CORREA WATCH

Compromise is critical in this best-case scenario for Carlos Correa, Astros

Give a little to get a little. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

With the Texas Rangers’ signing elite shortstops Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, the Tigers landing Javy Baez and the Yankees showing interest in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the threat level of the Astros saying goodbye to Carlos Correa has been lowered from “100 percent lost cause” to “maybe just maybe.”

A baseball executive who doesn’t want to be identified told me, “Seems like everybody else is realizing that Correa is a career .270 hitter.” And even in 2021, Correa’s free agent season when he put it all together, he hit only .279. Good, not great.

Still, right now, Correa is one of the best defensive shortstops ever and his throwing arms should be registered with the National Rifle Association.

Unfortunately there is no stat for “fiery team leader who tells critics of his team to go f-themselves.” Both qualities that endear him to Astros fans.

Correa reportedly is asking for a record-breaking long-term deal and so far, so far as we know anyway, there’s been no takers.

Here’s how it can turn out for the best for everybody. For Correa. For the Astros.

The goal of any negotiation is for both sides to walk away with their heads held high thinking they won. The Astros would love to keep Correa, but without breaking their policy of no long-term deals beyond five years. It's a smart, responsible policy. How many 10-year deals don't have fans thinking in years eight, nine and 10, how can we unload this guy?

Correa reportedly wants to become the highest-paid infielder ever with a long-term deal in the range of $350 million over the next decade.

With that much distance between the two sides, how can the Astros even dream of keeping Correa? Here’s how. Both sides must be willing to negotiate and expect to give a little.

Last year, the New York Mets signed shortstop Francisco Lindor for $341 million over 10 years, including $43.3 million for the 2021 season, the highest one-year salary in MLB history at the time. But remember, it’s pretty likely that the Mets already regret their Lindor deal, as the shortstop had a miserable 2021 season and even managed to alienate Mets fans by flashing thumbs down signs at them.

What if the Astros offered Correa a seven-year deal worth $241.5 million? That averages $34.5 million per year, more than Lindor makes annually. And the Astros write the contract so it includes $45 million for 2022. That’s more than Lindor made this year. Bam! Correa is the highest-paid infielder ever.

Correa gets some of what he wants.

The Astros go beyond their policy of not offering anything longer than a five-year contract, and they’ll have to rob their company piggy bank for more than they’d like to spend. But they keep their star shortstop and fuel their dynasty for years to come.

The Astros get some of what they want.

Done deal.

That’s a good negotiation, a great opportunity for Correa and an acceptable contract for the Astros. Correa stays in Houston where he’s a beloved fan favorite, and plays with his buddies in a friendly ballpark where he doesn’t hear cries of “cheater.” And he’ll be 34 when he’s a free agent again, up for another massive contract, maybe as a slugging third baseman this time. If he signs for more years with a less potent team, he’ll be tagged a money grubber and forfeit his status as a baseball warrior, an image that Correa embraces.

If owner Jim Crane can convince Correa to sign for crazy money for fewer years, it will show Houston fans that the Astros are willing to do whatever it takes to win. That’s a good look for the Astros and a booster shot for ticket sales and Dollar Dogs on Tuesday nights.

Now all the Astros and Correa have to do, in the immortal words of chief negotiator Larry the Cable, is just git’er done.

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