Twins

It's Carlos Correa's Time To Shine

Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins fans have been doing their best Carlos Correa impression for almost three months. No, they haven’t been hitting the batting cage. They haven’t been working on their range in the hole at shortstop. And no, they haven’t been shopping at the Dior store in the Mall of America.

Instead, they’ve been reenacting that classic pose that Correa struck when he hit a massive home run in the 2021 postseason. At that moment, he stood in place, tapped on his wrist, and mouthed, “My time. …”

Fans have been tapping their watches, wondering how long they’d have to wait for their club to make a substantial move to improve their club.

Well, now their time has come. The Twins have re-signed Correa to a record-setting contract that guarantees he will remain in Minnesota for at least the next six seasons.

As the off-season went along, it became clear that the roller coaster surrounding the star shortstop’s market would take the baseball world through countless twists and turns. But when the dust settled on Wednesday morning, Correa’s gear remained in the corner locker in the Twins’ clubhouse.

It’s a move that sets a standard for the Twins for the rest of the decade. Not only will Correa be a fixture in the lineup for years to come, but his presence allows the dominoes to fall in a different direction than they were facing as recently as a few days ago.

For example, it takes monumental pressure off the shortstops already in tow for the upcoming season. Kyle Farmer was bound to get the majority of playing time as Correa’s successor, but now manager Rocco Baldelli can use him more strategically around the rest of the diamond. Royce Lewis, the club’s top prospect on the mend from a second ACL surgery, can now take his time during recovery. Without Correa, fans would have been clamoring for him to return to the big leagues as soon as possible. Brooks Lee, the other highly-touted prospect coming up the Twins’ system, can try other positions to see where he fits best.

Or how about this? Correa’s return makes it possible for the Twins to trade one of their prized youngsters for a difference-making pitcher.

The infield picture is crowded enough as it is. Eventually, someone will have to move to the outfield or another team’s depth chart. Maybe that’s one of the prospects, or perhaps that’s a young stud like Luis Arraez, José Miranda, or Alex Kirilloff. Regardless, it’s clear that the club has far more options now that their primary off-season target is back in the fold.

This move brings plenty of variables along with it, but also a lot of certainty. For example, it’s a near-certainty that the Twins will have an impressive lineup against left-handed pitching. Here is a look at a possible batting order with each player’s wRC+ against lefties in 2022.

Byron Buxton CF 159
Luis Arraez DH 101
Carlos Correa SS 168
José Miranda 1B 132
Kyle Garlick RF 128
Ryan Jeffers C 161
Jorge Polanco 2B 75
Kyle Farmer 3B 157
Alex Kirilloff LF 67

This mock-up also proposes some notable exclusions. First, the newly-signed Joey Gallo is left on the bench. Chances are he’ll be a near-everyday player, but his numbers against lefties in 2022 were downright abysmal (.110/.217/.219, 20 wRC+). It should be noted, though, that he was either excellent or perfectly serviceable against southpaws in his two All-Star seasons (1.174 OPS in 2019, .767 OPS in 2021). Let’s assume he’ll rebound a bit, in which case, maybe he will replace Kirilloff in left field.

Max Kepler is another exemption. He is all but certain to be traded thanks to the glut of replacements that are ready to take over for him in right field.

Knowing how Baldelli likes to mix his lineup around regularly, it will be exciting to see the many options at his disposal. And much of that is thanks to Correa’s return. This development is intriguing from an analytical and performance-based standpoint, but it’s a major morale boost for a club and fanbase desperate for some good news.

Twins Territory has been bruised repeatedly through two disappointing seasons, myriad injuries, and a cursed postseason losing streak. But all that changes with the return of a star-caliber player with a championship-winning reputation and the dominoes that fall thereafter. If Correa can live up to the hype and maintain relatively good health, this could be a turning point for the Minnesota Twins.

Now’s the time.

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