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2022 Shortstop Targets? – Carlos Correa

At the beginning of the offseason, Brian Cashman said the Yankees were not going to go into the 2022 with Gleyber Torres at shortstop. With a tremendous crop of free agent talent available, the Yankees missed out on Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Javier Baez.

This week we’ll look at a few free agents and trade targets to fill the role.

Today we look at the case for and against bringing in Carlos Correa.

 

Carlos Correa: A Quick Overview

Carlos Correa came into his professional career in the best possible way: by being the #1 Draft Pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and signing on with the Houston Astros with a $4.8 Million signing bonus. Soon afterward, he began playing in the Rookie leagues. In 2013 Correa spent the whole season in Class-A ball and in 2014 he spent the whole year in Class-A+ ball. During that time he went from a consensus Top-30 prospect into a Top-10 prospect. In 2015, Correa went through Double-A and Triple-A, spending 29 and 24 games at each level respectively before being shot up to the MLB for a debut on June 8th, 2015. He played 99 games at the MLB in 2015 while taking home the AL Rookie of the Year award. Ever since, he’s been an MLB mainstay and he just now reached free agency for the first time in his career after 7 years with the Houston Astros.

Over his career, Carlos Correa has hit to a .277/.356/.481 (.837 OPS/127 OPS+) triple-slash with 781 hits, 133 Home Runs, and 489 RBI’s over 752 games. He’s also put in just over 6,500 innings at shortstop to a +67 DRS and a -12.2 UZR. Combined with everything, he’s accumulated +34.1 bWAR and +25.1 fWAR over 7 seasons in the MLB.

In 2021, Correa hit like his typical self while producing the best season in his career to date thanks to his best defensive season. On offense, he put up a .279/.366/.485 (.850 OPS/131 OPS+) triple-slash with 155 hits, 26 Home Runs (career high), ad 92 RBI’s. On defense, he had a +20 DRS and a +9.6 DEF while taking home the AL Gold Glove at shortstop and Platinum Glove for all fielders. It should be no surprise that he accumulated +7.2 bWAR/+5.8 fWAR- both career highs- over the course of last season.

However, nothing can really be as good as it seems, which shows in Carlos Correa’s extensive injury history. He had two injured stints while in the minor leagues, one in 2013 for 7 days and the other in 2014 when he broke his right fibula and needed season-ending surgery. Once Correa broke into the MLB the injuries stayed away for a few years, but in 2017 he tore a ligament in his left thumb which kept him out from mid-July to early September. In 2018 Correa went down with lower back soreness for 10 days and he missed Opening Day 2019 with neck soreness. Then he ended up on the IL twice in 2019, once for a fractured rib that kept him out from the end of May until the end of July and then at the end of August for back discomfort. Correa also missed a few games in the middle of July with an undisclosed injury this past season.

 

The Case For Carlos Correa:

As a fan of the New York Yankees, the thing I want more than anything else is for them to field the best possible team year-in and year-out. It’s why all these years later I’m still scratching my head as to why they didn’t go all-in on getting Bryce Harper. And it goes without saying that Carlos Correa is without a doubt the best free agent shortstop available.

The Yankees need help defensively on the left side of the infield. In every year of Carlos Correa’s career he has been a positive dWAR player and only one (his rookie season) came up negative in Fangraphs’ DEF ratings. Carlos Correa is also coming off a season where he not only won the AL Gold Glove for shortstops, but also the Platinum Glove across all fielders in the American League, and the Fielding Bible award for best defensive shortstop in the entire MLB. If there are concerns about defense from the shortstop position, Carlos Correa fixes that problem.

The Yankees also need help offensively and especially with their batting averages. Carlos Correa would have had the 2nd best AVG, OBP (behind only Aaron Judge) and the 3rd best SLG (behind Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) if he was a part of the 2021 Yankees. Regardless of which way he bats, that is the type of player that a team should be trying to get into their lineup. He instantly makes the team better across the board.

The Yankees also need winners on their teams. Of the available high-profile free agents out there, only a few have been serious contributors to winning a World Series. This list includes Clayton Kershaw (LAD, 2020), Freddie Freeman (ATL, 2021), Kris Bryant (CHC, 2016), and Carlos Correa (HOU, 2017). He is a winner and he would bring a winning personality to the team. That fact is undeniable.

