For Twins, Correa deal is not risky business

Club strategic in contract structure to protect against potential long-term ankle concerns

January 12th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- For nearly a month, and his family had to sit back and watch the entire baseball world openly speculate about the long-term health of his right ankle as his long-awaited free agency took twists and turns unlike any before seen in the sport -- all while he was unable to publicly respond.

It’s fortunate, then, that he found a way to tune it all out and even find humor in it.

“It’s something I can’t control, perception and all that,” Correa said. “But through that whole month, when people were speculating, I was running sprints. I was working out. I was taking ground balls. I was hitting. So, it was more funny to me that there was all this speculation and I’m feeling great. But my focus is not on that. This deal got done.”

But the saga of Correa’s ankle was, financially, no laughing matter. It ultimately cost him seven years and $150 million worth of guarantees -- from the 13 years and $350 million in his original agreement with the Giants on Dec. 13, down to the six years and $200 million guaranteed in the contract with the Twins that became official on Wednesday, with the potential for it to grow to as much as 10 years and $270 million.

The Twins are thrilled to have Correa back in Minneapolis for the long term, but the case remains that two other teams with much deeper pockets -- and, thus, likely more financial risk tolerance -- in the Giants and Mets ultimately chose not to take the risk. What made Minnesota comfortable in doing so?

We know that Correa has never spent any time on the Major League injured list with issues stemming from his right ankle, and Correa said that he’s never even received treatment on the ankle following his recovery from that surgery, to the point where he found it “shocking” that it emerged as a hold-up for two deals.

“One thing I learned throughout the whole process is that doctors have difference of opinions,” Correa said. “I had a lot of doctors tell me that I was fine. I had some doctors that said it wasn’t so fine. It was shocking to me because since I had the surgery, I never missed a game [for it].”

Correa and agent Scott Boras had the chance to speak publicly about the saga for the first time on Wednesday, and though it represents only one side of the conversation, Boras attributed the disagreements to how teams weighed the risks presented by MRIs of Correa’s surgically repaired right ankle -- stemming from a fracture during a Minor League game in 2014 -- against an analysis of how it has functioned in the field in the time since the injury.

With that said, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s unlikely that we’ll ever hear the full extent of the story from the perspective of the Giants or Mets, as it pertains to medical information regarding a player employed by neither of those teams.

"It is a dramatic chasm between how some doctors feel and other doctors feel about the longevity of a player’s performance," Boras said.

It’s clear that there is some risk there -- the deal wouldn’t have been cut by such an amount if things were completely fine. Without going into too much detail due to the medical nature of the problem, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey acknowledged the existence of that long-term risk, but he noted that after working with team physician Dr. Chris Camp, who had Correa in the organization last season, they don’t feel like there is “some impending clock or moment” coming.

“I'll compare it to something like, if you had a UCL injury and you see some tearing and you're not sure and you don't know how fast that's going to come -- it's not like that,” Falvey said. “This is a different type of situation, and, as Scott alluded to, it's a little bit of a crystal ball question as to what happens in the future. That's all.”

So, then, the Twins did end up managing that risk through how their contract is structured. It’s not the 13-year deal with the Giants that would have taken Correa through his age-40 season, nor is it the 12-year deal with the Mets that would have taken Correa through his age-39 season.

The six-year guarantee expires at the end of Correa’s age-33 season -- well within any elite shortstop’s physical prime. Each of the four subsequent seasons can vest if Correa reaches a plate appearance threshold in the previous season -- or if he finishes in the top five in AL MVP voting, wins the Silver Slugger Award or is named the MVP of the ALCS or World Series. Even if he doesn’t reach the vesting threshold for a subsequent season, the Twins also hold club options for each of those years.

In other words, in those later -- and perhaps riskier -- years, the Twins are protected against a drop-off in performance or health every year and hold the power in the decision-making process. But they’re seemingly not as worried in the shorter term of the initial six years.

“I think the structure of our contract allows you to see how we think about short term, long term with respect to that,” Falvey said. “I would say that Carlos is ready to go. [Camp] walked out of the exam yesterday. He said he feels as good as he's ever felt about where he's at with the hands-on physical and otherwise. We've built the structure in a way that manages a little bit of the long-term risk associated with this.”

Another big factor: The Twins and Camp have already seen how Correa operates. Unlike the Mets and Giants, they’re not coming in blind. They’ve seen how he prepares himself physically, they’ve seen how his ankle plays in the field every day, and they have familiarity with the medical data. That ultimately made a difference.

“It gave us a clarity that most organizations did not enjoy -- [others] did not have the information and the depth of understanding of who Carlos was and what his true medical status was,” Boras said.

“I said to Scott before [Correa] came -- because of the work that Chris Camp had done, and how much we knew about the ankle -- that he was safe in coming here, knowing that we were safe in an agreement where he was coming here to do the physical process, and we’re not going to say, ‘Oh my god, what’s wrong with the ankle?’” Falvey said.