In the end, the Twins’ greatest fears came true, as the Giants decided to blow them out of the water, handing Carlos Correa a whopping 13-year, $350 million contract as the stoppage. -short superstar agreed late Tuesday night.
So much for that.
It is the fourth largest contract in baseball history, behind the contracts of Mike Trout ($426.5 million), Mookie Betts ($365 million) and Aaron Judge ($360 million). Correa also passed Francisco Lindor ($341 million), Fernando Tatis Jr. ($340 million), Corey Seager ($325 million) and Trea Turner ($300 million) for the biggest contract ever awarded to a shortstop.
San Francisco flexed its muscles, brushed off Minnesota and landed the second-best free agent in the class after being denied by the judge last week.
Correa did exactly what the Twins expected of him when they signed him last spring to a three-year, $105.3 million contract with opt-out after the first and second years. He was one of MLB’s top shortstops, hitting .291/.366/.467 in 136 games to lead the position in OPS. And then he retired, reentering free agency at 28 in search of the mega-deal he failed to secure last offseason.
What the Twins hoped was that Correa would enjoy their seven months together, on and off the court, so much that he would see Minnesota as a viable long-term home and perhaps be convinced to choose their offer of contract rather than similar offerings from other, larger market teams. In the end, his feelings about Minnesota didn’t really matter, as the Twins weren’t particularly close to the best offer.
Athleticism‘s Dan Hayes reported that the Twins’ final offer was 10 years and $285 million, surpassing the biggest contract in franchise history by $100 million. From the Twins’ perspective, this was a huge, franchise-altering historic offer. But from Correa’s perspective, that was still three years and $65 million short of the Giants’ proposal.
Carlos Correa officially dons a Twins uniform for the first time. pic.twitter.com/FsOwRZWcm1
—Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) March 23, 2022
If all things were equal, maybe Correa would have stayed with the Twins, but we’ll never know because all things weren’t equal. Not even close, really. No one should blame Correa for accepting what is by far the best offer, from by far the most successful team, in by far the biggest market. While disappointing for Twins fans, it’s certainly anything but surprising.
It’s also hard to blame the Twins for not beating the Giants’ offer, which likely would have required Correa to be paid around $30 million per season until his 40s. To do that while maintaining an average-sized payroll, as the Twins have done in recent years, would have been extremely difficult, and team ownership has given no indication of plans to push spending beyond that. average levels of the league.
However, it should be noted that the Twins apparently offered a slightly higher average annual salary ($28.5 million) than the Giants ($27 million), but were willing to do so for 10 seasons, not 13. at some point there has to be a line drawn, and doing so with a deal that comes through Correa’s 37-year-old season makes sense. But is it really a big enough difference to lose it?
What will sport look like in 13 years? How high will the league’s revenue and payroll go? And where will $28.5 million rank among the top earners? Beyond that, the chances of a front office still being in place more than a decade later are slim. Derek Falvey and company could have lobbied to get Correa back at all costs and make the end of the deal someone else’s problem.
Whether the Pohlad family or the baseball operations department were driving, the Twins rode $28.5 million a season through 2032, but slammed the brakes before 2033, 2034, and 2035. Depending on your perspective , it’s either a laudable fiscal responsibility, or it’s far too focused on the distant future that this front office probably won’t be around for.
Much was made of Correa’s inability to secure a long-term contract to his liking last offseason, which resulted in his agent being replaced by Scott Boras during the lockout and falling in the towers of the Twins in the middle of spring training. In retrospect, Correa probably maxed out his earnings, earning a total of $385.1 million over 14 years, with a brief stopover in Minnesota between Houston and San Francisco.
If that $385.1 million total were a deal, it would be the second-largest ever, instead of $350 million ranking “only” fourth. Just nine months ago, fans genuinely and rightly disappointed that the Twins failed to dish out one of the most expensive deals ever would have seemed like an absurd notion, but Correa’s arrival has changed the idea of what is possible. But only so much.
#MNTwins vibe check, provided by Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton. pic.twitter.com/oFGfnGpStY
—Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) June 28, 2022
Now the twins have to regroup and fast.
If the plan is to pivot to another star free agent, the only two options left are Dansby Swanson and Carlos Rodón, who have both met the Twins. Swanson is the natural fallback as a 28-year-old shortstop available for about half the price. Rodón has more upside as a No. 1 starter, but he can cost $200 million and that front office has never paid a pitcher more than $20 million.
Sniffing out Swanson and Rodón would leave the Twins in a very sticky spot. They would lose their best player from a 78-84 team, with plenty of money to spend but no star-caliber free agents to spend it on. They could pursue the best unsigned second-tier free agents, such as right-hander Nathan Eovaldi or a big veteran like Justin Turner, JD Martinez or Michael Brantley.
Failing that, any major pickups the Twins would make would have to go through the trade, costing them valuable big leaguers from a roster just losing back-to-back seasons and/or the best prospects from a farming system that has already lost a huge amount of talent at the trade deadline. Walking on water isn’t enough, and even now that would require replacing Correa’s star-level production just to stay afloat.
Going into the offseason, my assessment of the Twins’ biggest needs was, in order: starting shortstop, frontline pitcher, rookie-level receiver, right fielder, and set-up man. They have tackled just one of the five areas, signing receiver Christian Vázquez to a three-year, $30 million contract on Monday while Correa makes his decision.
Kyle Farmer, acquired from the Reds last month, is also a capable reserve shortstop until Royce Lewis is ready around mid-season. But the Twins didn’t add a pitcher or a platoon outfielder alternative to Kyle Garlick. Mix in Correa’s exit and the trade that sent Gio Urshela to the Angels for a minor prospect, and the Twins have undeniably lost talent since the end of the season.
To meaningfully advance, the Twins need to add significant talent in several crucial places, which will require some very creative maneuvering and a willingness to take home runs on trades – Corbin Burnes? Zac Gallen? Pablo Lopez? Brandon Woodruff? Willy Adams? – it can be painful and as risky as simply signing a big player on the open market.
It’s possible the Twins will also decide stepping back with an eye toward 2024 is the least bad path, but stepping back from what, exactly? In six seasons under Falvey, the Twins are 451-419 overall, which equates to an 84-78 record for 162 games, with zero playoff wins. They haven’t built enough to tear it down and rebuild it, and that could ruin the already shaky morale of the fanbase.
Getting value for impending free agents Kenta Maeda, Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle would make sense for a rebuilding team, as would Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and maybe even Luis Arraez. But it’s a terribly sharp turnaround to make a $285 million pitch to Correa and would also make $30 million for Vázquez look like an immediate faux pas. Pushing forward is a must.
They made a legit run at Correa and saw most of the quality free agent alternatives come off the board before this auction happened. There are three ways left: sign either Swanson or Rodón for big money, or pay the price in the form of players by trading for a star. Re-signing Correa was still unlikely, so the Twins should have fallback plans. Now let’s see if they can pull them off.
(Photo by Derek Falvey and Carlos Correa: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)
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