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Major League Baseball's owner-imposed lockout ended on Thursday, meaning teams are now able again to sign free agents and make trades. In other words, it's time for stars like shortstop Carlos Correa to find new homes ahead of Opening Day (April 7). Predictably, the rumor mill has already started connecting him with teams.

The Chicago Cubs are "poised to play a major role in the courtship of Correa," according to's Jon Paul Morosi. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, meanwhile, told Mark Berman of FOX26 of Correa: "I'm sure we'll engage one more time." 

Correa, 27 years old, entered the winter ranked by CBS Sports as the top free agent on the market. Here's what we wrote at the time:

Correa is such a talent that if he didn't exist a video-game player would have created him. He's a well-above-average hitter who walked and struck out at personal-best rates last season, and he did so while achieving maximum exit velocities that were on par with all-world sluggers like Juan Soto and Yordan Alvarez. Unlike Soto and Alvarez, two corner outfielders celebrated more for their work at the dish than in the grass, Correa is a highly proficient defensive shortstop with a big-time arm. He's constructed of flesh and bone, meaning there are negatives to consider. His attendance was spotty earlier in his career, and it's to be seen if he can maintain his high level of durability (he appeared in 92 percent of Houston's games in 2020-21) as he nears his 30s. He's also no longer a stolen-base threat, the way he was when he first broke into The Show. (He hasn't attempted one during the regular season since April 2019.) There's also the sign-stealing scandal. The George Springer precedent suggests Correa won't have a Poe-like moment this winter, his heart pounding like so many trash-can thuds as lower-than-expected offers pour in. Truthfully, even if teams had shown any inclination to punish Astros players in that manner, they might make an exception for Correa. He might just win an MVP Award someday and, per the authority of this list, is the best player available on the market.

Correa hit .279/.366/.485 (131 OPS+) with 26 home runs last season. His contributions were estimated to be worth more than seven Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference's calculations. He finished top five in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting and made his second career All-Star Game. He also won his first Gold Glove.

CBS Sports reported back in November that the Cubs had been "signaling, both publicly and privately" that they intended to spend money this offseason. Chicago signed free-agent starter Marcus Stroman to a two-year contract worth $50 million prior to the lockout, but they haven't yet addressed their need at shortstop. 

It's unclear how serious the Astros are about retaining Correa. Houston was said to have offered him a five-year extension worth $150 million prior to the lockout. That offer falls short by about half of the 10-year, $341 million pact Francisco Lindor signed with the New York Mets last spring, which seems likely to serve as a template for Correa's deal. (Correa reportedly turned down a 10-year offer worth $275 million from the Detroit Tigers.)

The New York Yankees have also shown interest in Correa, per Morosi. They even received his medicals ahead of the lockout, according to a recent report

SportsLine's Matt Severance has the Yankees pegged as the favorites to sign Correa, with the Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays rounding out the top five.