Twins introduce Vázquez, move on from Correa

December 17th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS – The Twins officially welcomed a veteran Puerto Rican clubhouse leader to their ranks at Target Field on Friday, but as they ushered catcher Christian Vázquez into the Minnesota family on a three-year, $30 million deal, conversation still lingered on the one who got away -- and where the Twins go from here, after Carlos Correa left for San Francisco on a 13-year, $350 million deal, according to a source.

“As free agency goes, we always have to know that call [regarding Correa] can come,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “We've all had it from players who have been here or haven't. There's been that moment of, once we were told, 'OK, it's going in a different direction,' like, you've prepared yourself for it, but it is a little bit of a gut punch in the moment when it happens. Then you take kind of a step back.”

With Correa no longer in the mix, the Twins’ current predicament is that there aren’t many impact free agents remaining on the market now that they know for sure that they need to pivot away from the superstar shortstop -- and from that market, the Twins have agreed to contracts with Vázquez and Joey Gallo (according to a source).

Falvey pushed back on the notion that the pace of the Correa negotiations kept the Twins out of the running for many of the impact free agents who signed elsewhere, noting that geography or other factors sometimes made for an uphill battle for them. He did acknowledge, though, that the length of some of the top-tier deals on this market did take him aback.

“Definitely surprised,” Falvey said. “It was not something we thought that much about in terms of that extended length on a few players. We've had to reevaluate and adjust as we've gone to try and understand what it means for us. My job is to keep an eye on this year, and also on what it means for the franchise over the long term.”

The Twins would have loved to bring Correa back and supplement the roster even further from there as they sought a bounceback from a disappointing 78-84 finish in 2022. Now they have to piece together that production and leadership.

“I don’t have a specific answer, like [the money that went to Correa] is allocated for this specific purpose,” Falvey said when asked if he expects to spend all of that money this offseason. “We may actually have to be more creative in thinking about how we divide that up.”

They feel that the puzzle starts with Vázquez, who won’t bring much to the offensive side but takes a lot of pride in his work with the pitching staff and his game-calling skills. Vázquez will take on “primary duties” behind the plate, Falvey said, but there won’t be a significant skew between the veteran and 25-year-old Ryan Jeffers, who still hasn’t found offensive consistency.

“I can tell you we continued to hear over and over again, '[Vázquez] is the guy that's going to make your pitching staff better,'” Falvey said. “Obviously, on the [offensive] side, he contributes on that side, too. I don't want to minimize that. But what he can do as a leader, as a catcher and how much pride he takes in that really allowed him to stand out from the group. We're thrilled to have him.”

Vázquez, for his part, emphasized that he chose the Twins because he felt there was an opportunity to win, with the expectation that the club will continue to add before Opening Day. He noted that he has already communicated with manager Rocco Baldelli for information on all of his new pitchers, and that he considers the Twins’ pitching staff to be a strength.

Having learned the catching craft from the brothers Molina in Puerto Rico and already close with Jorge López and Jorge Polanco, Vázquez is eager for this new challenge in his career -- and the Twins will need to continue finding him help.

“They're very close to winning a championship,” Vázquez said on Friday. “That's very important to us, and I can help them a lot behind the plate to bring a championship to this city. I think that's the main goal for everybody, is to win championships, and we're here. We're here to start this ride together. It's going to be fun.”