Inside Carlos Correa free agency saga that led back to Twins

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

When Carlos Correa agreed to terms with theNew York Mets, his agent called it Correamas Day, but for those who have been following the saga leading up to the shortstop agreeing to a six-year deal with a vesting option with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, it has felt more like Correahog Day.

ESPN MLB reporters Jeff Passan, Jesse Rogers and Kiley McDaniel break down how a month-long free agency saga led Correa from San Francisco to New York and then finally back to Minnesota.

Dec. 13, 2022: Correa becomes the $350 million face of the Giants -- or so it seems

After the Giants finished second in the Aaron Judge sweepstakes, they pivoted to the 28-year-old Correa, the best player remaining on the free agent market, and overwhelmed him with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history. At $350 million, Correa was set to earn more than Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson, the other three star shortstops available via free agency this winter, and become the face of the franchise in an ever-competitive NL West. In doing so, Correa spurned Minnesota -- where he played in 2022 -- and the New York Mets, who made an 11th-hour run. The Twins publicly acknowledged they couldn't compete with a big-market team if it came in and swooped up Correa. Minnesota's offer of 10 years, $285 million simply wasn't enough.

Dec. 20, 2022: Giants delay Correa's introduction -- and the saga truly begins

A routine physical -- part of the process when a free agent signs a new contract -- was anything but routine. A news conference scheduled to introduce Correa was abruptly called off in the morning. Later, Giants president Farhan Zaidi admitted to a "difference of opinion" regarding the review of Correa's medicals. The issue, according to sources, involved the lower part of his right leg, which required surgery in 2014 when Correa was in the minors. Doctors feared his leg would degrade over the length of the contract. The Giants proposed stepping away and reevaluating the deal with the potential for a restructuring. Correa and his agent, Scott Boras, chose another path.

Dec. 21, 2022: Carlos Correa pivots to Mets in a late-night stunner

While the Giants hesitated, Boras called Mets owner Steve Cohen, who already had committed nearly $500 million to free agents this winter, and asked if he wanted back in on Correa. Cohen did, and within 12 hours of Correa's deal with the Giants falling apart, the shortstop had a brand-new megadeal with the Mets: 12 years, $315 million -- still for more years and money than his free agent peers. Cohen, who negotiated the deal while on vacation in Hawai'i, told the New York Post in the wee hours of the morning: "This puts us over the top." Correa would move to third base and slot in the middle of the lineup for a team with a payroll that would approach half a billion dollars. All that was necessary to codify the deal: a passed physical.

Dec. 24, 2022: Mets have their own concerns about Correa's physical

Like the Giants, the Mets saw issues with Correa's right leg, according to sources. But the incentive was strong for Correa and the Mets to work through the concerns and work out a deal. Two failed physicals would put a damper on Correa's market outside New York. Losing their key offseason acquisition would leave Mets fans wondering whether the 2023 team really is all that much better than the 2022 version that bombed out in the wild-card round.

Discussions focused on guarantee language. The Mets were fine keeping the 12-year, $315 million terms -- but wanted only half of it guaranteed. Over the final six years of the deal, according to sources, the Mets proposed their medical staff would conduct a physical on Correa at the end of each season -- regardless of his health during the season. The results of the physical would then determine whether the next year of the contract was picked up.

Boras wanted a deal closer to that of ones he'd negotiated in the past -- for J.D. Martinez and J.D. Drew with the Red Sox, Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez with the Tigers -- containing provisions for specific injuries. With Martinez, for example, if he spent 60 days on the injured list with an injury related to the foot about which the Red Sox were concerned, they could convert the final two guaranteed years of his deal to mutual options.

The Mets stuck to their six-year, $157.5 million offer, and last week, with the sides making little progress, Boras ramped up his engagement with the Twins. Minnesota, more comfortable with Correa's medicals after seeing him up close for a year, cognizant that the guarantee for him had taken a hit on account of the injury, pounced.

Even as momentum toward a deal with the Twins began to grow, the impact of the past month could still be felt.

"The optimism is real," One team source told ESPN before the deal was agreed upon. "But I'll believe it when the ink is actually dry."

Jan. 10, 2023: Correa saga finally ends with six-year deal with Twins

On Tuesday, the Twins and Correa came to terms on a deal that would guarantee $200 million over six years. Included are vesting options that pay $25 million for a seventh year, $20 million for an eighth, $15 million for a ninth and $10 million for a 10th. It also includes a full no-trade clause and annual salaries of $36 million for the first three years, followed by $31.5 million, $30.5 million and $30 million.

The maximum value is $270 million -- about $7.5 million more than the Mets would have paid him through 10 years but $15 million less than the Twins were set to guarantee him the first time. The average annual value of Correa's guaranteed deal is $33.3 million, the second-highest figure for a shortstop behind only Francisco Lindor's 10-year, $341 million deal with the Mets, and while the total dollars pale to Correa's Giants deal, ending up at $200 million, following a pair of failed physicals, is far from worst-case.

The Correa saga is laden with what-ifs. What if they had paused and negotiated with the Giants? What if Cohen hadn't gone on the record? What if Correa or the Mets had caved? What if the Twins didn't swoop in? For now, as the proceedings seem to march toward the finish line, there is only one question to be answered: Did he pass his physical?

And if he does, the most tortuous, whiplash-inducing free agency in baseball history finally will see its end.

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