Carlos Correa comes to terms with Twins, leaving the Mets behind
Carlos Correa agreed to terms on a $315 million contract with the Mets on Dec. 21. He is still technically a free agent even though he has agreed to new terms with Minnesota.
By BENJAMIN HOFFMAN
On Dec. 21, the New York Mets were declared by many as the winners of the offseason after they agreed to terms with Carlos Correa, one of the top infielders in baseball, on a 12-year, $315 million contract. The Mets, who won 101 games in 2022, were adding an all-around superstar in what they hoped was the final piece in team owner Steven Cohen’s championship puzzle.
The Mets deal, which came after Correa’s 13-year, $350 million deal with the San Francisco Giants the week before unraveled, was “pending a physical examination,” contract language that is often glossed over like the “terms and conditions” on a website.
Twenty days later, however, Correa, 28, a shortstop, walked away from that deal as well. On Tuesday, he reached an agreement with the Minnesota Twins, whom he played for last season, on a six-year, $200 million contract. A person familiar with the details of the negotiations confirmed Correa’s deal with the Twins on condition of anonymity.
The Twins deal is also pending a physical. So until it is completed, everyone will have to stay tuned.
Hadn’t Correa already signed with the Mets? What about the Giants?
Correa’s deal with the Giants would have been the second-largest of this offseason, according to Spotrac. The one he agreed to with the Mets would have been the third-largest. But both were held up after the teams conducted physical examinations. Rather than rework those deals, Correa accepted a contract with Minnesota that guarantees him far less money overall but pays him considerably more annually.
With this deal, Correa would trail only Francisco Lindor of the Mets among shortstops in average salary, but his contract is smaller in total value than the ones agreed to this offseason by Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million with Philadelphia) and Xander Bogaerts (11 years, $280 million with San Diego).
How is his new contract different?
In his new agreement with the Twins, Correa would be paid an average of $33,333,333 per season over six years and could increase his earnings up to $245 million over seven years by reaching certain benchmarks, according to the person familiar with the negotiations. There are vesting options built into the deal to protect the team and potentially benefit the player, including ones tied to where he places in regular season and postseason awards.
First, the Twins have to complete the deal, which, considering Correa’s offseason thus far, is not guaranteed.
Are protections like these unusual?
Not particularly. In the past, Boras clients like Iván Rodríguez, J.D. Drew and Magglio Ordóñez agreed to contracts that contained language to protect the teams after medical issues arose while still paying the players competitive salaries.
What have the Mets said?
In an unusual move, Cohen addressed the signing before it was completed — a decision he undoubtedly regrets.
“We needed one more thing, and this is it,” Cohen told Jon Heyman of The New York Post on the day the deal came together. “This was important. This puts us over the top.”
Heyman later reported that the Mets sold $1 million in tickets on the day the Correa news was reported.
Since then, the Mets have not discussed the deal. And after all the excitement Dec. 21, the team is back where it started in terms of its lineup.
What have the Giants said?
The Giants had scheduled a news conference for Dec. 20 to introduce Correa to reporters. But it was canceled that day, leading to speculation that something in his physical examination worried them.
Overnight, the Mets news was reported, and Scott Boras, Correa’s agent, brushed off any suggestion that there were issues with Correa’s health, telling The New York Times that “medical opinions are just what they are — opinions.”
The Giants made an unusual move by issuing a statement about a deal that fell apart.
“While we are prohibited from disclosing confidential medical information, as Scott Boras stated publicly, there was a difference of opinion over the results of Carlos’s physical examination,” said the statement, which was attributed to Farhan Zaidi, the team’s president for baseball operations. “We wish Carlos the best.”
Zaidi later addressed the issue further in a conference call with beat reporters, taking issue with the idea that the team had blindsided Correa and Boras with their concerns.
What had Correa’s agent said before the Twins deal came together?
Never shy, Boras was happy to talk to reporters once he found a landing spot for Correa after the problems with the Giants.
“He was readying himself for a new place in his life, and then the delays occurred, and you have to go through another transition,” Boras told the Times of Correa’s decision to move on from the Giants. “But he’s very happy to join the Mets.”
