Correa, a free agent at the end of the season, said he doesn’t want contract negotiations to spill into the regular season and serve as a distraction. The Astros avoided arbitration with Correa on Feb. 6 by signing him to an $11.7 million deal for 2021, and Correa said Monday neither he nor his agent had heard from the Astros since in terms of a possible contract extension.
“If the Astros want to extend me, I would like to get it done before the season starts,” he said. “I feel good, my body feels great and I feel I’m going to have such a great season. Once the season starts, I don’t want to be involved and distracted with those conversations.”
Last month, Astros general manager James Click said the club was “very open” to an extension for Correa. If Correa does reach free agency, he would be 27 years old and the youngest from among a talented group of potential free-agent shortstops next winter: Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez, Trevor Story and Corey Seager.
“I’ll be really young,” he said. “I’ll be one of the youngest players going to free agency next year. I feel like it would take the right deal to stay here. I’m not going to sell myself short, but at the same time, I know what I’m worth. If the season happens, I’m expecting to have a great, healthy season, which will help my case for free agency being the youngest shortstop out there. We’ll see how it goes.”
When it was reported last week that 22-year-old Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. had agreed to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension, Correa tweeted: “Love to see it. Congrats Fernando.”
The Astros signed second baseman Jose Altuve to a five-year, $151 million extension prior to the 2018 season and third baseman Alex Bregman to a six-year, $100 million extension prior to ’19 under former general manager Jeff Luhnow. Altuve’s contract remains the biggest in club history.
Houston was unable to keep outfielder George Springer, who signed with the Blue Jays this winter. Altuve, Correa, Bregman and Springer made up the Astros’ homegrown position-player core that led the team to the 2017 World Series.
“I’m not scared of free agency,” Correa said. “I feel like this is a team I grew up in. I feel like this is my team, and I feel like I belong here. They have to feel the same way. If they feel the same way, we can get something done. It would be great. If they don’t, I understand that’s how the business works, and we’ll have to move on. At the end of the day, it will be a business. At the same time, I feel this is my town and my team, and I want to represent this organization for a long time.”
Correa hit .264/.326/.383 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 58 games in the regular season last year before batting .362/.455/.766 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 13 games in an electric postseason. Correa said he figured out something with his swing in the postseason and is excited about the thoughts of carrying those changes into the 2021 regular season.
“My swing feels great,” he said. “I figured out something last year that helped me in the playoffs, and it’s going to translate this year. I’m super confident going into the season with what we have. I feel really good.”
Last year, Correa also emerged as the leader of the Astros on the field and off. He vehemently defended the ability of his teammates last spring in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal. Plus, Correa was an American League Gold Glove Award finalist after making just tone error in 212 chances in the regular season and leading the AL in defensive runs saved.
Correa didn’t rule out the possibility of moving to third base later in his career. Bregman is under contract through 2024, but he played shortstop at LSU and made 65 appearances at short in ’19 when Correa was out with an injury.
“I would love to stay here and play third base if that’s the case,” Correa said. “It’s just a position I also enjoy, but I’m the one [from among the potential 2021 free-agent shortstop class] who has the option to play shortstop, third base and play defense at a high level and produce power at the plate and can hit.”
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Puerto Rico, Correa made his Major League debut on June 8, 2015, at 20 years old and won the ’15 AL Rookie of the Year Award. Over the next six years, he hit .276 with 107 homers and 397 RBIs and an .833 OPS in 604 games, and was the starting shortstop for the AL in the ’17 MLB All-Star Game.
Correa has battled injuries in his career and played in just 75 games in 2019 after sustaining a rib fracture and the reoccurrence of a back injury. He stayed healthy during last year’s pandemic-shortened season and played in 58 of a possible 60 regular-season games.