Minnesota Twins: Carlos Correa joins the Twins in a Saturday Stunner

New Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa reacts after hitting a two-run RBI double against the Chicago White Sox. (Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)
New Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa reacts after hitting a two-run RBI double against the Chicago White Sox. (Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports) /

Baseball fans awoke Saturday morning to the news that shortstop Carlos Correa reportedly agreed to a three-year, $105.3 million deal with the Minnesota Twins, ending a long off season of courtship for the league’s top free agent.

Inhale and exhale slowly, Twins fans.

The Minnesota Twins made a big splash in free agency yesterday, adding star shortstop Carlos Correa

The reported deal has two opt-out clauses after the first two seasons, making it effectively three one-year contracts valued at a flat $35.1 million per year. Still, the signing sent shock waves through the baseball world as Minnesota was not rumored to be in running for the superstar, instead linked heavily to star shortstop Trevor Story to fill a large void on the Twins’ infield.

Just a week ago, the Houston Astros appeared all but ready to bring Correa back as rumblings of a shorter-term deal versus a mega deal surfaced around his market, but those talks turned pessimistic later this week.

The Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles were also perceived suitors of Correa, with the latter reportedly dangling a long-term offer. A short-term deal was likely to be more complicated considering the opt outs and money implied by taking one.

For Correa, the reported deal with the Minnesota Twins provides him with extra cushion from a straight one-year deal should he struggle or get injured in 2022, while also making him the top-paid position player on an annual average value standpoint, with the chance to cash in on a long-term deal next winter without the hurdles of a shortened free agency period and a 99-day lockout.

For the Twins, it’s not only a sign of ownership and the front office willing to spend (Josh Donaldson’s deal was previously the highest free agent contact in team history), but one that gives them financial certainty and a big boost in 2022.

PECOTA had projected Minnesota to win 84 games and finish second in AL Central, eight games behind the White Sox, despite uncertainties at shortstop and in the starting rotation. The Twins were under $100 million in payroll before the reported Correa deal, according to FanGraphs, and now sits at $122 million, still well below the first competitive balance tax threshold of $230 million.

Correa comes with less risk than Story on both sides of the diamond, where a shorter-term contract should quell any defensive concerns, and he’s leaving less drastic change in park factors for right-handed hitters.

With Story, the Coors Field effect was a concern around the league, leaving an overall park factor of 119 in Colorado (biggest park factor in the league) to Minnesota (95, ranking 24th). Correa got to Minnesota from Houston, with a league-average park factor of 100.

The short-term nature of Correa’s deal, should he opt out or not, also buys the Twins time to figure out a long-term option at shortstop. Two prospects — Royce Lewis and Austin Martin — currently man the position, but face questions if they will stick in the field.

Martin has noted throwing issues, according to scouts, while injuries and a lost season to pandemic have made 2022 a crucial year for Lewis as a prospect in general. Neither seemed prime to be the Minnesota Twins’ shortstop early in 2022.

Still, with Spring Training games already underway and Opening Day looming on April 7, the addition of Correa is a jolt for the Twins that should help put Minnesota into the playoff conversation after a down year in 2021, and two straight postseason appearances in 2019 and 2020.

Minnesota had a busy off season since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed this month, jettisoning Donaldson, Mitch Garver and others for Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, and Sonny Gray in a flurry of deals.

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