John Shipley: Kill the fatted calf. Welcome back, Carlos Correa
He left here in search of the giant, long-term major league contract and is returning for a contract a little less giant and a little less long.
ST. PAUL -- There’s a small scene early in “The Wild Bunch” in which Warren Oates’ character Lyle Gorch, a ruthless gun for hire, interrupts his cohorts while they’re whooping it up in a sauna. He bursts in the door with a lady on his arm, stopping the bunch’s banter cold.
Besotted by wine, romance and the promise of plunder, Lyle straightens himself and announces with great sincerity, “Boys, I want you to meet my financée, the San Francisco Giants.”
Oh, we kid Carlos Correa, but let’s be honest: The whole thing is pretty funny, especially now that the all-star shortstop is ours again, the superstar free agent who came, left, and has returned home after a pair of dalliances that fizzled when his suitors delved too deeply into his past. He left here in search of the giant, long-term major league contract and is returning for a contract a little less giant and a little less long. The winners are Correa, the Twins and Minnesota’s fans.
Kill the fatted calf. Welcome back, Carlos.
The punchline here is that all this — the Twins finally landing the big-time free agent because he failed, in some way, those teams’ physicals — depends on the results of a physical. The setup, a slow build over the past month, is that Correa has agreed to a multi-year contract with the Twins after longer, more lucrative deals with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets fell through because of a broken fibula suffered in 2014.
It’s been a whirlwind, coast-to-coast tour for the best shortstop on the free-agent market, but his odyssey appears to have ended where it started, with a mid-market team in flyover country.
Correa toasted a 13-year, $350 million deal in San Francisco on Dec. 14 before it died on the vine, then said yes to a 12-year, $315 million deal with New York’s National League club on Dec. 21. That one also shriveled up because of a concern over a minor-league leg injury surgically repaired in 2014.
It was suggested in this space at season’s end that the planets would have to align for the Twins to re-sign Correa. And boy did they ever.
After opting out of the last two years of a three-year deal with the Twins paying him $35.1 million annually, Correa appeared to find his fortune elsewhere, twice, only to come back on a deal that guarantees him $200 million over six years and an additional four years of vesting and team options. All told, still not too shabby.
There’s another punchline here, of course — that Twins fans, eternally angry with management and/or capitalism because their team never signs the big, big free agents, finally get one yet retain an option to still be disappointed because Correa might actually be damaged goods.
But make no mistake, this is a great day for the Twins *.
Despite appearing to lose the Correa sweepstakes, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine kept themselves in position to scoop up a great player at a keystone position and lock him up for what should be his prime. As for that plate in his leg, it seems of less concern to the Twins *, who watched him play last season and, frankly, had their training staff all over him.
And it’s only because the Twins aren’t guaranteeing the deal for as much or as long as the Giants and Mets, so what?
Correa, still only 28, was the Twins’ best player last season, putting the team on his back as it tried unsuccessfully to close out an American League Central title despite a tsunami of season-killing injuries. Signing him immediately improves Minnesota’s chances of winning the Central division in 2023.
Correa was the Twins’ best defensive infielder and, overall, best offensive player last season. Though he didn’t lead the team in any of the standard offensive categories, he finished second across the board — batting average (.291), home runs (22), RBIs (64), slugging percentage (.467) and on-base percentage (.366). He played 136 games for a team that schedules days off for its stars, and was never on the injured list.
After doing little to quicken the pulse in free agency, the Twins have, in one fell swoop, reversed the narrative by nabbing inarguably the best free agent ever lured to Minnesota *.
* Pending the physical.
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