Correa pivots to Mets after Giants deal falls through (source)

December 21st, 2022

NEW YORK -- Steve Cohen’s boldness in fortifying the Mets knows no apparent bounds. Having already committed nearly half a billion dollars in payroll to improve the team this offseason, Major League Baseball’s richest owner shocked the industry early Wednesday morning by agreeing to terms on a 12-year, $315 million deal with infielder Carlos Correa, multiple sources told 

The deal is pending a physical -- an important distinction given the events of the past 24 hours. The Mets have not confirmed the agreement, which is unlikely to become official until Friday at the earliest. 

The New York Post was first to report that Correa and the Mets had come to terms on a deal, mere hours after the shortstop’s 13-year, $350 million contract with the Giants fell apart over apparent medical concerns. That gave Cohen, who was on vacation in Hawaii, a window to slip through and reopen negotiations with Correa. 

“We need one more thing, and this is it,” Cohen told the Post. “This was important … This puts us over the top. This is a good team. I hope it’s a good team!”

As late as Tuesday morning, the Giants were expected to finalize their deal with Correa, a two-time All-Star and former No. 1 overall Draft pick who had briefly negotiated with the Mets before agreeing to move to San Francisco. But the Giants abruptly canceled Correa’s press conference over a medical concern that arose during his physical, according to a source. By late afternoon, Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler had re-engaged with Correa’s agent, Scott Boras, in hopes of completing a deal.

Cohen recently acknowledged in an interview with the Post that he had regretted not landing Correa, one of the top position players available on the open market. Because the Mets spent their early offseason focused on pitching, they did not initially reach out to Correa until the shortstop was already deep in talks with the Giants. When Correa agreed to a deal with the Giants, Cohen and Eppler believed the issue to be dead.

Given a second chance on Tuesday, those two acted quickly, negotiating the details necessary to make Correa the new centerpiece of an offseason overhaul. With deals in place for Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Díaz, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, José Quintana, Omar Narváez, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson and now Correa, Cohen has committed a record $806.1 million to free agents.

A hedge-fund manager worth a reported $17.5 billion according to Forbes figures, Cohen had already blown past MLB’s highest Competitive Balance Tax threshold ($293 million) before the Correa agreement. He is set to spend over $380 million on his 2023 payroll alone, plus more than $110 million in luxury tax. (The Mets will be required to pay a 90 percent tax on anything above $293 million, in addition to other penalties.) That will increase Cohen’s total outlay for next season to nearly half a billion dollars.

For his money, Cohen hopes he has created a super-team instantly capable of winning the World Series. A natural shortstop, Correa is expected to slide over to third base to accommodate Francisco Lindor, who signed his own $341 million megadeal two offseasons ago. Incumbent third baseman Eduardo Escobar will likely head to the bench, with prospect Brett Baty perhaps set for a full-time conversion to the outfield.

Correa has never played third base in the Majors before, but he did man the hot corner for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic -- and he did so out of deference to Lindor, who played shortstop.

A projected lineup against right-handed pitchers, based on how the Mets operated last season, looks like this: 
1. Nimmo, CF 
2. Starling Marte, RF 
3. Lindor, SS 
4. Pete Alonso, 1B 
5. Correa, 3B 
6. Jeff McNeil, 2B 
7. Mark Canha, LF 
8. Daniel Vogelbach, DH 
9. Narváez, C 
Mets officials will not comment until the deal becomes official. What concerned the Giants about Correa’s physical isn’t publicly known, but various reports have indicated it’s unrelated to the back issue that sidelined him for 36 games in 2018. Still just 28 years old, Correa has appeared in 89 percent of his team’s games the past three seasons.

While it’s rare for transactions to fall through over medical concerns, it’s not unprecedented. Two years ago, the Mets scuttled their deal with their first-round Draft pick, right-handed pitcher Kumar Rocker, due to an arm issue they discovered during his physical. Rocker re-entered the Draft the following summer and was selected third overall by the Rangers. In 2015, Wilmer Flores openly wept on the field after believing he had been traded, before the Mets nixed that agreement due to discomfort with Carlos Gómez’s medical history (an assertion that Brewers officials later disputed). In 2007, a free agent deal between the Mets and catcher Yorvit Torrealba fell apart when Torrealba failed a physical.

Similar circumstances have unfolded over the years with various MLB clubs. When teams agree to terms with a free agent, that means they have assented to details including years, dollars, performance bonuses and other language. Nothing is official until the player passes a physical, which is why teams do not comment on or acknowledge deals until that process is complete. For an agent such as Scott Boras to reopen negotiations after agreeing to terms with the Giants (and, ultimately, to negotiate a less valuable contract) indicates that he believed Correa’s deal with San Francisco was in real peril.

The Mets, in turn, would not have reengaged without a comfort level that whatever scuttled the Giants deal will not sink theirs. At his best, Correa is a game-changing shortstop boasting both power -- he’s averaged 21 homers per season not counting the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign -- and Gold Glove-caliber defense. He is easily the most impactful offensive piece the Mets have added since Lindor, who like Correa is a Puerto Rican native.

At this point, the Mets are mostly done with their offseason shopping, according to a source, who indicated the team could still shop for additional bullpen depth but is unlikely to add another prominent offensive piece.