Twins

How Will The Carlos Correa Season Be Remembered?

Photo Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

It was a calm night in March. The MLB lockout had just ended, and the Minnesota Twins were doing everything they could to improve their roster. The stench of a last-place finish was still floating through the air. Therefore, fans met the next season with pessimism.

At that moment, a storm was brewing. Carlos Correa had signed with the Twins, and it appeared that a front office that had always avoided risk was going all-in to become contenders in 2022.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon. The Cleveland Guardians were teeing off on Jorge López, and Rocco Baldelli went to the bullpen to summon shortstop Jermaine Palacios. The 11-4 loss effectively buried the Twins, who are now seven games behind the Guardians with 15 games left to play.

The prevailing thought is to wonder what happened to a team that wanted to compete. A better question is how Twins fans will remember “The Summer of Correa.”

Signing Correa was one of the most aggressive moves the Twins could have made. Correa is an All-Star shortstop in his prime. He doesn’t just have a Gold Glove; he has a Platinum Glove. His leadership has been praised throughout the season, and it should have been enough to lead Minnesota to the top of the American League Central.

To their credit, the front office did many things to make this happen. The Twins could have gone the opposite direction last winter and traded Byron Buxton as part of a massive rebuild. Instead, they decided to lean into their star with a 7-year, $100 million contract.

The Twins continued to go for it by making several aggressive trades. Before signing Correa, they sent Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Then they flipped Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson’s bloated contract to the New York Yankees for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez.

The deals continued throughout the season. They traded Taylor Rogers to the San Diego Padres, and the Twins added three pitchers at the trade deadline. None of these deals worked out, but it wasn’t like there was a lack of effort.

The aggressiveness continued as the season wore on. Buxton injured his knee in the early weeks of the season, and they could have shut him down. Their maintenance plan drew plenty of criticism, but they kept wheeling Buxton out there until a hip injury finally forced him to the injured list.

The Twins even fast-tracked Royce Lewis to the major leagues after he came off of a torn ACL suffered in Feb. 2021. Lewis could have spent the entire season in St. Paul, but the Twins saw the potential to add an impact player, even shoehorning him into a utility role in June.

Jose Miranda, Alex Kirilloff, and Jhoan Durán were some other young players thrown into important roles, and it appeared the future was now.

But while the Twins made some aggressive moves, they also took some actions that went in the opposite direction.

The way Baldelli deployed his pitching staff this season was perplexing. The Twins acquired Sonny Gray in their flurry of moves, but he rarely stayed in the game once he reached the third time through the order. He protected Minnesota’s other pitchers with the idea that they would be able to turn it on later in the season. Unfortunately, that day never came.

The Twins also did this with a bullpen that they didn’t upgrade last offseason. Even as Rogers struggled with the Padres, the Twins didn’t improve in that deal. Chris Paddack underwent Tommy John surgery, and Emilio Pagán became a liability.

There were also instances where the Twins had strange maintenance plans for their top players. They routinely rested Correa and Buxton on the same day. They gave other players maintenance days for a postseason run that never arrived.

It reached a boiling point last Saturday. After the Twins dropped the first game of a doubleheader to fall six games behind the Guardians, they needed to win the nightcap to keep their season alive.

With the season on the line, Correa…was not in the lineup. Although he eventually came into the game as a pinch-runner, they lifted him for Palacios, and the Twins lost in 15 innings.

Although it’s unclear whether Baldelli made the decision or if he was simply carrying out a mandate from the front office, it appears as a white flag for a team that looked hellbent on ending an 18-game postseason losing streak.

This wasn’t how this year was supposed to go. Correa could have been the biggest Twins mercenary since Jack Morris threw 10 innings in the 1991 World Series. Correa’s postseason track record also indicated he would have been up to the task if given the opportunity. Instead, he’ll be watching the postseason on his couch.

Even if Correa opts into the second year of his deal, this season will be remembered as the ultimate gaslighting for Twins fans. The 2021 Twins were just bad, and it was easier to accept. The 2022 Twins had some shortcomings, but it wasn’t an excuse to let a season with one of the best players in baseball go to waste.

It’s unfortunate, but the “Summer of Correa” will be known as a missed opportunity.

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Photo Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

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