HOUSTON – Sooner or later, the time comes to say goodbye.
The Astros season abruptly came to an end Tuesday night with a 7-0 loss to the Braves in Game Six of the World Series.
The offseason now begins. And for shortstop Carlos Correa and his seven years with the Astros, his time with the organization that made him a number-one overall pick as a 17-year-old in 2012, is likely coming to an end.
Correa opened up after the game about what was on his mind as he prepared in the ninth inning for his final at-bat of the night at Minute Maid Park, his possible final at-bat as a Houston Astro.
“It’s the only thing that was going through my mind, to be honest,” he admitted while at the podium across the hall from the Astros clubhouse. “A lot of feelings and mixed emotions. I’ve spent seven years with this club and it was going through my mind, for sure.”
Owner Jim Crane has a big decision to make about Correa and his future in Houston. Correa will be the most sought-after free agent in baseball this winter, commanding a massive contract that he is due. Think Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor’s 10 million, $341 million extension when you’re talking about what Correa could potentially land.
Will he be locked in only on the 10 year offers? Or could the Astros come in with a respectable yet shorter offer?
Sources with knowledge of Crane and the Astros’ thinking tell me that since the ALCS against the Red Sox, Crane has been prepared to increase the club offer to six years for $210 million, which averages to 35 million per season.
Will that get Correa’s attention? Nobody knows right now even Correa himself.
“I wish I knew, I wish I knew. I haven’t thought about that,” Correa said when asked about the chances of returning to the Astros. “I hope that God takes me wherever is best for me and my family and enjoy our lives and enjoy the time where we will spend a lot of years.”
Correa is not only a baseball star - he is also a husband and soon-to-be father, so priorities are important to him during this process he’s experiencing for the first time.
“I live my life based on things that make me happy,” he said. “I’ll do whatever will make us happy. We have to take all things into consideration, but at the end of the day, we just want to be happy. The team that wants a guy that’s going to bring leadership and a winning culture and the team that wants to have me, then I’ll be happy to join them and help them win.”
Correa is 27 years old and stayed healthy throughout the Astros’ 2021 season while putting up solid offensive numbers and delivering Gold Glove worthy defense.
Correa will be a top target and made sure he recognized the organization for respecting his request back in spring training that once the season started, he did not and would not talk about his contract until after the season.
“I want to say thanks to Jim (Crane) and the organization for respecting what I said at spring training,” he said. “They respected that. I’m a free agent and we’ll have some conversations and see where that goes.”
“It’s tough,” Correa added. “I talked to the guys in the clubhouse. It’s a different offseason for me and something I am not used to. I’ll be busy this offseason with my son and it will distract me a little bit with me being a free agent.”
Throughout Correa’s tenure in Houston that began back in 2015, he has been sharing the middle infield with his partner and great friend, Jose Altuve.
“My relationship with Jose is special,” Correa said. “He is my brother for life.”
Correa has long been a fan favorite during his seven seasons in the big leagues with the Astros. He was asked about what his time in Houston has meant to him in his career.
“My time here was amazing.” Correa said. “The seven greatest years of my life. I got here as a boy and turned into a man. Grew in this city and the fans embraced me. Houston is my home and I’m grateful for everybody.”
While the clock will begin ticking down on Correa’s future in Houston, it won’t stop with their shortstop. Manager Dusty Baker’s status will also be a decision that GM James Click and Jim Crane will have to make. Baker’s contract is expired and currently has no deal in place. He would like to return for a third season and beyond but the fact the Astros have not made his future a priority is a strong indicator change could be coming.
Add in the expiring deals of pitchers Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander and this offseason will be interesting to watch.
Spring training starts in just over 90 days in West Palm Beach.