John Shipley: Uh-oh. Twins have to get ‘creative’ to re-sign Carlos Correa
Fans hoping that arguably baseball’s best shortstop makes a home in Minnesota might be encouraged by the fact that Twins insisted Monday that the organization will make some sort of run at signing the two-time all-star who helped the Houston Astros reach three World Series.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Correa hasn’t officially waived his player options on 2023 and 2024 contracts that would pay him $35.1 million annually, but only because by Major League Baseball rules, the Minnesota Twins shortstop must wait for the prescribed threshold of five days after the conclusion of the 2022 World Series.
Unofficially, Correa stepped away from that guaranteed $70 million during the Twins’ final homestand of the season.
Asked before a Sept. 27 game against the Chicago White Sox if he saw himself returning next season, Correa told the Pioneer Press, “I want a long-term relationship with someone. I want to get married; I don’t want to just be dating and going on one-night stands. I want to marry an organization.”
Two more years, even at $35.1 million a pop, isn’t exactly a one-night stand, but it isn’t a marriage, either. Correa will decline his Twins option years because as a free agent, there is more money and more security out there for him somewhere.
Can the Twins be a player in that bidding war?
Fans hoping that arguably baseball’s best shortstop makes a home in Minnesota might be encouraged by the fact that Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey insisted Monday that the organization will make some sort of run at signing the two-time all-star who helped the Houston Astros reach three World Series, and win one, from 2017 to 2021.
“We were very clear with him and with his representatives at the end of the year that we wanted to have that conversation at the appropriate time,” Falvey said. “But we also recognize how this business works.”
If the implication isn’t clear — that the mid-market Twins can’t compete dollar for dollar with big-market teams with independent television deals — there is the fact that while discussing for several minutes Correa’s current deal, and any deal he might sign with Minnesota this offseason, Falvey six times used the term “creative.”
Getting Correa into a Twins uniform this season required the creative decision to pay him more annually than any other major-league infielder in history, while also giving him the penalty-free ability to turn a three-year deal into a one-year deal.
“We’ll continue to try and be creative and have conversations with him and see where that takes us,” Falvey said.
In other words, planets will have to align to make Correa remain with the Twins. While not exactly a surrender, it doesn’t sound good.
Certainly, it doesn’t challenge the perception that Minnesota — despite signing Josh Donaldson, Byron Buxton and Correa to three of the largest four contracts in franchise history over the past three seasons — can’t or won’t go toe-to-toe with traditional big-spenders such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs or Boston Red Sox.
Asked Monday if he believes the Twins can compete with teams that will simply throw money at Correa, Falvey said, “I would say we don’t know exactly where those teams are going to be, right? Ultimately, we don’t know what they’re going to prioritize, or where the investment’s going to go.”
Then quickly added, “I think that’s really what I’m getting back to, some of the creative parts of the conversation and what that looks like.”
The Yankees or Red Sox won’t have to get creative to put together an agreeable package for Correa; they’ll simply write him a check. For the Twins, it will require bonuses, escalators, options and, most important, a legitimate desire on Correa’s part to stay and help the Twins win a World Series.
“It takes partnership, for sure,” Falvey said. “It takes an investment on both sides in maybe some of those decisions.”
Correa has been effusive in his praise for Minnesota and the Twins, and Falvey believes that has been genuine. However, you might really love Minnesota and the people you work with, but that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t move to Chicago if some headhunter called with a job that pays $36 million a year.
It was easy to be creative with Correa’s opt-out clauses because the Twins were confident Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, would be ready to play shortstop in 2023. In 23 games this season, Lewis showed he was on track, then blew out his surgically repaired right knee during his first game in center field and isn’t expected back until at least July. And then Correa proved to be the Twins’ best overall player. Offense, defense, leadership — he did it all.
If he doesn’t come back, it’s going to hurt, and fans won’t blame him.
“I can’t speak to what some of those other markets are going to do through this cycle, but I can tell you that we know Carlos is a really good player, and we know he’s going to have options,” Falvey said. “Ultimately, we’re going to hopefully be in the middle of that conversation. Where it takes us, I can’t say today.”
Maybe the planets will align, but don’t hold your breath.
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