Two-time All Star shortstop Carlos Correa became a free agent after opting out after the first season of a three year contract with the Minnesota Twins, a move that was expected from the moment that opt out was revealed. The 28 year old’s market was cooler than expected last season, mostly due in part to contending teams not needing a shortstop, resulting in the short term commitment with the Twins in order to keep his options open and try the free agent market when the conditions better suited him.
Many wanted the Baltimore Orioles to pursue Correa last winter for two reasons. One, he’s really good at baseball. Two, Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias, then a Houston Astros front office employee, is credited as being the voice in the Astros draft room that ultimately led them to choose Correa. The Orioles chose not to engage, deciding that it was too soon in the rebuilding process to commit significant cash to the MLB payroll.
One season and 83 wins later, the Baltimore Orioles landscape has transformed and they are now in a prime addition to splash money on upgrades to the big league roster. Sources have told me that they wouldn’t be surprised to see the Orioles walk away with one of the “big four” free agent shortstops (Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson) and given the known affinity Elias has for Correa, would he be the perfect fit for the Baltimore Orioles?
Carlos Correa would give the Orioles a bona fide superstar at the shortstop position.
Correa is a known commodity to baseball fans far and wide, as the guy has been a superstar shortstop since he arrived in Houston in 2015. In that time, he’s made two All Star appearances and won the 2017 World Series (say what you will about that), and only 15 players (three shortstops) have accumulated more fWAR. His 130 wRC+ is 32nd highest in baseball since 2015. Among shortstops, he ranks third in on base percentage (.357), fifth in home runs (155), eighth in runs (508), and sixth in slugging percentage (.479) during the same timeframe.
Correa seamlessly fuses his advanced plate discipline with his ability to crush baseballs. His expected wOBA and expected slugging are in the 93rd and 92nd percentiles, respectively. He’s in the upper third of hitters when it comes to average exit velocity but when he gets one on the barrel, he can hit it as hard as just about anyone; only 22 MLB players hit a ball harder than this 114.6 MPH missile. Correa really should’ve been given an extra base for that, what a cruel single.
Worried that Camden Yards would nerf him? Fear not, sweet angel. Baltimore’s new dimensions only would’ve cost Carlos Correa two home runs. When he gets a hold of one, it’s generally far enough to leave any park.
Carlos Correa’s spray chart with Camden Yards superimposed. Source: Baseball Savant
Correa boasts an acute sense of the strike zone and a 10.7% career walk rate you would expect to accompany it. Basically, that means Correa walks roughly 20% more than the average player throughout a season. He’s not entirely strikeout-proof, but he’s rarely going to kill a rally with a free swinging plate appearance.
Correa’s chase rate has consistently rested below league average. Source: Baseball Savant
Carlos Correa’s defensive decline in 2022 could be a red flag for the Baltimore Orioles.
Defense has been a pillar of Correa’s game, even winning a Gold Glove in 2021, but his defensive metrics declined sharply last season to the point of alarm. Correa was in the 97th percentile of qualified defenders in Outs Above Average in 2021. In 2022, he was in the bottom fifth of all defenders regardless of position. What on earth happened? Let’s take a closer look:
Source: Baseball Savant
Almost everything appears in line with his career trends except one area: Correa struggled mightily on plays wherein he had to move to his left. If this decline on plays requiring lateral movement persists, a full-time move to second base would be almost certain considering the length of the contract Correa will command, though he could become just as good of a defender there as he’s been at short.
Carlos Correa could very well end up the highest paid free agent in terms of total dollars – Spotrac projects he will receive an 8 year, $254 million deal. Would that be a wise investment for a player whose defense is potentially in a precipitous decline?
Well, yes. He’s still an elite hitter at his position whether he moves to second base or stays at shortstop. His batted ball statistics have reminded constant throughout his career, which he’s still in the prime of.
Secondly, Correa could demand another contract with opt-outs, giving the team and the player more flexibility. He could very well want to test free agency again in his early 30’s to secure a payday into his 40’s.
Thirdly. The vibes on Orioles Twitter would be absolutely sensational. Many a candle emoji circles have been lit yearning for this day that it just feels right. Carlos Correa for the vibes!