Boras described his phone call with Cohen in detail and dismissed any concerns that the Mets would have any issues with Correa’s medical information. After that, he made no public comments about the Mets deal.
What have the Twins said?
OK, is Correa injured?
The short answer is no. The long answer is long.
Nearly all of the speculation and anonymously sourced reporting has focused on the state of Correa’s lower right leg. In 2014, two years after Houston selected him as the No. 1 pick in the draft, Correa was thriving for Class A Lancaster when an awkward slide into third base resulted in his spike catching in the dirt. Correa, who was 19 at the time, was carried off the field.
What was initially diagnosed as an ankle injury ended up being a fractured fibula, with what was described as minor ligament damage. He had season-ending surgery five days after the injury occurred, and Jeff Luhnow, the general manager of the Astros at the time, said the team expected Correa to “return to exactly the point he was at when he got injured.”
That certainly appeared to be what happened. In 2015, Correa began the season with Class AA Corpus Christi and was promoted to Class AAA Fresno after 29 games. He thrived there as well and was called up to the Astros after only 24 games at the minors’ highest level. In Houston, he hit .279 with 22 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 99 games and narrowly edged his close friend Lindor, who played for Cleveland at the time, as the American League rookie of the year.
While Correa missed significant time with injuries in 2017, 2018 and 2019, none of those absences were related to his right leg. And he has been fairly durable since, playing in 342 of his team’s 384 regular-season games since the start of the 2020 season. If there are other concerns with his physical examination beyond the previous leg surgery, they have not been reported.
So the leg has not been an issue at all?
Mostly. The old injury and the way it was repaired resurfaced briefly last season when Correa was playing for the Twins. On Sept. 20, he tried to steal second and came up limping after being tagged out. After the game, he was not concerned that he had seriously hurt himself.
“He just hit my plate,” Correa told reporters. “I had surgery, and he hit it. Just kind of felt numb. Vibrating. So I was just waiting for it to calm down. It was a little scary, but when I moved, I knew it was good.”
Sure enough, he was back in the lineup the next day and did not miss any time as a result of the slide.
What’s the big deal, then?
Extraordinarily long contracts like the ones Correa had agreed to with the Giants and the Mets carry a large amount of risk. Going into one with a known issue that could limit a player’s mobility as he ages would increase that risk. That is particularly true of a player like Correa, who derives a lot of his value from his defense and athleticism.
Contract language and insurance adjustments can be included to account for the heightened risk, but Boras had Correa walk away from the Giants when they wanted to alter terms and then moved away from the Mets as well.
Correa will instead go back to Minnesota on a shorter deal that includes more language to account for potential health issues — that is, he will if the deal is completed.
Is there a deadline for a deal to be completed?
Will the Mets be OK without him?
For all the money Cohen has spent this offseason — the Mets’ payroll and luxury taxes had been expected to approach $500 million in 2023 — the team’s offense was not upgraded other than Correa. That being said, third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who hit 20 home runs in his first year with the Mets, is still under contract, as is second baseman Jeff McNeil, the NL’s batting champion last season. And Lindor, despite not being as strong a fielder as Correa, was expected to remain at shortstop all along.
So not signing Correa is a blow to the Mets, but it does not really leave them with a hole in their lineup.
Is he worth all this fuss?
In the short-term, yes. Correa has never hit 30 homers or driven in 100 runs. He’s never stolen 20 bases or won an MVP award. But he has proved to be remarkably valuable when healthy, thanks to his consistently solid batting average, his ability to draw walks, his solid baserunning and his defense.
In the three seasons in which he has played at least 130 games, he has compiled 7.0, 7.2 and 5.4 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference’s formula, which is on the cusp of MVP-level play. As a result of his all-around play, Baseball Reference rates him as the most valuable shortstop in baseball since 2015 despite his having played far fewer games than Lindor and Bogaerts, who are second and third on that list.
There is no question of talent, or leadership, with the risk for the Twins being wrapped up entirely in whether Correa’s body can hold up for the life of a contract. In the end, that risk was too much for the Giants and the Mets.