Twins

What If Carlos Correa Opts Into His Contract Option?

Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Twins signed Carlos Correa, he looked like the superstar to put them over the top.

The Twins haven’t been on a playoff run in 20 years. They have also lost their last 18 playoff games. Correa had everything they needed to put an end to those droughts. But with six weeks remaining, his season in Minnesota has been disappointing.

Correa hasn’t had the season he expected when he signed in March. His numbers at the plate are flirting with the worst of his career. The Twins are fighting for their lives in a weak division. A trip to the World Series is improbable, and Correa is expected to opt out of his three-year contract and cash in during free agency.

All of these things have a good chance of coming true. But Correa’s best move might be to stay in Minnesota for one more season.

When Correa hit the market last year, he did so as a major name. At 27 years old, big-market teams thought about opening their checkbook, but a big deal never materialized. Many thought it was because of Correa’s demands, but it could have been because of some of the other names on the market.

Corey Seager and Marcus Semien were two middle infielders that muddied the waters. Although Semien had moved to second base, his power numbers caused teams to fall over themselves as they offered him a massive contract. The Texas Rangers bit hard, giving Seager and Semien a combined $500 million and resetting the market.

Javier Báez was another big name available and took another suitor off the market. Correa’s options were limited after the Detroit Tigers forked over $175 million. The MLB lockout also didn’t help matters. The Twins capitalized, signing Correa to a lucrative short-term deal.

Although Correa agreed to a 3-year, $105.1 million contract, the opt-out clause after this season indicated that this would be his only year in Minnesota. But we also thought Correa would have been a hotter commodity, which hasn’t been the case.

Correa’s production at the plate has been disappointing this season. Coming off a career year in 2021, he was supposed to be a force in the middle of the lineup, but he has resembled the player that struggled back in 2018.

The struggles have also carried over into the field. According to Statcast, Correa ranked sixth among qualifying shortstops with 12 outs above average last season. However, he ranks 25th with three outs below average this season – tied with old friend Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

That’s not to say that Correa has been holding Minnesota back. The front office has raved about his leadership. Without him, the Twins would have been on a similar path to where they were last year. But that won’t deter teams from going with some of the other big names scheduled to hit the market.

The class of 2023 is absolutely loaded, and shortstop is no exception. Not only does next year’s class have some top-tier names available, but it also has more of them, with Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson expected to hit the market.

Correa is one year younger than Swanson and two years younger than Turner and Bogaerts. But even if those three players leave their teams, would they want to spend that money on Correa?

That could leave Correa with two options. Hit the market or opt-in with the Twins.

By returning to Minnesota, Correa guarantees himself $35.1 million, allowing him to recoup whatever value he may have lost. That doesn’t mean Correa will be fighting for a veteran minimum deal, but he’ll have a better chance to earn a megadeal in the 2024 class, where his main competition would be Tim Anderson.

Of course, this also puts the Twins in a bind. Bringing Correa back wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would hamstring what they could do to improve the team next season.

In the final weeks of the 2022 season, their needs are becoming clear. Miguel Sanó has likely played his last game in Minnesota, meaning the Twins will need a first baseman. While Alex Kirilloff has the chance to fill that role, his wrist is a major concern. It’s also not guaranteed that Luis Arraez can produce at an All-Star level for the second straight year.

The Twins also could need a corner outfielder. Max Kepler has been underwhelming this season. His contract is up in 2023, and he could be used to acquire a high-upside pitcher. Trevor Larnach could fill this void, but he’s also coming off two injury-plagued seasons, leading Minnesota to seek a veteran alternative.

Then there’s the pitching staff. The Twins have done an excellent job acquiring controllable starters for next season, but they all have question marks. Chris Paddack is coming off his second Tommy John surgery, and there may be serious questions about Tyler Mahle‘s shoulder. Even if Kenta Maeda returns to form, there’s still a need for a high-level ace.

Put it all together, and the Twins could use that $35.1 million to improve other areas of the roster. If Royce Lewis has a smooth recovery from his torn ACL, the Twins could have a better team without Correa, leading them to true contention next season.

It’s an interesting scenario to think about. One that puts a lot of value on the next six weeks.

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