Carlos Correa, Dusty Baker uncertain on futures as Houston Astros' season ends

HOUSTON -- As Astros star Carlos Correa stepped into the box in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night, he understood the magnitude of the moment for him.

The game and subsequently the Series were well in hand for the Atlanta Braves, who captured the championship just moments later.

For Correa, it was likely his last at-bat as an Astro. He is a free agent and can sign with any of the 29 other teams starting Monday.

"It was the only thing going through my mind, to be honest," Correa said after the 7-0 loss. "A lot of feelings, mixed emotions. I spent seven years with this club. Yeah, it was going through my mind for sure."

Correa will give the Astros a chance to sign him, but the sides couldn't come to an agreement last time they talked, before the 2021 season. It's likely he'll test the market.

"I'd be sad, but ... he's not a free agent yet," longtime teammate Jose Altuve said. "I know we're going to try to re-sign him. Like I told you last time, I haven't lost my hopes."

Altuve and Correa are part of a core of Astros who made it to the World Series three times in the past five years. They won it in 2017 -- though they were caught stealing opponents' signs illegally -- then lost to the Washington Nationals in 2019 and now the Braves in 2021.

The Astros, as a team, were out-homered in the six games by series MVP Jorge Soler. He hit three long balls while the Astros hit just two, both by Altuve.

"First off, you've got to give a ton of credit to them [the Braves]," third baseman Alex Bregman said. "They were unbelievable. They pitched really well. They swung the bats, played good defense.

"We normally do hit a little bit more for power, and we didn't. But you learn and move on. You use it as fuel during the off-season to get better and learn from it."

Bregman wasn't completely healthy, nursing a hand injury, but vowed to be ready for spring training.

Meanwhile, Correa isn't the only free agent on the Astros. Veteran Zack Greinke is undecided about his future, while manager Dusty Baker doesn't have a contract for next season, either. Owner Jim Crane and general manager James Click indicated recently they would like him back, and Baker wants to finish what he started.

The sides will talk soon.

"Yeah, because I've still got some unfinished business," Baker said. "I love these guys over here. I love the town of Houston.

"It's tough to take now, but this too shall pass. It really hurts, but it's over."

The Astros couldn't overcome starting pitching issues, which plagued them the longer the postseason went on. They won the American League pennant without ace Lance McCullers Jr., who left the division series against the Chicago White Sox with a forearm injury. It caught up with them in the World Series. Their Game 6 starter, rookie Luis Garcia, pitched on short rest and gave up three runs in 2 2/3 innings. It was a theme for Houston throughout the week.

"We just kind of ran out of gas pitching-wise," Baker said.

Talk after the loss eventually turned back to Correa, who won Rookie of the Year in 2015 and made two All-Star teams as an Astro. He has a baby on the way and said it will be a nice distraction for him as his free agency begins.

"It's a different offseason for me, something obviously I'm not used to," he said. "So take it one day at a time. ... This group is a special group. I told them in the clubhouse, never take for granted what we've built here. Not many teams are like this. Not many teams are a family. Not many teams go out to work every single day and are successful."

Baker made his opinion known about Correa as well. Assuming the manager is back, he wants his shortstop back as well.

"He's a gladiator," Baker said. "He's a warrior but a gentleman at the same time. I can tell how our guys gravitate towards him. I can tell even how the opposition always shows respect for him, especially when they're around second base.

"Win or lose, he doesn't clown. He doesn't showboat. He just plays the game the way it should be played."