is known to have a close relationship with many of his former players, including Alex Bregman and George Springer. Correa and his wife are expecting a baby this offseason.

The difference in this case, of course, is that Correa is a free agent who plays a position that also happens to be the Tigers’ greatest need. While Detroit has already added starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez in free agency and catcher Tucker Barnhart via trade, the team is heavily involved in the shortstop market. Avila met at last week’s General Managers Meetings with the agents for Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Javier Báez and Chris Taylor, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Hinch was also part of the Tigers’ group attending the GM Meetings.

Avila and the Tigers know the value of recruiting. Six offseasons ago, he and then-manager Brad Ausmus traveled to Arizona to meet with Justin Upton and helped convince the outfielder to sign with Detroit.

The lunch menu at Tiny Boxwoods in Houston boasts a tasty selection of midday fare, including avocado toast with fried egg and smoked salmon, and a “Lucky Burger” that includes something called “lucky sauce” along with cheese, pickles and a house bun. No word on what Hinch and Correa ate, but that selection would’ve been fitting.