The Simple Pro’s: Instant Defensive Upgrade, Instant Offensive Upgrade, Is a Winner

 

The Case Against Carlos Correa:

And now that there is an elephant is in the room, it’s time to talk about the serious cases as to why Carlos Correa would not just be a bad signing for the Yankees, but would completely shift the direction of the franchise. If you think that Kerensky was worried about Lenin a little over 100 years ago in Russia, then you have no idea what uprising would come about a Carlos Correa to Yankees fans.

Carlos Correa is a cheater. He and his teammates concocted a method to cheat during at least the 2017 season. He and his teammates used methods that were outside of the rules in the MLB to determine signs being used by the opposing teams pitching and catching battery and they relayed those signs in real time- by hitting trash cans in their dugout- to the batters in the box. He is guilty without a doubt of participating with the cheating and even after getting caught (and given a slap on the wrist by commissioner Rob Manfred) he has yet to show any remorse to his fellow ballplayers or the fans of baseball. This is a huge black eye on his career.

It also comes as no surprise that Correa’s best season to date was his 2017 season. He put up his best AVG, OBP, OPS, and OPS+ in his career. This is combined with his 2nd best SLG and number of HR’s. It was the only season Correa hit to a batting average above .280….while putting up a .315 AVG. The season before (2016) he hit 20 Home Runs in 155 games, in 2017 he hit 24 Home Runs in 109 games. How much of his abilities have been exaggerated because of that season?

Carlos Correa is also a flip-flop type of player as well. In 2017 he had a 155 OPS+. In 2018 this went down to a 99 OPS+. 2019 was another good year with a 137 OPS+, though in 2020 he put up a 93 OPS+. Last season he went back to a 131 OPS+. The Yankees steered away from Bryce Harper (a similar player in that regard) and it is a big risk to give a player like that a long-term contract.

The downsides continue to add up, as has Carlos Correa’s injury history over his time in the MLB. Over 7 seasons as a player in what should be the most healthy portion of their career (ages 20-26) he has ended up on the DL/IL 5 separate times. That does not bode well and is not something the New York Yankees- a team which has had incredibly bad injury luck in the past few years- need to add to their worries. If history tells us anything, those injuries are going to ad up when it comes to how it affects his ability on the field, how it affects the future severity of his injuries, and how long it takes for him to recover when he gets hurt in the first place. He’s a huge risk in this regard.

And while there are more points to be made in full, some other inconveniences about Carlos Correa is that he is a right-handed hitter, is already not on good terms with a large number of the current Yankees, and the fact that Yankees fans will not stand to have him as part of their team.

The Simple Con’s: The 2017 Cheating Scandal and Showing No Remorse From It, The Statistical Anomaly of his 2017 Season, His Flip-Flop Performance Year-To-Year, His Extensive and Worrying Injury History

 

Ethan’s Thoughts:

Notice how I didn’t include the rumors about the contract that Correa desires as a reason of a case against Carlos Correa? Carlos Correa just recently hired Scott Boras to be his new agent and beforehand he had a rumored demand of a $330 Million contract. He also reportedly turned down a 10-Year/$275 Million offer from the Detroit Tigers before the lockout began and before the Tigers switched gears to Javier Baez.

No matter what the Yankees want to tell you, they have the money to pay him. A cheaper contract like Didi Gregorius/Andrelton Simmons is a pro- if and only if- the Yankees use the money they aren’t spending to get a player like Correa onto their team on other problem areas (starting pitching, first base, center field, etc). However, the contract size is not a con against Correa because he should provide the value to make it worth while.

Let’s say Correa gets his $330M contract. The approximate money value of WAR (a few years ago) was about 1 WAR = $8 Million on the open market. If Correa gets $330 Million than he would need to be worth 41.2 bWAR over the length of his contract. On average (not counting 2020) Correa has been worth 5.4 bWAR per season so far in his career. If Correa signs an 11 year deal, he would need to average 3.75 bWAR per season to have the contract technically be worth it. (And this doesn’t consider that the monetary value of WAR continues to go up.) It’s more likely than not that Correa will manage to play to that value.

All that being said, I don’t want the Yankees to go anywhere near Carlos Correa. If it wasn’t against the rules, I’d want Cashman to put out a press release that says in bold print: “WE’RE NOT NEGOTIATING WITH CARLOS CORREA AND NEVER WILL.”

Think about all the things that frustrated you over the many many years of A-Rod. Yes, he was a great ballplayer. But, he was also incredibly annoying to have on the team as a constant name being brought up in the media and as a clubhouse cancer. That is what the Yankees will have to deal with again if they get Carlos Correa.

Anything but Carlos Correa.

I can’t be more clear about this.

I want nothing to do with him.

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