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Column: Dodgers should sign, ahem, Carlos Correa if Corey Seager goes elsewhere

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa signals after tagging out Chris Taylor on a stolen-base attempt.
Carlos Correa signals after tagging out Chris Taylor on a stolen-base attempt in Game 4 of the 2017 World Series. Should the Dodgers try to sign Correa even though he was among the players at the center of the Astros’ cheating scandal?
(Bob Levey / Getty Images)

For real, all this talk about the five Dodgers free agents is only about one free agent.

He’s the only one who is a World Series MVP entering the prime of his career, the only one who carried the Dodgers to a championship from the most important position in the batting order, the only clubhouse fixture who can reasonably pass the Dodgers’ title torch from the last seven years to the next seven years.

This winter is all about Corey Seager, and the Dodgers need to do everything within their financial power to re-sign him, but legendary battler Scott Boras is his agent, he’ll be asking for the moon, it’s going to be tough, and what if they can’t? What if they don’t?

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Swallow hard and hear me out.

If Corey Seager cannot play shortstop and anchor their attack next season, the Dodgers need to find somebody who will.

Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman discussed during the general managers meetings the payroll hurdles the team faces if they want to retain several top players.

That somebody needs to be Carlos Correa.

I can’t believe I just wrote those words. I can’t believe I’m writing this column. I can absolutely believe the reaction of Dodgers fans when they read it.

It will be something like Joe Kelly screaming at Correa to, “Shut the f— up!”

Truly, this reads like madness. This space has spent the last two years painting the cheating 2017 Houston Astros as evil incarnate, and now I’m proposing the Dodgers might eventually pursue the face of that scandal?

Gulp, wince, yes.

Inarguably, this reads like clickbait. The Correa-led Astros cheated the Dodgers out of a World Series championship, indelibly affecting careers and changing legacies, yet now I’m proposing they put the free agent in a Dodgers uniform?

If they can’t retain Seager, well, sigh, yeah.

To those who say they can just replace Seager with Trea Turner, I would point to a .228 career postseason average with a .561 postseason on-base-plus-slugging percentage and a lousy recent October. Turner, who has one more year left on his contract, has not proven to be the big-game hitter the Dodgers desperately need.

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa hits a two-run double against the Chicago White Sox.
Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa hits a two-run double against the Chicago White Sox during Game 2 of the ALDS on Oct. 8.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Correa, meanwhile, has a .849 career OPS in the postseason with such a penchant for big hits, after a recent playoff homer against the Boston Red Sox he patted his wrist and screamed to his teammates, “It’s my time!”

This is indeed Correa’s time, and if Seager doesn’t show up, the Dodgers should nab him, even if every shred of anecdotal evidence involving the team’s fans and players says no.

First, the fans. They’re initially going to hate this, and hate me for even bringing it up. Correa was booed and jeered at Chavez Ravine last August like no player in recent history. Fans accompanied his every move with the chant of “cheater.” They threw his batting practice homers back on the field before the game and threw balls at him during the game. It was ugly and unsettling to everyone, it seemed, but Correa.

You remember how he responded, right? In two games he had two hits, scored two runs, and bombed a long home run that he celebrated while running around the bases with his hand cupped to his ear.

Those games, like many in a season in which he was booed every waking minute on the road and yet produced a career-high 26 homers and the American League’s second-best wins-above-replacement number of 7.2, Correa again showed he is quite possibly baseball’s toughest player.

Then there’s the clubhouse. The Dodgers have been clear in their dislike of him from the beginning of the scandal, when he engaged in a war of words with Cody Bellinger.

Clayton Kershaw should spend his 15th season in the league and the rest of his career with the Dodgers, writes columnist Dylan Hernández.

Said Bellinger: “Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

Said Correa to the Athletic: “Cody, you don’t know the facts … if you don’t know the facts, then you’ve got to shut the f— up.”

The animosity became tangible when the teams met in Houston in the summer of 2020 for the first time since they played the World Series there. In the sixth inning of their first game, Kelly threw over Correa’s head, he threw another pitch inside, then he struck him flailing to end the inning and set off one of the more memorable taunts in Dodgers history.

As Correa walked away complaining to the umpire, Kelly pursed his lips like a pouting baby and shouted, “Nice swing, b—” before shouting Correa back to the dugout with, “Shut the f— up!”

It was such a heroic moment for Dodgers fans, folks made T-shirts. And now you’re going to ask Correa to share locker space with Bellinger and the rest of them?

Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly, left, and Houston Astros batter Carlos Correa exchange words.
Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly, left, and Houston Astros batter Carlos Correa exchange words during a game at Minute Maid Park in July 2020.
(Bob Levey / Getty Images)

That’s about as wild as the news that the New York Yankees, who were also cheated by the Astros and whose slugger Aaron Judge has also publicly feuded with Correa, are nonetheless seriously interested in acquiring him.

Baseball front offices get it. Baseball players get it. Here’s guessing fans will eventually get it. In an odd twist, the outrage over the cheating scandal has brought out the best in the 27-year-old Correa, and organizations want that in their room.

He’s never played better. He’s never been a better leader, speaking out constantly in defense of quieter-but-equally-harassed teammates Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. He’s never been more resilient, the most booed athlete in any sport deftly handling the nightly hate. He’s never been better in the community, this is not a Trevor Bauer situation here, not even close.

Yes, the guy was a lousy cheater whose stealing helped cost the Dodgers a World Series championship. But five seasons later, this might be the right time for him to come here and make amends.

Still can’t accept him? Check the history books.

The Dodgers did not offer pitcher Clayton Kershaw a qualifying offer, but team president Andrew Friedman said they definitely want him to return.

In 1975, the Dodgers signed Juan Marichal a decade after he hit John Roseboro in the head with a bat, which is a little more serious than banging a trash can.

From 2001 to 2003, the Dodgers enlisted Jack Clark as their hitting coach even though he was one of the most hated opposing hitters and the author of a playoff home run that will haunt the franchise forever.

Carlos Correa wouldn’t be the first Dodgers villain to wear Dodgers blue, and he probably won’t be the last.

If Corey Seager isn’t retained, it might seem crazy to think the Dodgers would go after Correa.

In reality, it’s crazy to think they wouldn’t.


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