Why Mets shouldn’t feel bad after Carlos Correa deal falls through
Can the New York Mets still be the best team money can buy?
With the weeks-long possibility that Carlos Correa could be an integral part of a lineup that includes slugger Pete Alonso, switch hitter Francisco Lindor and table setter Brandon Nimmo, the Mets became immediate World Series contenders. That Mets team, the one that planned to park Correa at third base for years to come, was a mighty assembly of perhaps the strongest offense with the highest ceiling in the league.
Now, in what looks like the final chapter of the weirdest free-agency adventure in the history of the sport, Correa is reportedly finalizing an agreement to reunite with the Minnesota Twins — pending a physical. In the span of a month, Correa will have gone from agreeing to a 13-year, $350 million deal ($27 million average annual value) with the San Francisco Giants, to quickly pivoting and agreeing to a 12-year, $315 million deal ($26 million AAV) with the Mets, to a six-year, $200 million deal ($33 million AAV) with vesting years that can make the contract larger, with the Twins.
So, where does this leave the Mets? Oh, only with the highest payroll the sport has ever seen. Mets owner Steve Cohen is flashing a bill well over $400 million, which includes the luxury tax he must pay for his over expenditure, with the goal for 2023 still reading World Series or bust.
Correa’s deal with the Mets fell apart for the same reason the star shortstop was forced to walk away from the Giants. The Mets saw the same issue in Correa’s physical, a surgically repaired right ankle that may not hold up over the course of a long-term deal, and the two sides failed to work out a solution. It is the second time in Cohen’s ownership that his front office disagreed with a medical issue of a Scott Boras client. The Mets also failed to sign right-hander Kumar Rocker, their 2021 first-round draft pick, after finding an issue in his physical. Last July, Rocker — with Boras as his agent — was selected as the Texas Rangers’ No. 3 overall pick. So, Cohen certainly has experience saying no to Boras and sticking to it.
Without Correa, the Mets are still an intimidating force in the National League East. It’s part of why the Correa saga is so intriguing. Before Cohen agreed to terms with Correa over a martini while vacationing in Hawaii for the holidays, the Mets had already made big waves on the hot stove. Take, for instance, the acquisition of three-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. His $86.6 million, two-year deal, or $43.3 million per year, matched a record with Max Scherzer, another expensive arm attached to Cohen’s purse strings, for the highest AAV for a pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.
The excitement surrounding Verlander’s decision to join the Mets was the splash of the offseason. It arrived merely four days after ace Jacob deGrom somewhat surprisingly decided to break ties with the Mets in favor of joining the Rangers’ rotation. For good measure, Cohen and the Mets also picked up Japanese import Kodai Senga (five years, $75 million), veteran southpaw José Quintana (two years, $26 million) and All-Star reliever David Robertson (one year, $10 million). The Mets also re-signed Nimmo and closer Edwin Díaz to nine-figure deals, and, in doing so, doubled down on the organization’s win-now mentality.
All of that optimism and promise of a successful season still exists without Correa in the lineup. But the previous buzz and good vibes surrounding this Mets team has taken a hit. The commotion that Cohen generated by speaking on the record about the now-botched Correa deal — “We needed one more thing, and this is it … We needed one more hitter. This puts us over the top,” Cohen told the New York Post minutes after he agreed to terms for Correa — made his fan base realize that the team needed someone like Correa, who projects a 131 wRC+ in 2023, to make the Mets complete. So, even though New York made critical improvements via free agency and re-signings this offseason, the decision to let Correa walk back to Minnesota translates into somewhat of a letdown.
Without Correa, there are not a ton of offensive options left on the market for the Mets to still become that complete team. By initially agreeing to terms with Correa, the Mets publicized their desire for a massive lineup upgrade. Now, with premier bats off the table this late into the offseason, New York will likely be left with internal options to improve the offense. In a 20-day span, the Mets went from visualizing Correa at the hot corner for years to come, to giving veteran infielder Eduardo Escobar and their 23-year-old rookie a chance.
Mets third baseman Brett Baty is back in the mix as the club’s next-best option. Baty impressed the organization in his short MLB debut this last season, before sustaining a torn UCL in his right thumb and ending his season after appearing in only 11 games. The lefty-hitting Baty is the Mets’ No. 2 top overall prospect and there is still an opportunity there for the 6-foot-3 infielder to grow into the role of the club’s long-term third baseman. It’s easy to see the Mets starting Baty most days with Escobar, who enters his 13th season in the big leagues, helping out as needed on manager Buck Showalter’s roster.
Though losing Correa to the Twins may be a bitter pill to swallow for those in Mets land, there’s little reason anyone should feel bad for them. By agreeing to terms with Correa, Cohen was willing to don a payroll that almost flashed $500 million and, combined with his well-publicized desire to win, there’s more evidence pointing to the extreme likelihood that Cohen will repeat this exorbitant offseason than the contrary. Sure, Cohen and the Mets swooped in after the Giants’ failed attempt to sign Correa only to have the same issue with his right ankle and become the second straight team that failed to sign him.
But, six-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner Manny Machado becomes a free agent next year. As does two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Cohen took the gloves off this offseason by blowing past the very same luxury tax that was designed to limit his spending. He showed us that the Mets are central players any and every time an elite free agent hits the market. He is bullying the rest of the league with his $17.5 billion net worth, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t go for it again when another star player’s name is brought to his desk.
The loss of Correa will sting only as long as the next premier player decides to come to Queens and play for the Mets.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.
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