When it comes to loving Carlos Correa, Astros’ actions don’t match words

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Seven days ago, in the bowels of the only stadium he ever called home, Carlos Correa’s free agency began. He addressed a saddened clubhouse after a World Series loss. He talked about his tenure with Astros in the past tense.

A reporter asked if Correa had any hope that the team would “step up” or “meet him halfway through” in his contract demands. Correa thanked owner Jim Crane and general manager James Click for honoring his request not to negotiate during the season. He didn’t really answer either question.

Only one route offered the Astros a realistic chance of keeping Correa. They chose the other in the first place.

Houston’s five-year $160 million bid is perhaps half what Correa will command in the open market. It’s not nearly competitive enough to grab Correa’s attention. He is 27 and has said on multiple occasions that he is locked into a ‘big, long contract’. The industry-wide expectation is that Correa will receive eight or ten years and about $300 million in total.

During the general manager’s meetings on Tuesday, Click declined to comment on the offer, but confirmed Crane’s confirmation of the numbers to KHOU-TV on Saturday night. The whole leak smacks of a public relations ploy to placate the Astros’ fanbase and assure them that there was an attempt — uncompetitive as it may seem — to re-sign Correa.

Jerome Solomon, Brian T. Smith and Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle discuss the Astros’ 2021 season, Dusty Baker’s return, and major off-season issues. Video: Houston Chronicle

There is time left for the Astros to move closer to Correa’s market value. Nothing during Crane’s tenure suggests they will. Last week, Crane claimed that “we kind of know what (Correa) is looking for.” He spoke of Houston’s “formula” and hoped the team could give Correa something to fit into it. Crane has never lasted more than four years in a free-agent deal. Obviously he has to blow past it to keep Correa.

Houston had exclusive negotiating rights with Correa for five days—the time between the Astros’ loss in Game 6 of the World Series and the official start of free agency on Sunday. It apparently delivered an offer that would not influence Correa.

On Tuesday, Click again called it a “priority” to re-sign Correa. At some point, action must follow. Astros officials followed a similar script with the free agency of Dallas Keuchel, George Springer and Gerrit Cole.

“If we have to turn and go in a different direction,” Click said, “we’ll be assessing internal and external options.”

Given the aforementioned reluctance of the Astros for long-term, lucrative free-agent deals, it seems they won’t be realistic candidates for other elite shortstops in the market. Corey Seager gets a contract similar to Correa’s. Trevor Story, Marcus Semien and Javier Baez are just among them, but are still looking for big deals. The loss of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke’s salaries gave the Astros money to spend this winter.

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