WHAT HAPPENED?

Examining two critical factors that impacted Carlos Correa's Astros departure

Correa is heading to the Twins. Composite image by Jack Brame.

We’ve got to stop falling in love with professional athletes. They’ll break our hearts almost every time.

Over the weekend I took a glance at Astros fans reacting on Twitter to the news that, after a last-minute swirl of optimism that Carlos Correa would stay in Houston, the coveted free agent shortstop had signed with the Minnesota Twins.

“I am dead inside.”

“I’m just gonna go cry now.”

“I’m need more wine. A lot more wine.”

Ease up, Astros fans. You’re taking Correa leaving worse than Kanye West is dealing with his divorce from Kim Kardashian. Sure, Houston fans loved Correa. He was a homegrown Astro. He was Houston’s first overall pick in the 2012 draft. Made his big league debut in 2015 and helped the team establish a still-going tradition of winning that included a World Series title and two more appearances.

Pro Athletes are bad breaker-uppers. Unrequited love is tough. It hurts. It’s like the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You.

Carlos Correa left the Astros and Houston the moment he could get out of here. And for what and where?

The what is easy. Money. He turned down the Astros last and best offer of $160 million over five years. He took the Minnesota deal of $105.3 million over three years with a player opt-out seemingly every 15 minutes. Most baseball insiders think Correa is banking on having a big year in 2022, saying bye-bye Twins, and getting the 10-year, $300 million contract he originally wanted this year. He’s not buying, he’ll be renting.

The where is surprising. Correa is going from the first-place American League West team to the last-place American League Central team. He is forfeiting the respect gained by playing an entire, illustrious career with one team, like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell did. Like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Joe DiMaggio, Mariano Rivera, and Mickey Mantle. Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, Larry Fitzgerald, Chipper Jones, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

Instead of being a hometown warrior, Correa is now a ringer, have gun with travel, a mercenary soldier.

Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodger icon, quit baseball rather than accept a trade to the hated crosstown rival New York Giants. They don’t make ‘em like Jackie Robinson anymore.

We’ve got to stop believing, “Players want to come play for Houston teams because there’s no state income tax in Texas.” OK, start naming big time free agents in their prime who’ve signed with the Astros and stayed. I’ll help you out: none.

Yeah, we know that Houston is an amazing city, supposedly the most diverse city in America (I don’t believe that, but let’s continue), we have hundreds of year-round golf courses, a terrific ballpark, incredible cuisine and a wonderful climate devoid of winter freezes, well, most years.

Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, a couple of Houston guys, both escaped the New York Yankees and signed to play with their homeboy Astros in 2004. They already had brilliant, excellent careers. I happen to think that Rocket is the greatest pitcher in baseball history. Both played three years in Houston. Both left Houston and returned to New York, Clemens to finish his career, Pettitte for six more seasons.

Carlos Javier Correa Oppenheimer was born and raised in Puerto Rico, which has a “Tropical Marine” climate. It’s always summertime and the livin’s easy. He played and lived in Houston, which has a “Humid Subtropical” climate and an indoor baseball stadium.

The scientific name for Minnesota’s climate is “Colder than a Penguin’s Pecker.” The Twins play in an outdoor stadium. Have fun gunning the ball to first with frostbitten crinkly fingers.

And get ready to write a nice fat check to the state of Minnesota. High-earning workers, even temps like Correa, pay nearly a 10-percent state income tax. That’s a lot of percent. Only four states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon) have a higher state income tax.

The Twins landed Correa not because of the team’s prospects of winning, or warm climate or anything else. The Twins were willing to pay him $35 million a year on a short-term deal with early player opt-outs. Correa left the Astros and the fans that love him for an outrageously one-sided (favoring Correa) contract. He just wasn’t that into us.

Where does this leave the Astros? With the best talent in the American League, still the betting favorite to win the American League West and battle for the World Series. In recent years, the Astros lost All-Stars George Springer, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and more. Their departures were so devastating that the Astros were American League champs last year.

Sure it will be weird and a little hurtful to see Correa in a Twins uniform when Minnesota visits Minute Maid Park in late August. Just like it was practically a crime to see Hakeem Olajuwon in a Toronto Raptors jersey his final season.

Correa is gone. It was real. But life and winning will go on for the Astros and their fans

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Willson Contreras will not be replacing catcher Martin Maldonado. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

According to multiple reports, free agent catcher Willson Contreras is signing a 5-year, $87.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Contreras was the Astros top target in free agency and will have to pursue other possibilities with Contreras heading to St. Louis.

The Astros reportedly have interest in bringing Christian Vazquez back in what could be a timeshare with Martin Maldonado. Houston could be in the market to trade for A's catcher Sean Murphy, according to reports. Murphy is under team control until 2025, so he won't come cheap if the A's are willing to trade him in the division.

Houston could also look to the farm system for help. Former 1st round pick Korey Lee or Yainer Díaz could both be options this season as the team transitions away from Maldonado, who is in the final year of his contract.

Another Astro moves on

The Oakland A's reportedly signed former Astros DH and utility man Aledmys Diaz to a 2-year, $14 million contract on Wednesday.

Diaz hit .255/.313/.424 with 32 home runs in his four years with the club. Diaz had some big moments with the team, but dealt with his fair share of injuries. It seemed like Diaz's time with the team was coming to an end when he went 1-23 in the 2022 postseason.

Looking ahead

The Astros are rumored to have interest in several free agent outfielders. Andrew Benintendi, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto have all been mentioned as players on the club's radar.

Michael Brantley could also be an option to bring back, but the team won't have confirmation on the health of his shoulder for quite some time.



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