Carlos Correa prepares for what could be his farewell with the Astros

HOUSTON – Carlos Correa seems resigned to what now seems inevitable.

After being a Houston Astro since he was 17 years old, his time with the team is likely nearing its expiration date, which will likely end when the club finishes the playoffs.

“This is my house,” he said. “But it’s not up to me.”

Correa will become a free agent after the season, and the Astros appear unwilling to pay him what another team will likely do. The parties negotiated in the offseason to no avail, and the star shortstop cut off the talks when the season began so they weren’t a distraction.

He certainly hasn’t looked worried on the field this year, hitting 26 home runs and leading all position players with 7.2 overall WAR and 2.9 defensive WAR.

But as the Astros, the AL West champions, prepare to play the Chicago White Sox in their best-of-five divisional series starting Thursday, the possibility that these will be Correa’s last games with the team is very big.

“I just hope there is a way to retain and sign Carlos, because he is a huge part of this team, not just on the field, but he is one of the true leaders,” manager Dusty Baker said.

General manager James Click deflected talks about Correa’s future on Tuesday.

“Right now, we are focused on the postseason,” he said. “We will address the rest when we can.”

With his future in limbo, Correa reflected on what this team has meant to him as he went from boy to man. He remembered the day in 2012 when the Astros drafted him in the first inning. And the overwhelming feelings that enveloped him the moment he set foot in Minute Maid Park shortly after that.

“I felt like it was still a dream and I couldn’t wait to be here, playing full time,” he reflected.

Correa knew what was expected of him from day one and took on the challenge of helping turn around a franchise that lost 107 games the year he was drafted.

“When you get selected on the first shift, I feel like all the pressure should be on you to improve this organization,” he said. “During my time here I have fulfilled and I have done good things for this organization. Winning a championship was at the height of that, but also representing this team in the right way off the field, that makes me proud ”.

Perhaps the only person close to Correa who is optimistic that he will be close next year is good friend José Altuve. Second baseman constantly tells his friend that they will find a way to keep him dressed in orange and navy.

“But he doesn’t write the checks, he doesn’t negotiate the contracts,” Correa said.

Then your face lights up when another thought enters your mind.

“But he has power in this organization, so we’ll see what happens,” Correa added.

The Astros don’t have a history of spending a lot on free agents. The most Jim Crane has paid a free agent was a four-year, $ 52 million deal with outfielder Josh Reddick in 2017.

That number wouldn’t even scratch the surface of what Correa expects to get paid. He says his friend and fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor set the market for the job when he landed a 10-year, $ 341 million deal with the New York Mets before this season.

When asked if that’s the kind of deal he’s looking for, Correa doesn’t answer directly. Instead, he notes that his career WAR (34.1) is higher than Lindor’s (31.1) and he has had about 800 fewer at-bats.

“So that should tell you a lot,” he commented.

Correa won the American League Rookie of the Year in 2015 and quickly became a face of the franchise as the Astros returned to respectability. He was one of the main protagonists when they won their first World Series in 2017 and was quick to atone for the team’s misdeeds when their signal theft scandal was uncovered.

He has been exactly what the club needed throughout, doing his best to deliver on the promise the Astros saw in him so many years ago.

He wants to stay, but insists he is not hurt by the fact that the Astros have yet to make sure he will.

“They have to do what they have to do to help this organization move in the right direction,” he said. “We built something special here, so I would love to be a part of that for years to come. But I understand how the business works, so there will never be hard feelings. “

So this week, instead of worrying about the future, Correa will enjoy what could be his last playoff run in the city he has come to love. The 27-year-old, whom Baker refers to as “Big-game Carlos,” thrives as the stage gets bigger this time of year.

“Playing baseball is what we live for,” he said. “The sense of urgency that if you don’t win the games you go home lights a fire in our clubhouse. We want to show up and show ourselves … So I can’t wait. “

And if this is his last career with the Astros, nothing would make Correa happier than winning a second title out of town.

“That would be the perfect parting gift,” he said.