CHICAGO — On this, Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone can all agree:
When it comes to Carlos Correa, they’re not here to talk about the past.
The Yankees managing general partner, speaking Wednesday at the Major League Baseball owners’ meetings, echoed sentiments voiced previously by his general manager and manager regarding Correa, the free agent likely to earn the most this winter
“He’s obviously a great talent,” Steinbrenner said. “And look, I think hopefully most people have moved on from that. I think it’s only healthy to move on from things like that instead of stewing on it year after year. But people are going to have the opinion that they have about that particular player.
“But in general, we are going to look at every single option. It’s the same thing we do every year … if [Brian Cashman] brings something to me, I’m going to seriously consider it.”
The “that” mentioned by Steinbrenner would be the sign-stealing scandal that enveloped the 2017 Astros and engulfed the sport in the wake of its 2019 revelation and Rob Manfred’s 2020 report on it. Its embers still flared in 2021, as witnessed when the Astros visited Yankee Stadium (just ask the tens of thousands of angry fans on site) and when the Yankees visited Minute Maid Park (just ask Aaron Judge).
So what are we to make of the Yankees’ power trio making nice-nice with Correa, who just recently dumped on the franchise’s greatest shortstop Derek Jeter?
I think it’s just window dressing. I still would be very surprised if the Yankees anointed Correa as their next shortstop.
Think about who benefits by the Yankees publicly acknowledging Correa as an option to fill their biggest need of the offseason:
1. Correa: The more suitors (or at least apparent suitors) for his services, the higher the 27-year-old and his new agency, the one on the verge of losing Billy Eppler to the Mets, can drive up his price.
2. The Yankees: They do sincerely want a shortstop after the Gleyber Torres venture fizzled worse than the “Murphy Brown” reboot. It’s just that other members of this free-agent class, notably Corey Seager (hits lefty) and Marcus Semien (more versatile) seem to fit better even before you account for Correa’s sign-stealing ways. So it behooves them and their leverage to seem to be involved in talks with multiple candidates.
3. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association: The PA absolutely, understandably hates when teams declare themselves out on free agents, as the Yankees briefly did three years ago with Bryce Harper before backtracking for political cover. Because the PA hates it, MLB, facing enough tension in its relationship with the players — particularly now, with the collective bargaining agreement weeks from expiring — also hates it and strongly discourages its clubs from making such proclamations.
On the flip side, who would benefit from the Yankees publicly bowing out of the Correa sweepstakes? Obviously the other teams trying to sign Correa (the Tigers and Rangers still have to be regarded as the favorites) and the other free-agent shortstops, with Javier Baez and Trevor Story joining Correa, Seager and Semien in that tier. It’s not their lucky day.
If Correa winds up a Yankee, working through any lingering resentments inside and outside the team and convincing Steinbrenner that he’s worth the sizable investment, tune here for a mea culpa (it wouldn’t be the first). Yet what we’ve seen so far doesn’t feel like a recruitment. It feels like track-covering, innocuous verbal bouquets, words as actions before the real action occurs.
It’s one thing to shrug off the past. It’s another to actively push it aside. We’ll see if the Yankees actually take such a giant leap with such a gigantic commitment.