The hole at shortstop has been the biggest point of discussion amongst Atlanta Braves fans this offseason. Coming into the offseason, the general consensus was that the Braves should and are going to resign Dansby Swanson and that would be that. But with recent reports projecting that the AAV for Dansby’s future contract could be around $30 million, questions have started to roll in to whether Dansby will be a Brave in 2023, and many are feeling a bit of deja vu with the Freddie Freeman situation last offseason.
There is a surplus of elite shortstops that are free agents this offseason which the Braves could pursue assuming they move on from Dansby Swanson. We have already discussed the prospect of bringing Trea Turner to Atlanta. While signing Turner may seem enticing, The Braves should consider using the excess funds they have and make Carlos Correa, who recently opted-out of his contract with the Twins, the next shortstop in Atlanta.
Why Carlos Correa is a good fit for the Atlanta Braves
Carlos Correa might be the most talented shortstop in the MLB. I know many fans don’t like Correa because of the Astros cheating scandal and how he handled the aftermath which is understandable, but his talent is undeniable. Few players have been able to splash onto the scene and become a star immediately like Correa did.
Correa made his debut in 2015 with the Astros and hasn’t looked back since. In his rookie year, Correa produced an impressive .279/.345/.512/.857 slash line through 99 games. His great 2015 season earned him AL rookie of the year. Since that season, Correa has continued to produce at a high level at the plate, as well as develop into a good shortstop. In 2016, Statcast attributed -18 Outs Above Average to Correa, a number you don’t want to see your franchise shortstop producing. Just two years later however, Statcast gave Correa 23 outs above average for the 2018 season, which was not only much better than his 2016 season, but just elite in general.
Correa continued to have many great seasons and improve as a player in Houston before having his best season yet in 2021. In 2021, Correa was selected as an All-Star, won a Gold Glove, and finished fifth in AL MVP voting, the highest of his career, as well as led his team to the World Series before being defeated by the Braves. If it wasn’t clear before, Correa’s 2021 season proved he is more than capable of being a top 10 player in the MLB. After his near-MVP season with the Astros, Correa signed with the Minnesota Twins before the 2022 season and national talks surrounding Correa began to die down, but not at a fault of his own.
Correa quietly had another great season in 2022. Correa posted a slash line of .291/.366/.467/.834 with a WRC+ of 140. His WRC+ was tied for the 17th highest in the league, with Andres Gimenez and Jose Ramirez, and his OPS ranked as the 19th highest in the league. If it isn’t clear, Correa offers elite hitting at the shortstop position, something the Braves have not had in over a decade. Many have been so adamant on resigning Dansby Swanson because of his offensive surge this past season, but even Dansby’s best hitting season, which is 2022, would be a bottom three hitting season for Correa.
Correa’s defense did dip a bit this past season. According to Statcast and FanGraphs, Correa posted a negative three outs above average and three defensive runs saved, a slight dip from 2021 when he posted 11 outs above average and 20 defensive runs saved. His average defensive season in 2022 seems to be just a flukey down year, but if not, the Braves have an infield wizard named Ron Washington who should be able to help Correa figure it out.
Carlos Correa is also just 28 years old and still seems to have plenty of years of prime left. If you were going to invest in a somewhat long-term contract for a shortstop, Correa is the perfect age to do so. Correa is actually around seven months younger than Swanson, so there should be zero concern surrounding his age.
How much will he play and how much will he cost?
One thing that will be a bit of obstacle for the Braves is Correa’s asking price. Spotrac currently estimates Correa’s market value at $31.7 million AAV, a bit higher than what is estimated for other available shortstops like Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts. Spotrac also estimates Correa’s contract to be around 8 years $245 million, an extremely large commitment for the Braves. While it may seem outlandish for the Braves to commit that much for a player, they will more than likely have to commit to at least $20-25 million AAV for other elite shortstops, including Dansby Swanson. If you are going to pay that much, why not up the price a couple million dollars and get one of the most elite players in the game.
There is somewhat of a widespread conception that Correa cannot play a full season. However, over the past three seasons, Correa missed a total of 42 games. An average of 14 games missed per year is completely normal and should not raise any sort of concern about his health. While he has missed a decent amount of games in the past, Correa has had only one season in which he played less than 100 games, excluding his rookie year when he didn’t debut until June and still played 99 games.
Committing to Carlos Correa will be a tough pill for many to swallow, especially considering his price will be upwards of $30 million in AAV. His price is steep, but he offers elite hitting and defense comparable to Dansby Swanson, which is worth the price to me. With that being said, Correa is the perfect candidate to take over as shortstop in Atlanta and could cement the Braves’ infield as the best in the league.