RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Why the Red Sox should break the bank for Carlos Correa

RED SOX INSIDER

The Astros may be the most loathsome team in baseball, but it's actually kind of hard to hate Carlos Correa.

Author's Note: Each day this week, we'll advocate for the Red Sox to consider one of the top remaining free agents on the market in a feature called, "Making the Case." First up today: Carlos Correa.

It's not like the brash young shortstop has played the part of repentant sinner seeking forgiveness in the wake of Houston's sign-stealing scandal. Quite the contrary. After the Astros dispatched the Twins in the 2020 wild card, Correa defiantly told the club's critics to shut it, because Houston had proven it could win without chicanery.

His playoff home run celebration of checking his watch to remind everyone that October is his time may not scream, "I am humble!" but it has shades of Isaiah Thomas's "King in the Fourth" earnestness and exuberance. Correa backed it up by leading the Astros to their third World Series in five years, where they lost to the Braves in six games.

Whenever baseball's offseason resumes following the completion of CBA negotiations, Correa will be the biggest name on the market. There's a legitimate case to be made for the Red Sox to break the bank and transform a hated enemy into a Fenway fixture.

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The timing is actually ideal. Only two years ago, the Red Sox declined to pay Mookie Betts because they didn't believe he fit their championship window, and it seemed unlikely he'd sign for much less than $400 million.

 

Correa's a different story. He's a 27-year-old Gold Glove shortstop and former Rookie of the Year who's entering his prime at just the right moment. He'll command a 10-year contract worth over $300 million and it's reasonable to stop right there and ask a simple question. If Bloom has yet to pay a free agent more than $14 million (Kiké Hernández), why would he suddenly swing to such a wild extreme?

A few reasons, actually. For one, the CBA will be settled when free agency resumes, which means the Red Sox no longer have to worry about signing a contract under one system that hurts them in the next system. Paying a player $30 million annually requires as much certainty as possible, and ratifying a new CBA would take a significant variable off the table.

For another, the timing is right. Incumbent shortstop Xander Bogaerts can opt out of his contract next fall and the Red Sox risk losing him. Simultaneously, his defense continues to grade as well-below average, which means the Red Sox must consider future contingencies.

The best shortstop in the system is No. 4 overall pick Marcelo Mayer, but he's probably at least three years away -- that's how long it took Correa to reach Houston after being chosen first in the 2012 MLB Draft -- and may grow off of short, anyway.

Correa's arrival could move Bogaerts to second (where his future possibly lies anyway) and give the Red Sox a season to consider the long-term viability of a star-studded middle infield. If Bogaerts chooses to leave, the Red Sox would be covered at short by the rifle-armed Correa, who remains an elite defender despite standing a rugged 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. If Bogaerts stays, the Red Sox would boast one of the most imposing double play combos in history.

It doesn't hurt that Correa would arrive as a favorite of manager Alex Cora. Both are natives of Puerto Rico, and Cora spent a year in Houston as Correa's bench coach, where the two grew close. When the Red Sox beat the Rays to advance to the ALCS, Correa made a point of mentioning the emotions he felt while watching Cora embrace his daughter in light of the year that he spent on the sidelines.

He's a dynamic player with a flair for the dramatic and an I-don't-give-a-bleep confidence that would play anywhere, but especially in Boston.

John Tomase on Carlos Correa

Meanwhile, when Cora returned to Houston in May, Correa was one of only three people he mentioned looking forward to seeing (alongside catcher Martin Maldonado and hitting coach Alex Cintron). And after Correa won Game 1 with a late homer and celebrated by pointing at his watch, Cora publicly castigated starter Eduardo Rodriguez for mirroring the motion during a Game 3 victory that would prove to be Boston's last win of the series. (For what it's worth, Correa said he loved E-Rod's gesture.)

 

So the Red Sox have the money to make a deal happen, along with the pre-existing relationships and the need. The question is whether they have the will.

Thus far, Bloom's methodical approach suggests no, but he's going to spend at some point. While there are legitimate concerns about Correa's durability (he has only topped 110 games twice in seven seasons), he's also capable of winning an MVP award, and he's entering his prime age 27-31 years.

He's a dynamic player with a flair for the dramatic and an I-don't-give-a-bleep confidence that would play anywhere, but especially in Boston. Correa lives for the limelight. The Red Sox could certainly give it to him while opening a new title window.