MLB Rumour Roundup: Could Correa return to Astros after all?

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa celebrates a home run against the Boston Red Sox during the seventh inning in Game 1 of the 2021 ALCS. (David J. Phillip/AP).

When the MLB lockout officially lifted last Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, fans and media alike were gearing up for a frenzy of transactions after 99 days without news. While the weekend certainly saw some moves — most notably a blockbuster trade that saw Josh Donaldson join the Yankees — many of the biggest names on the free agent market remain unsigned.

With camps officially open and Opening Day less than three weeks away, we expect those players to find new homes soon. But in the meantime, all we have is rumours, so let’s dig into some of those now to try to better understand where the market stands:

Could Carlos Correa return to Houston?

Carlos Correa is arguably the biggest star still on the free agent market — or at least the player with the highest earning potential. He’s already done pretty much everything a player can do and with Corey Seager (10-years, $325M with Rangers) and Francisco Lindor (10-years, $341M with Mets) setting the shortstop market before the lockout, it’s easy to imagine Correa commanding similar numbers.

Which is why news that the Astros remain engaged with his camp is somewhat surprising. Owner Jim Crane confirmed as much Sunday to Mark Berman of Houston’s local Fox affiliate, saying “Our team has reached out to his agent. We’re in discussions.”

Houston’s last known contract offer to Correa before the lockout was for five-years and $160 million, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, which as we addressed above, is much lower than what similar players are commanding. But over the weekend Rosenthal suggested a different way Correa and the Astros could reunite: On a one-year contract worth $45 million.

As Rosenthal reasoned, this hypothetical contract would make Correa the highest-paid player in MLB in 2022 while setting him up for a bigger pay-day next winter, when the financial hardships of the pandemic are less of an issue and big-spending teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs or even Dodgers would be more comfortable bidding for his services.

Will Correa and super-agent Scott Boras pass up on a big payday now? Not likely. But the longer this drags out, one final season with Houston on a shorter-term deal might be the best option for the two-time All-Star.

First-base sweepstakes

Update: The Braves acquired All-Star first baseman Matt Olson from the Oakland A’s, seemingly taking themselves out of the Freddie Freeman sweepstakes.

Freeman remains a free agent despite leading the Braves to a World Series last fall and being the face of that team for his entire 12-year career. But at age 32, term appears to be the sticking point on any contract with Freeman which is why the Dodgers and Yankees continue to circle.

Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters Sunday that he and Freeman spoke after the lockout lifted but not about “business.”

“I was just asking how family was. There was nothing professional or business or anything. Just checking in on him,” Snitker said. “Let’s face it, he’s going to be a good friend the rest of my life, regardless of professionally what happens.”

It seems the first base market will remain frozen until Freeman makes a decision. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees are “pessimistic” Freeman will choose them and a reunion with Anthony Rizzo seems “more realistic.”

Twins still active after trades

The Minnesota Twins have already made three trades in the past week — including adding then subtracting shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa — but it appears they might not be done.

According to Heyman, the Twins have “checked in” on free agent shortstop Trevor Story.

Heyman adds that Story has turned down contracts for over $100 million from teams asking him to move off shortstop. But the Twins have an opening after Andrelton Simmons agreed to a contract with the Cubs on Friday.

Rosenthal reported on Saturday that Story is facing a tough market after taking a step back offensively last season, hitting only 24 home runs to tie a career-low for a full 162-game campaign. For that reason, according to Rosenthal, the 29-year-old is getting offered both long- and short-term contracts and he’ll have to decide how soon he wants to return to the open market.

Big-name closers on the trade block

In the early days of this re-opened off-season, teams have been quick to acquire pitching to leave enough time to build up those arms before Opening Day. But there are some notable relievers who are still possibly available for trades.

The biggest name in that group just might be Brewers closer Josh Hader. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that, according to “rival executives,” the Brewers have put Hader’s name out on the trade market but are asking for a big return. The soon-to-be 28-year-old can’t become a free agent until after the 2023 season, but he has three NL Reliever of the Year awards and would instantly make whatever team he’s on better.

A less expensive option on the trade market could be Craig Kimbrell. The White Sox picked up the veteran’s option for 2022 but, according to Olney, did so “with the intention of trading him.” However, he remains in Chicago for now and his $16 million salary could be a lot for an acquiring team with Kimbrell’s numbers dipping in each of the past three seasons.

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