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Phillies shortstop search: Carlos Correa is a proven hitter, but is he durable enough?

Correa is adept at getting on base and his defense is strong enough. The question is whether he can stay healthy over the course of a long-term deal.

Shortstop Carlos Correa batted .291 with 22 home runs for the Twins this season.
Shortstop Carlos Correa batted .291 with 22 home runs for the Twins this season.Read moreCarlos Osorio / AP

Last in a four-part series on the star free-agent shortstops who are expected to draw interest from numerous teams, including the Phillies.

When shortstop Carlos Correa opted out of his three year, $105 million deal with the Minnesota Twins this offseason, he sent a clear message to the rest of the baseball world: He thinks he is worth more, and is willing to test that theory in the free-agent market.

Luckily for Correa, there are teams out there — like the Phillies — who are willing to pay big to get what they need, but the question is whether Correa fits that mold. He reportedly wants a deal in the eight-year range, and while Correa is young — he turned 28 on Sept. 22 — his durability could be questioned.

» READ MORE: Phillies shortstop search: Dansby Swanson is elite on defense and a leader, but he’s a streaky hitter

The shortstop played 136 regular-season games in 2022 and 148 games in 2021 but just 75 in 2019 and 110 in 2018. Correa has a lengthy injury history that includes serious back discomfort that sidelined him for parts of 2018 and 2019 seasons. While he is undoubtedly athletic, signing him to an eight-year deal would involve some risk.

Correa’s main strength lies in his offense — particularly his ability to get on base. He posted a 140 OPS+ in 2022, and his .366 on-base percentage ranked second among all big league shortstops (behind Xander Bogaerts’ .377). He has good plate discipline — walking at a 10.3% clip in 2022, which, like his OBP, ranked second among all MLB shortstops — and he ranked third among that group in batting average at .291.

The other side of his game is a more complicated story. Correa’s defensive metrics took a dip this past season, but talent evaluators said the eye test suggested that his defense was better than the numbers indicated. In 2022, Correa saw his outs above average fall from 12 to minus-3, and his defensive runs saved fall from 20 to three. This was an unexpected change, given that Correa was rated the third-best defensive shortstop from 2018-21 with a plus-49 OAA. (Outs above average is a range-based metric that shows how many outs a player has saved. Defensive runs saved measures a player’s entire defensive performance by attempting to measure how many runs a defender saved.)

» READ MORE: Phillies’ shortstop search: Xander Bogaerts’ offense is elite, but will he need to change positions?

Nevertheless, given Correa’s overall track record, and his strong arm, there is reason to believe that the dip was a product of fluky plays, rather than an overall defensive decline.

Off the field, Correa is known for his leadership (and his involvement in the 2017 Astros cheating scandal, but we’ll get to that in a moment). Following his seven seasons in Houston, he came to Minnesota and quickly stepped into a leadership role. He used both his bilingual skills — Correa is a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico — and his deep knowledge of the game to bring the clubhouse together. He established himself as a face-of-the-franchise type of player.

The Phillies already have a face of the franchise in Bryce Harper, which could make Philadelphia less of an appealing landing spot, from Correa’s perspective. But his leadership skills would be more than welcome. And he already has a familiar face in backup catcher Garrett Stubbs, who played with Correa in Houston from 2019-21.

Five years after the Astros won the 2017 World Series, Correa is still synonymous with the team’s cheating scandal, mainly because he was up front about it. He admitted on camera in February 2020 that he used the team’s trash can-banging system to anticipate which pitches were coming, and there’s no denying that Correa benefited from it. He batted a career high .315 that season, with 24 home runs, a .391 on-base percentage and a .941 OPS.

» READ MORE: Phillies’ shortstop search: Trea Turner would bring speed, solid contact to a power-packed offense

The shortstop also confronted the hostility that came in the months after the cheating scandal broke, in a way that his former Astros teammates did not. Correa was more willing to call out other players around the league when they began to criticize the Astros.

Of the four big-name free-agent shortstops on the market, there are certainly better fits for the Phillies than Correa. But his ability to get on base would be a big asset for them, and as long as he stays healthy, he should be able to provide good defense at shortstop for several years.