From the moment Carlos Correa signed a short-term, opt-out agreement with the Twins in March, it felt like a foregone conclusion that he would take the first opt-out clause in that contract and return it to the free agency. winter. Unsurprisingly, in an interview with Jorge Figueroa Loza of El Nuevo Dia, Correa revealed that he plans to do just that. Correa, citing his age and performance with the Twins last season, tells Figueroa Loza that exercising the first of two opt-out clauses in his contract is “the right decision”.
As he has done on multiple occasions recently, Correa praised the Twins organization and stated several times that he hoped to stay in Minnesota for a long-term deal. That’s why it’s worth noting that Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said this week that talks have already taken place with Correa and Agent Scott Boras (link via Megan Ryan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune). Falvey said he is willing to “get creative” again to keep Correa in Minnesota, while also acknowledging that they will likely face stiff competition upon his return to the market. Correa, even by repeatedly expressing his hopes of signing a long-term deal with Minnesota, acknowledged that “what you want doesn’t always happen.”
Correa’s 2022 season was a strong one in almost every way. The former Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star hit .291/.366/.467 with 22 homeruns, 24 doubles and a triple in 590 at bats in 136 games. Correa’s power output was slightly lower, but that was true for the entire league in 2022. Both wRC+ and OPS+, which adapt to the league’s scoring environment and a player’s home park, confirmed Correa’s bat 40% better than league average in 2022.
Defensively, Correa did not replicate his 2021 Platinum Glove campaign, although it may not have been reasonable to expect him to repeat what will likely be a career year in terms of defensive stats. His high scores dropped to just above average in both Defensive Points Saved (3) and Ultimate Zone Rating (1.0). Notably, Statcast’s Outs Above Average pegged Correa as a negative defender (-3) for the first time since 2016. When taking in his defensive body of work as a whole, however, Correa ranks sixth among all MLB players regardless of position, with 50 DRS since 2018. His 45 OAA is seventh in that time.
Both the Minnesota front office and manager Rocco Baldelli have generally praised Correa’s gauntlet work and also touted him as a valuable clubhouse presence and vocal team leader. Correa has also been more durable over the past three seasons than earlier in his career. He was briefly absent in 2022 after being hand-picked and while spending time on the Covid-related injured list, but Correa has played in 89% of his team’s possible matches since 2020.
While last year’s market failed to deliver the $330MM+ contract Correa reportedly sought, the 2022-23 market will be a different animal. He will be up against three fellow star shortstops – Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner – instead of four this time, and as Correa himself pointed out in this latest interview, he will be the only one of the four ineligible for receive a suitable offer. (Players can only receive a QO once in their career, and Correa turned one down last November.) The upcoming off-season will also not be hampered by a lockout like the 2021-22 offseason was – a 99-day transaction interruption during which time Correa also switched representation and hired the Boras Corporation.
Despite all that context, it’s still hard – if not impossible – to imagine Correa landing the mega deal he sought a year ago. After all, he’s a year older this time, coming off a strong but lesser campaign than the one he enjoyed with Houston in 2021.
That’s not to say he can’t expect a long-term and lucrative free agency deal, just that closing a ten-year deal near his current annual value might not be in his cards. In all likelihood, Boras and Correa will still look for that ten-year long-term initially and perhaps re-target Bryce Harper’s $330 million total guarantee — the largest free-agent deal in history — but a compromise in years. and/or annual value would eventually be needed. Given that Correa is only 28 and will be playing all of next season at that age, even a long-term deal could again include an opt-out option a few years into the contract.
As for his expressed desire to stay in Minnesota, it feels like a long shot — albeit only in the sense that the Twins would have to venture a second time into a fiscal stratosphere that was previously outside property boundaries. Signing Correa would no doubt require Minnesota to handily surpass the franchise-record $184 million they made to Joe Mauer, but that contract was signed 13 years ago and the team’s payroll has grown significantly since then. The Twins trotted out a payroll of about $140MM in 2022, and without Correa on the books, they only have about $40MM in guarantees ($52.5MM after Sonny Gray’s option is exercised).
There is ample room for Correa on the payroll, both in the short and long term. After the 2023 season, Byron Buxton’s contract is the only real note promise on the books, and his base salary pays him a reasonable $15MM per year – only escalating to his maximum $23MM based on MVP- to vote. (At that point, of course, the Twins would be very happy to pay him that higher salary.) The question then is not so much whether the Twins can “afford” themselves to sign Correa, but whether it is the best use of their budget. and whether the front office (and owner Jim Pohlad) is confident that for the most part of a long-term commitment, he will earn an annual salary close to or more than $30MM per year.
If it’s not the Twins, Correa won’t be short of options in the market. Any of the Twins, Dodgers (Turner), Red Sox (Bogaerts) and Braves (Swanson) could lose a franchise shortstop and look for a replacement. (It’s worth noting, however, that in Royce Lewis, Gavin Lux, Trevor Story, and Vaughnn Grissom, those four teams all already have shortstop alternatives in-house as well.) In addition to that quartet of teams, the Cubs, Phillies, and perhaps the Giants are widely expected to be involved. are in the shortstop market. The Angels, Cardinals and Orioles are also candidates to look for upgrades, and given the caliber of the names in question, it’s possible that other teams with entrenched shortstops could move their incumbent to accommodate one of these four free agents. .
It’s a good time to be a free-agent shortstop, and Correa’s recent comments almost definitively indicate that barring an extension between now and the opening of free agency (five days after the World Series ends), that’s what he will be doing again this winter.