Carlos Correa will become a free agent five days after the World Series draws to a close — the date on which a decision regarding his contract’s first of two opt-out clauses is due. Correa has already made clear that he plans to opt out of the final two years and $70.2MM, returning to free agency, though he’s expressed a hope that he and the Twins can work out a long-term pact. Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey acknowledged last month that the team had already had some dialogue with agent Scott Boras about a potential new deal, although obviously, no agreement has been reached.
For his part, Twins owner Jim Pohlad made clear in a recent interview with Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he hopes to see Correa back in the fold next season and is very open to a new contract. “I’m totally on board with him coming back,” said Pohlad. “Definitely. Absolutely. I love the guy. He’s a huge asset and benefit to the team. But I don’t know how it’s going to go.”
While some Twins fans have perhaps been holding out hope for an extension before Correa’s opt-out date is due, that’s never felt especially likely, and Pohlad himself suggested that he expects Correa and Boras to test the market. Pohlad called Boras an “aggressive” agent and noted that it’s still too early to tell what sort of offers the market might yield.
At the time of the signing, the $35.1MM annual rate on Correa’s three-year, $105.3MM deal in Minnesota was the fourth-largest AAV in Major League history. He reportedly sought more than $330MM over a deal of at least ten years last offseason, and while that might be an ambitious goal a year later and a year older, Correa will also enter the market with a new set of potential bidders and without the burden of a qualifying offer. The Dodgers, who largely sat out the shortstop market last winter due to Trea Turner’s presence, for instance, have already been linked to Correa before free agency even commences.
Regardless of whether the record-setting free-agent deal Correa sought last winter is there in the months to come, there’s still good reason to believe he can command a lucrative, long-term arrangement. On a rate basis, Correa’s 2022 season was largely in line with his 2021 performance.
This year’s .291/.366/.467 slash compares quite favorably to last season’s .274/.366/.487 slash. By measure of wRC+, which weights for the leaguewide dip in power and a home park that wasn’t necessarily as friendly to Correa as Houston’s Minute Maid Park (and its short porch), Correa’s 2022 season was actually better: 140 to 133. Correa’s 89.9 mph average exit velocity was only a hair below 2021’s mark of 90.2 mph, and he actually improved upon his barrel rate (9.4% in 2021, 11.4% in 2022) and hard-hit rate (42.5% to 44.7%).
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Correa’s defensive metrics took a major step back from his 2021 Platinum Glove showing, but year-to-year fluctuations in Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average are fairly commonplace. That’s not to completely write off the struggles, and some teams may view them as a portent for further decline at the position. Even if that were the case, however, Statcast measures Correa’s arm as the sixth-strongest among all shortstops, averaging 88 mph per throw (and 14th among all non-first-baseman infielders). A move to third base, if ever needed, would likely be plenty feasible.
Setting aside Correa’s broader market appeal and turning back to the Twins, specifically, Minnesota has just $32.5MM in guaranteed contracts on next year’s books, plus another $36MM or so in projected arbitration salaries. Looking ahead to 2024, Byron Buxton’s $15MM base salary is the only notable guarantee on the books. There’s room for the Twins to make a market offer if Pohlad truly feels convicted in his comments regarding Correa, but it’s a fair question whether the Twins will be willing to outbid the field with a franchise-record deal when there are plenty of other needs on the roster — particularly on the pitching staff.