Carlos Correa’s New New Deal Sends Him Back to Minnesota
Ah, yes, another turn in the Carlos Correa saga. After agreeing to a deal with the Giants that fell apart and then agreeing to a deal with the Mets that hung in contract limbo for weeks, Correa is on the move again, back to where he started 2022. As Jeff Passan first reported, Correa and the Twins have agreed to a six-year, $200 million deal with vesting options that could boost the total payout to $270 million over 10 years.
By now you know Carlos Correa the player. He’s been one of the top free agents on the market for two years running, and he’s been one of the most prominent players in the game for half a decade. We’ve written about his free agency plenty of times already. But if you’d like a refresher, here it goes.
Correa has a well-rounded offensive game, the type of hitter you can plug into the middle of your order and not think twice about. He takes his walks and rarely strikes out. He does that not because he has an otherworldly batting eye, but rather because he has a solid sense of the zone and a good feel for contact. It also helps that opposing pitchers prefer to avoid the zone against him, owing to his comfortably plus power. He also plays solid shortstop defense, somewhere between plus and excellent depending on which scout or defensive metric you listen to. Put it all together, and he’s an All-Star level player every year when healthy.
In 2022, he powered the Twins lineup to the tune of a 140 wRC+ over 590 plate appearances. It was his third straight season of qualifying for the batting title, something that seemed to alleviate health concerns that surfaced early in his career when he missed at least 50 games in three straight seasons from 2017 to ’19.
Yeah, about that: Correa’s surgically repaired right leg has been the most reviled limb in baseball this offseason. He fractured it while sliding into a base in the minors in 2014 and had a plate inserted thereafter. He hasn’t missed any time in the majors leagues thanks to that injury, but both the Giants and Mets held up deals with Correa this offseason thanks to concerns about it.
That leg injury reportedly led the Mets to ask for half their deal with him to be only partially guaranteed. That would have made it a six-year, $157.5 million pact with another six years and $157.5 million on the back half contingent on some stringent conditions. His Twins deal guarantees him $200 million over those six years, with the possibility to grow to 10 years and $270 million. In other words, he’s taking a larger guarantee upfront but limiting his upside. In handy grid form, here are the three contracts Correa has provisionally agreed to this offseason:
Carlos Correa’s Contracts
|Team||Years||AAV (M)||Total (M)||Additional Possible $M|
It might seem strange that the Twins deal, despite being signed after the other two and hence presumably being only the third-most-attractive offer, carries the highest average annual value. But no one would dispute the idea that Correa is likely to be a great hitter for the next few years; both the Giants and Mets seemed most concerned about the possibility of the back half of his contract being mostly dead money.
The Twins deal splits the difference in that sense; it guarantees the least money, but pays Correa the most fairly for the first six years of his contract. ZiPS, whose projections I’ll show towards the bottom of this article, would offer Correa $245 million over six years. ZiPS isn’t a leg surgeon – at least, not yet – so it’s missing a key part of the equation here, but the point is that if Correa’s health record were contained to his time missed at the major league level, he’d be in line for $245 million over the first six years of the deal. All three deals are about getting surplus value from Correa now in exchange for paying him like a star in his decline years; the Twins one is the closest to how Correa’s production will actually work out, with more money per year at first and less (and non-guaranteed!) money in later years.
In Correa’s shoes, I’d prefer the Minnesota offer to the reported amended New York offer if all else were equal. His overall earnings potential is $45 million lower, but he’s guaranteed $40 million more. Going from $160 million to $200 million is likely worth more to him than going from $270 million to $315 million, what with the diminishing marginal utility of money and all, which explains the lower headline number on the deal. If Correa wanted to bet on his health, he could have, but I’d take the higher guaranteed amount, too.
As mentioned above, ZiPS thinks Correa will be quite good over the next six years:
ZiPS Projection – Carlos Correa
The exact nature of the vesting options isn’t yet public, but we do know one part of it: if he reaches 500 plate appearances in the sixth year of his deal, he’ll trigger a seventh year at $25 million. That means the last three years are for a combined $45 million, in decreasing fashion: first $20 million, then $15 million, then $10 million, with as-yet unknown vesting conditions. If he plays all 10 years of the deal, ZiPS would offer him $319 million, though there’s obviously some injury contingency here:
ZiPS Projection – Carlos Correa
There are early reports that the Twins deal is extremely likely to go through, though of course we’ve heard that one before. If that’s the case and Correa’s winter peregrination is finally over, I’m sure he’ll be disappointed with the lost money, but let’s try to keep some perspective here: he’s already earned $62 million in his career and has another guaranteed $200 million coming his way. He can probably afford to buy some nice headphones if he wants them, or even get his car’s oil changed slightly more often than the manufacturer recommends, instead of significantly less often like the rest of us. I’m sympathetic to the way his negotiations have played out in public – that doesn’t seem fun at all – but he’s still going to land on his feet.
I’ve already written about how not signing someone of Correa’s caliber hurts the Giants – they set their team up around signing a big free agent this offseason and then didn’t. That was the case the second their deal fell through, and it won’t stop being the case just because Correa’s eventual destination changed. Recent developments do make them look less clownish, though; it’s much better to be one of two teams that reached an injury impasse with a marquee player than the only one. The Mets won’t be nearly so hurt by missing out on him. As Dan Szymborski noted yesterday, they look like one of the best teams in baseball even without Correa in the lineup. He was more of a luxury than a necessity there, though I’m sure the rest of the NL East will sleep better tonight knowing the Queens juggernaut is slightly less formidable than expected.
The Twins, on the other hand, must be ecstatic to get Correa for less than the deal they’d initially offered him this winter (a reported 10 years and $285 million). They’re locked in a three-way scuffle for the AL Central crown, with every marginal win potentially representing the difference between missing and making the playoffs. Correa is a huge upgrade for them; after some defensive position changes, they’re basically swapping out a Kyle Farmer/Kyle Garlick duo for Correa, or maybe Gilberto Celestino for Correa depending on how you feel about their roster construction. That’s a massive upgrade, the kind that can turn a season around. Mere days ago, it seemed like such an upgrade was unavailable thanks to the speed of the free agency market, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable for them.
What a strange trip this winter has been for Correa. He was ready to attend a press conference to announce his signing with the Giants. He spent a month in Mets purgatory while Scott Boras cracked wise about martinis and free market capitalism. He’s ending the winter back where he started in Minnesota – well, presumably not in Minnesota, because it’s laughably cold in Minnesota this time of year, but as a Twin nonetheless. When all is said and done, he’s going to have an eight figure net worth. I’m not sure if I’d call it a satisfying end to the saga, but it feels like a conclusive one – at least, pending physical.