The Minnesota Twins found themselves in a rough situation after the 2019 season. Fresh off producing the most prolific home run hitting lineup in baseball history, the Twins were in the search of pitching. Several offers were made but ultimately, the top options on the market were overpriced. With the pool down to low-risk, high-reward options, they knew they had to do something to improve their roster.
Instead of overpaying for a riskier commodity, the front office pivoted and decided to lean into their offense. They signed Josh Donaldson to a 4-year, $94 million contract, and the results haven’t been what they would have liked. But the Twins had the right idea. They should load up the Brinks truck again and sign Carlos Correa with a similar scenario brewing this offseason.
Correa is the type of superstar the Twins need. Over six full seasons with the Houston Astros, he has posted a batting average under .260 once and has averaged 29 homers and 105 RBI per 162 games.
There’s also the bonus of adding an elite glove to the infield. Since the start of the 2019 season, Correa ranks sixth among MLB shortstops by recording 29 outs above average according to Statcast. He also won his first Gold Glove award at the position last season.
All of these things make Correa a massive upgrade over Andrelton Simmons, but you knew that before clicking on this article. The bigger question is why a team that has been historically frugal in free agency would finally take the plunge coming out of a lockout.
Because it’s a better value than what the Twins have paid in the past.
Take Donaldson’s contract as an example. While Twins fans wanted pitching, Donaldson’s contract was the largest free-agent deal in franchise history. The large dollar amount washed away some of the stench of not paying up for a starting pitcher and the Twins went into 2020 believing their offense could carry the team.
But Donaldson’s contract was flawed in what the Twins were paying for. Donaldson was a 34-year-old corner infielder with a history of calf injuries. While the goal of any long-term deal should be to pay for production up front, the front office had to have realized they were paying for one big season in 2020 with a decline coming soon after.
With Correa, the Twins would be paying for a two-time All-Star, former Gold Glove winner, entering his prime at age 27. The Texas Rangers realized this and gave Corey Seager a 10-year-deal worth $325 million.
The Twins have to be careful with deals like this because they don’t make the same amount of revenue as larger market teams. (If you don’t believe this, go check out the ticket prices at Yankee Stadium.)
Although Seager and Correa could fall off toward the end of their massive deals, paying for five to six years of elite production at that price would be wiser than the $21 million per season the Twins are paying for the twilight of Donaldson’s career.
But even if the Twins opened up the checkbook, the bigger question could be where Correa fits within the organization.
Minnesota has accumulated assets at the shortstop position, and there’s a scenario where they roll with Jorge Polanco until Royce Lewis or Austin Martin is ready for the majors. But there’s no guarantee that either prospect becomes the same player that Correa is right now.
The last we saw Lewis, he was .238/.289/.376 between Low-A and Double-A in 2019. Although he won the Arizona Fall League MVP several weeks later, he lost valuable in-game experience during the 2020 season. After tearing his ACL last spring, it will be two full years since he’s playing in a competitive setting.
While Martin has been on the field, the results haven’t been pretty. The centerpiece of the José Berríos trade only hit .254/.399/.381 in 37 games after arriving in the organization and has serious questions about whether he can handle an infield position defensively.
This plan even has flaws at the major league level where Polanco’s ninth-inning error in Game 2 of the 2020 Wild Card Series with the Astros is still burned into the brains of Twins fans. Plugging Correa in at short and keeping Polanco at second would bolster the infield defense while allowing Minnesota to use Luis Arraez as a utility man.
The moves don’t have to stop there because the Twins can use Lewis and Martin as trade pieces to acquire pitching. They could even trade Donaldson to make room for Jose Miranda next season.
Consider that the Twins could have a level playing field once the lockout ends. Most of the teams looking to upgrade their shortstop position have already paid up or have issues an .837 career OPS can’t resolve.
The Twins have an opportunity to give fans a reason to be optimistic once the lockout ends. If they’re serious about competing, the first call they should make is to Correa.