Last night, top free agent Carlo Correa provided disadvantaged baseball fans with the first news in weeks when he announced his decision change representation and hire mega agent Scott Boras. Of course, after over a month of a lockout between the owners of MLB and their Players’ Association, we can’t expect a resolution for Correa’s free agency any time soon. But eventually spring will come, compromises will be made and accepted, and Correa will be paid – we can only hope so.

Once normality returns, Correa will easily be the best player available. He was extremely productive in the final year of his contract, winning his first gold (and platinum) glove and finishing fifth in the American League MVP race while posting .850 OPS for pennant-winning Astros. After seven years, Correa’s time at Houston seems to be over as he has turned down multiple renewals that have not lived up to his expectations. Correa is reportedly asking somewhere in the 10-year range of $320 million, similar to the deals Francisco Lindor last year and Corey Seeger In December.

Such a high price obviously rules out a number of teams and two of the more funded clubs have already found their match, with Seager moving to Rangers and picking up the Tigers Javier Baez. That being said, a player with Correa’s skills will always have admirers. Five teams Reportedly in contact with Correa at the end of November were: the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves. At this point, the most likely contenders seem to be the Dodgers, Yankees, and Cubs. Here are some key considerations for all five.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are certainly no stranger to landing blue-chip plays, and have consistently opened their wallets throughout their recent dominance. Correa, who just lost his star shortstop in Seager, looks like a reasonable replacement, if not an improvement. However, the Dodgers already have a worldwide shortstop Trea Turner, who arrived at the close of trade from the Nationals.

Turner played almost exclusively as a runner-up for his new club but would likely fall short again next season. This would consistently create space for former top prospects Gavin Lux at second base, although he may have to contend with a Super Utilityman ChrisTaylor — fresh off a four-year extension — unless Taylor is otherwise needed. Lux has been extremely volatile in 2021, and if he remains in the Dodgers’ long-term plans, it seems reasonable that they would prioritize his playing time. The Dodgers essentially have to decide whether to spend big bucks on Correa or Turner, as the latter will surely seek a similar offer when his contract expires after this season.

Regardless of which direction they go, the Dodgers will struggle with the luxury tax threshold as usual; They are expected to pay $214 million in salaries in 2022, the second-highest in MLB. It’s worth noting that this cap is likely to change as part of the ongoing negotiations between the owners and the Players’ Association. However, it is hard to imagine that it would increase so dramatically as to become a non-factor.

However, there is more at stake here than just money and game time. Correas Astros faced the Dodgers in the World Series five years ago, beating them in seven hard-fought games. Of course, it later emerged that the Astros hitters had less than legal support during that season. After that, ahead of the 2020 season, Dodgers Reliever came to light Yo Kelly reacted at the first meeting of the teams, throwing Correa after him and making Correa the now infamous pout. Correa shouted back a few words and the benches soon cleared. Kelly and the Dodgers didn’t strike a new deal prior to the lockout, but many Dodgers remain from the saga. It’s hard to imagine that the team chemistry will not have both the front office and Correa himself in mind.

New York Yankees

With Gleyber Torres Moving full-time to second base, the way is clear for Correa to face him. GM Brian Cashman certainly didn’t mince his words when he told reporters in November that the team needed to “upgrade” at that position. Yankees Twitter even blew up as Astros catcher a few months ago Martin Maldonado posted a picture of Correa in front of Madison Square Garden with the caption “He’s ready.”

Aside from the Easter eggs, Correa in Pinstripes poses similar problems to a Los Angeles deal. The Astros beat the Yankees in the ALCS en route to their 2017 title and star outfielder Aaron Richter has been particularly frank on the subject. Cashman has done his best to allay concerns by saying Correa’s story would not play a role in the team’s decision to make an offer.

Speaking of Judge, the team will have to consider the massive extension he warrants if they hope to keep him in the Bronx beyond this season. New York is expected to have baseball’s third-biggest payroll in 2022, right behind the Dodgers at $211 million. This would already exceed the pre-lockout luxury tax threshold for the coming season. However, since they’ve only committed to $108 million in 2023, the possibility of a backloading deal remains.

Payroll aside, a Correa signing would force the front office to expect the backlog ahead of Anthony Volpe (the Yankees’ top prospect, 15th overall in MLB). However, should Torres continue to struggle (he posted 0.8 bWAR in 2021), the Yankees could move him and ask the 5’11-inch Volpe to move to second.

Chicago Cubs

It’s hard to believe the Cubs are just months away from a 91-loss season in which they even delivered franchise stars Anthony Rizzo, Chris Bryant, and Baez from the North Side. However, Baseball Operations President Jed Hoyer has publicly emphasized that they are “retrofitting” and hoping to avoid a multi-year rebuilding process. They also seem willing to put some cash into this goal since they’ve already signed Markus Stroman to a $71 million deal. Stroman immediately began recruiting himself, tweeting Correa to join him in Chicago.

The Cubs make sense here. With an expected salary of $98 million in 2022, they’re far better placed to offer a long-term, high-AAV deal than either the Dodgers or the Yankees. Notably, there’s also a lot less personal history related to the Astros cheating scandal. Correa would also have a chance to be the true face of the franchise, a role he’s consistently had just a share of while starring alongside names like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Gerrit Kohl.

Of course, there is an inherent downside as well. By leaving his dominant Astros teammates for a much weaker team, Correa will accept a serious downgrade in his playoff chances and lineup protection (a nonexistent impediment to an NYY or LAD deal). Frank swindle and Jan Happ are both prolific players, but they are no Julia Gurriel and Jordan Alvarez. This will be an interesting year for the Cubs – they have a decent young core but it’s hard to imagine Stroman and Correa would be enough to make them competitive. Maybe management can convince him there are more moves on the horizon, or maybe Correa doesn’t really care – only time will tell.

Boston Red Sox

While Boston has traditionally been one of those countries willing to spend big, that trend has reversed somewhat in recent years. Since being hired in 2020, director of baseball operations Chaim Bloom has focused on smaller deals, due at least in part to owners’ desire to stay below the luxury tax threshold. That directive prompted the team to trade in a franchise-defining talent Mookie Betts in 2020.

With that in mind, it’s a little hard to imagine the team would be willing to offer Correa a similar deal to the one they didn’t want to give Betts, a homegrown, beloved and superior player. The Red Sox already have a massive shortstop Xander Bogaerts. While Boston could follow the Dodgers’ model and move one shortstop to second, Bogaerts — unlike Seager or Turner — is under a long-term contract. However, he has a player opt-out after 2022 and being forced to move positions could ease that decision.

Atlanta Braves

Given the fact that the defending champions had one of the most productive infields in the league last year, it’s not immediately clear how Correa would contribute. Second baseman Ozzie Albies is under contract until 2028 and shortstop Dansby Swanson and third baseman Austin Riley are both still arbitrable. Swanson is the most agile of the bunch and is set to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in 2023. With that in mind, it’s difficult to get to any conclusions as far as the Braves’ motivations Freddie Freeman‘s future with the team is settled.

Dark Horse candidates

A number of other teams could eventually make the call to move all in for Correa. He is young, remarkably talented and has a wealth of experience and October achievements. The Tigers could opt for a supercharged middle infield and play Baez second. The Marlins may decide this is the moment to embark on their resurgence. Perhaps the Mets will continue their offseason with another big signing. For now, however, we’re groping in the dark; Here’s hoping we know something – anything – soon.

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted from Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on twitter)