Social media has made it difficult for franchises in any of the major sports to pull off shocking moves. Between the amount of insiders employed to unearth information, and those who simply engage in Reckless Speculation, making a trade or signing that hasn’t been mentioned somewhere is as rare as a complete game.
That’s what made the news that greeted many Saturday morning so shocking. Shortstop Carlos Correa, the hottest free agent on the market during MLB’s lockout-interrupted offseason, reportedly had agreed to a three-year, $105.3 million deal with the Twins that included opt-outs after the 2022 and 2023 seasons. His average salary of $35.1 million will make him MLB’s fourth-highest paid player and top-earning infielder.
The cynic will say that Correa couldn’t get what he wanted on a long-term deal and decided to spend a season in Minnesota, getting a huge payday and setting himself up for an even bigger one at a new destination in 2023.
This cynic’s response? Who cares.
When my head hit the pillow late Friday, the Twins’ season held little interest. The addition of Sonny Gray was a necessary acquisition for a starting staff that was in desperate need of help. But that couldn’t outweigh the confusion caused by the Twins dealing catcher Mitch Garver to Texas for shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and then flipping Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson to New York a day later for catcher/DH Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela. The deal was made because the Yankees’ desire to acquire Kiner-Falefa meant they were willing to take on the $50 million-plus left on Donaldson’s contract.
Information this week that the Twins were in on another free agent shortstop, Trevor Story, was met with skepticism about whether this was the team’s latest attempt to say they came close but didn’t get their guy. I never saw a word about Correa being on the Twins’ radar and if I had it would have been met with ridicule.
Correa and the Twins? Yeah, right.
We’ll eventually find out how this deal came together, but it likely was in quick fashion. When I saw the late-night text message from podcast partner Phil Mackey on Saturday about the Correa deal, I initially assumed it was a joke from a fake account and not the real Jeff Passan. Nope, this was legit.
Correa, the top pick in the 2012 draft ahead of Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, helped the Astros reach the postseason in six of his seven seasons. Houston won the World Series in 2017 and appeared in two others. The 2015 Rookie of the Year, Correa slashed .277/.356/.481 with 133 home runs and 489 RBIs in 752 games over seven seasons with the Astros.
The Twins are coming off a season in which they finished in last place in the American League Central following back-to-back years of playoff appearances under manager Rocco Baldelli. Both of those postseasons ended with the Twins being swept, including in two games by the Astros in 2020. Minnesota has lost an incredible 18 consecutive playoff games and until the last 24 hours it looked as if that streak would remain intact.
But MLB has added another playoff team in the AL and NL – bringing the total to six in each — and with another move or two on the pitching side there is no reason the Twins can’t find themselves in the playoff picture. Correa, 27, will provide this team with a swagger it lacked last season and a presence at the plate and in the field that should give everyone else more confidence.
The Correa move signals that the Twins are going all in for at least one season. ESPN reported Saturday that the team continues to pursue righthander Frankie Montas of the A’s. Montas was 13-9 with a 3.37 ERA in 32 starts for the A’s last season and is signed through 2023. He would come at a big price but if you’re going to sign Correa you can’t be afraid to trade Royce Lewis.
Enough of all of this excitement. The cynic is back to point out that this could all blow up, just like it did in 2018 after the Twins signed starter Lance Lynn, traded for starter Jake Odorizzi and signed DH Logan Morrison during spring training. None of those players had near the talent of Correa, but their additions created excitement that turned into disappointment in part because the clubhouse chemistry appeared to be terrible.
So what if Correa isn’t a fit, or isn’t happy with his contract (I find that hard to believe) or has his eye on getting out of Minnesota as quickly as he arrived? Then Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, still should be applauded for taking advantage of an odd offseason that left Correa a possibility long after he normally would have been gone.
There is no downside to a move like this, especially when 24 hours ago your team’s coming season was met with more apathy than anticipation.