Carlos Correa To Red Sox? The Case For, Against Bold Free Agency Splash

Imagine an infield with Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers

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Will the Red Sox make a splash before Opening Day? As part of our “free agency fits” series, we’re examining whether several top players remaining on the open market make sense (or don’t make sense) as Boston builds its roster for the 2022 Major League Baseball season.

The Red Sox already have an elite shortstop in Xander Bogaerts, but sometimes an opportunity comes along that’s too good to pass up.

Is that the case with Carlos Correa?

Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, has spent all seven of his major league seasons with the Houston Astros, during which he’s earned two All-Star selections and solidified himself as one of baseball’s better all-around shortstops. He’ll be rewarded for both his track record and his potential this offseason, as he’s widely considered the best player available in a loaded free agency class.

Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Javier Báez all found new homes before the MLB lockout — the first two signed with the Texas Rangers and the latter landed with the Detroit Tigers — so Correa is the unquestioned top dog remaining in the shortstop market.

Does he fit with the Red Sox, despite Bogaerts’ presence? Let’s dive in.

Info
Position: Shortstop
Age: 27 (Sept. 22, 1994)
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 220 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

2021 stats
148 games (640 plate appearances)
.279/.366/.485
26 HRs, 92 RBIs
7.2 bWAR, 5.8 fWAR

Career stats
752 games (3,223 plate appearances)
.277/.356/.481
133 HRs, 489 RBIs, 33 SBs
34.1 bWAR, 25.1 fWAR

Why Correa makes sense for Red Sox:
It’s rare that a player of Correa’s ilk — a top-tier middle infielder with youth on his side — becomes available in free agency. And the Red Sox, after exceeding expectations last season, are well positioned to strike while the iron’s hot, so long as they’re comfortable flexing their financial muscles.

The Red Sox reduced payroll in 2021 — a move that reset their luxury tax penalties — and have a solid chunk of change slated to come off the books after the 2022 season, with J.D. Martinez ($19.375 million), Nathan Eovaldi ($17 million), Jackie Bradley Jr. ($11 million), Kiké Hernández ($8 million) and Christian Vázquez ($7 million) among those scheduled to become free agents.

Of course, you might be asking: Why would the Red Sox sign Correa when they already have Bogaerts? Wouldn’t they be best served spending that cash elsewhere?

Well, not necessarily. The biggest deterrent in splurging for Correa — Bogaerts penciled in at shortstop — actually might be the most logical argument in favor of pursuing the longtime Astros star. Bogaerts can opt out of his contract next offseason. Signing Correa this offseason not only creates an all-world infield for 2022; it also safeguards against Bogaerts’ potential departure.

The Red Sox need to improve their infield defense, and deploying Correa at shortstop while shifting Bogaerts to second base seemingly would achieve that goal in addition to making Boston even more of an offensive powerhouse. Then, if Bogaerts opts out and signs elsewhere after 2022, the Red Sox won’t be left scrambling, as they will have already taken a proactive approach to filling the void.

Correa is a special talent, capable of making an impact in the batter’s box and in the field. He is in the heart of his prime, already has an extensive postseason résumé and worked with Red Sox manager Alex Cora in Houston. There’s a lot to like about the player from a team-building standpoint.

Why Correa doesn’t make sense for Red Sox:
The contract. While it’s easy to suggest the Red Sox should spend lavishly this winter after reaching the ALCS in 2021, there are tons of examples of teams handing out megadeals they quickly regret. Correa, now represented by agent Scott Boras, is a solid bet to make good on his impending payday — which could exceed $300 million over 10-plus years — but he’s not without risk.

Correa is coming off a healthy, productive season, but he’s dealt with various injuries over the years, oftentimes limiting his impact. He averaged just 98 games per season from 2017 to 2019. It always has felt like Correa is capable of more than he’s actually displayed, at least up until 2021.

It’s also possible the Red Sox simply are not interested in moving Bogaerts to second base, or even having that conversation with him. Bogaerts, 29, has been excellent since debuting with Boston in 2013 and really has blossomed into a leader over the past few years. The Red Sox might be more focused on ensuring he sticks around beyond 2022, or on supplementing their current core with a more natural fit.

Just because the Red Sox can spend in free agency this offseason doesn’t mean they need to. In fact, one could argue their biggest expenditure should be a contract extension for third baseman Rafael Devers.

Verdict: An outside-the-box fit, all things considered.

Prediction: Correa signs with the Yankees.

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