HOUSTON – The Houston Astros agreed to one-year contracts with right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. and infielder Aledmys Díaz on Friday to avoid salary arbitration, but couldn’t come to terms with star shortstop Carlos Correa.
Houston also finalized a $12.5 million, two-year deal with reliever Pedro Báez that includes a club option and could be worth $19.5 million for three seasons. Last season he was 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA and two saves in 18 appearances for the World Series champion Dodgers.
The Astros and Correa exchanged arbitration figures Friday, with Correa asking for $12.5 million in 2021 and Houston offering $9.75 million. The sides could still strike an agreement until an arbitrator hears the case remotely next month and issues a verdict. The arbitrator will go with one number or the other — no settling in the middle.
The 26-year-old Correa batted .264 with five home runs in 58 games last season, a disappointment he erased with a splendid October. He hit .362 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 13 postseason games, pushing the sub-.500 Astros to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series before they lost to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Correa was set to make $8 million in 2020 but ended up with $2,962,963 in prorated pay during the pandemic-shortened season.
McCullers will make $6.5 million next season after a solid year in 2020 in his return after missing a season following Tommy John surgery. McCullers was 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 11 starts last season, earning $1,518,519 prorated from a $4.1 million salary. He'll be one of the leaders of Houston's rotation in 2021 with ace Justin Verlander out all year after having Tommy John surgery.
The 30-year-old Díaz will make $3 million next season. He played just 17 games in an injury-plagued 2020 season. He hit .241 with three homers and six RBIs in his second season in Houston and earned $962,963 prorated from a $2.6 million salary.
In seven seasons with the Dodgers, Báez is 21-15 with a 3.03 ERA in 355 appearances. The right-hander has 369 strikeouts in 356 career innings and has limited opponents to a .206 batting average.
He's been particularly tough on left-handers, holding them to a .181 mark. His best season came in 2019 when he went 7-2 and led the team with 71 appearances and set career bests in wins, opponents' batting average (.174) and WHIP (0.95).
He gets a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $4.5 million this year and $5.5 million in 2022. Houston has a $7.5 million option for 2023 with a $2 million buyout.
Báez's 2022 salary can escalate by $1 million based on innings this year: $250,000 each for 30, 40, 50 and 60. His option would escalate to $8 million if he has 100 innings in 2021 and 2022 combined.
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