The common consensus when Carlos Correa signed a surprising three-year, $105.3MM contract with the Twins was that he’d take his opt-out clause at the end of this season and re-enter the market. However, Correa recently spoke with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and revealed that he’s already expressed to Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey, general manager Thad Levine and manager Rocco Baldelli that he would “love” to sign a longer-term deal.
“I told ‘em, ’Hey guys, I know I have the opt-outs in the contract. But I really like it here,'” Correa tells Rosenthal. “I love the people here. I love the way I’m treated here. … I would love to have a long-term relationship here if that’s what you guys would like.” Correa adds that his wife already feels “right at home” in Minnesota and that he’s been energized by his teammates, specifically lauding the scalding-hot Byron Buxton as well as the overall win-now temperament throughout the clubhouse.
On the one hand, it’s hardly a surprise to see Correa express a willingness to sign a lengthy contract. He hit the open market this past offseason seeking a contract of at least 10 years in length and only pivoted to the three-year, opt-out-laden deal with the Twins after he did not find a longer-term deal to his liking. Any player would surely “love” to sign a long-term deal of the magnitude Correa sought in free agency. (The Tigers reportedly offered Correa a 10-year deal worth $275MM with multiple opt-out opportunities, but he was said to be seeking a deal north of $330MM.)
On the other hand, it’s also common for players to decline to discuss contractual matters during the season. We regularly see players who are on the cusp of free agency set Opening Day deadlines for a new contract because they prefer not to negotiate during the season. As a newly signed free agent, Correa is in a different boat than, say, Aaron Judge, who did not agree to terms on a long-term deal with the Yankees before his own Opening Day deadline, but it’s nevertheless of at least some note that Correa is publicly expressing a desire to stay put. He’d hardly have been the first player to simply decline to discuss the matter when asked and instead say he’ll think about that after the season.
From the Twins’ side of things, Falvey declined to delve into specifics but said that even when signing Correa to his three-year deal, the organization’s hope was that the shortstop would find Minnesota to his liking and hope to stay long-term. “I certainly expect we’ll maintain open lines of communication with both Carlos and [agent Scott Boras],” Falvey added.
There’s no getting around the fact that Correa is out to a poor start. It’s only 59 plate appearances, but Correa is hitting .192/.288/.288 with a homer and a pair of doubles. Statcast feels he’s been unlucky based on his huge 92.4 mph average exit velocity and a sky-high 58.8% hard-hit rate, but that “bad luck” only applies when Correa actually puts the ball in play. He’s doing that less often than ever, with a 30.5% strikeout rate that’s nearly 10 percentage points higher than his career 20.7% mark. Statcast credits him for an “expected” .230 average and .394 slugging percentage, but he’ll need to curb the strikeouts if he’s to return to his prior levels of production.
For his part, Correa made clear that he’s not concerned. The former Rookie of the Year, All-Star and 2021 Platinum Glove winner said he’s struggled to find his swing in April in the past, and a look at his career splits does reflect, to an extent, that he’s been more productive in subsequent months. That said, Correa has a career 123 wRC+ in March/April that towers over his current 77. Baldelli noted that Correa received fewer than half the spring plate appearances he might’ve in a normal year — a reflection both of the truncated Spring Training schedule and Correa’s own late signing.
Assuming Correa eventually rounds into form at the plate and that the Twins indeed have a desire to keep him longer-term — Baldelli raved to Rosenthal about Correa’s presence in the clubhouse and leadership traits — the question becomes one of whether they can comfortably make such a commitment. Signing Correa would likely require an unprecedented commitment for the franchise, given that the largest contract ever issued by the Twins was Joe Mauer’s eight-year, $184MM pact. That contract came with a unique set of circumstances, as Mauer was a former No. 1 overall pick and St. Paul native who’d just been named American League MVP in 2009 — the final season at the Metrodome before the Twins moved into a new, largely publicly funded stadium, Target Field. The public relations impact of letting Mauer walk as a free agent after the 2010 season would’ve been overwhelming; that’s not the case with Correa, whom many fans expect to opt out and sign elsewhere next winter.
Still, you’d be hard-pressed to claim the Twins “can’t afford” to keep Correa, if the front office and Boras can agree on a structure. Minnesota’s payroll this season is a franchise-record $138MM, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez, and the Twins only have $76MM in guarantees on next year’s books. Correa’s $35.1MM salary accounts for nearly half that sum. By 2024, the Twins have just $54.5MM on the books — again, with Correa representing a major portion of that figure. Beginning in 2025, the Twins only have a bit more than $18MM on the books.
Over the long-term, Buxton’s seven-year, $100MM contract is the only major commitment the Twins have. He’ll earn a $15MM base salary on that deal from 2023-28, though that figure can jump by as much as $10.5MM annually based on total plate appearances and MVP voting. Still, even in a year where Buxton were to max out that figure, he’d only do so by staying healthy and winning an MVP Award. The Twins would happily pay $25.5MM in that scenario, and even pairing that with a hefty annual salary for Correa, the combined $55-60MM would be a fraction of the team’s overall spending. It doesn’t seem likely that the Twins will be running $200MM payrolls anytime soon, but it’s also reasonable to project some modest increases over this year’s $138MM mark.
The Twins would need to fill out the roster beyond those two players, of course, but they’re bullish on a crop of young pitching headlined by Opening Day starter Joe Ryan, to say nothing of young arms like Bailey Ober, Josh Winder and Jhoan Duran, all of whom are already in the big leagues. Prospects Jordan Balazovic, Simeon Woods Richardson, Louie Varland, Cole Sands and others aren’t expected to be far behind, and slugging infielder Jose Miranda ought to make his MLB debut at some point in 2022 as well. Signing Correa would perhaps block top infield prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin, but both have experience playing multiple positions. Not all of those players will emerge as contributors, but it’s easier to stomach a long-term, near-market-value deal when expecting an influx of cost-controlled young talent to help fill out the roster.
It’s still difficult to imagine the Twins ponying up with this kind of commitment, if only for the simple reason that they’ve just never spent at this level in the past. There’s a strong likelihood Correa will be back on the market after the season. That said, it was also difficult to imagine the Twins handing out a $35.1MM annual salary to Correa in the first place, and that contract at least changed some expectations and made a larger deal seem slightly more plausible. It’d still register as a surprise, but it’s easier to take the “never say never” tack now that the Twins have already pulled off one Correa stunner.
Fans intrigued by the situation will want to check out Rosenthal’s column in full, as it’s rife with detailed quotes from each of Correa, Falvey, Baldelli and Boras regarding the possibility of Correa extending his stay in Minnesota. There’s no indication that talks will happen anytime soon, but the Twins were active on the in-season extension front last year when trying to hammer out Buxton’s long-term deal prior to the trade deadline. A larger deal for Correa could be even more complicated, but all parties seem open to the idea.