As their payroll buts up against the
salary cap luxury tax threshold, the Houston Astros are exploring all options to needlessly save themselves money. This includes trading Carlos Correa — yes, that Carlos Correa — according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Correa needs no explanation, but we will quickly run through the details. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, and lived up to the hype immediately, winning the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Award at just 20 years of age. He put up back-to-back six-win seasons in 2016 and 2017, but injuries have limited him to just 294 games over the past three years (an average of just 98 games per year). He is entering his second year of arbitration, and is projected to earn a $7.4 million salary in 2020.
But no, the Detroit Tigers are not going to trade for him.
In fact, I would be surprised if Correa played for anyone else in 2020. His value is arguably at its lowest after playing just 75 games in 2019, even if he was on pace for a third 6 WAR season. Teams will be hesitant to pay what would almost certainly be an exorbitant price for the 25-year-old given his injury history, especially with only two years of guaranteed club control before he reaches free agency. And while the Astros are looking to clear salary, they have a number of players coming off the books after next season.
This, coupled with the Tigers’ renewed focus on building a more sustainable prospect pool, makes it highly unlikely any sort of deal would go down. Even if the trade proposals are a bit funny.
Jake Rogers, Franklin Perez and day Cameron for Carlos Correa. Get it done lol— Scott (@Scotty2004) December 11, 2019
But while Correa to the Tigers isn’t going to happen — not before 2022, at least — the thought of what a hypothetical trade would cost made me think of the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit in December 2007. Like Correa, Cabrera had two years of arbitration remaining before free agency, and was entering his age-25 season. And one imagines the Astros would be looking for a similar prospect package in return.
The comparisons end there, however. Cabrera had already established himself as a generational talent by that point, and had missed just 15 total games over the previous four seasons. Correa has produced when healthy, but the when is still a question mark at this point.
The Tigers were also in a much different place as a club. Coming off their World Series appearance in 2006 and a disappointing second-place finish in 2007, the Tigers had a young core in place already. Justin Verlander was already an ace-in-the-making, and there were still high hopes for a then-24-year-old Jeremy Bonderman. The lineup was getting a bit older, save for budding star Curtis Granderson.
The current Tigers are not in the same place. Prospects like Casey Mize and Matt Manning — both almost certainly on the wish list were any negotiations to occur here — as well as Tarik Skubal, Riley Greene, and Isaac Paredes are still a couple of years away from becoming that young core the ‘07 Tigers had. The club also had a slew of productive veterans still under contract (Plácido Polanco, Magglio Ordoñez, and the like) that had helped the team to back-to-back winning seasons.
While this is only a pipe dream, one can’t help but wonder what acquiring a player like Correa — assuming he gets locked up to a long-term extension — would do for the Tigers’ rebuild. He would be the team’s best position player by a long shot in the short-term, and the type of run-producing bat their farm system currently lacks. The Tigers will eventually need to acquire a player like him, either via free agency, trade, or the upcoming MLB draft anyway, and picking up that player this winter would put the onus on the club to produce a contender during his prime seasons.
So no, it’s not happening. If anything, the Tigers would just be better off waiting until Correa hits free agency in two years.
But it’s fun to think about, right?