With Correa gone, what's next for Twins?

December 14th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- Well, what happens now?

The Twins bucked all franchise precedent with an earnest pursuit of at the very top of this free-agent market -- but after all that, the superstar shortstop who made an outsized impact on the organization ultimately won’t return to the Upper Midwest, as Correa reportedly agreed to a 13-year, $350 million deal with the Giants that will make him the cornerstone and face of the franchise in San Francisco for the next decade-plus.

If the Twins were ever going to make a splash of that magnitude, the stars had seemingly aligned for Correa to be that partner.

Both sides said all the right things as they navigated a stopgap deal for the 2022 season, and Correa had nothing but positive things to say about his experience in Minnesota, showing an openness to the team rare among free agents of his caliber. He took an interest in developing younger Twins. He and grew close. Teammates vigorously campaigned for his long-term return.

But the Giants ultimately swept the rug out from under the Twins with the fourth-largest guarantee in MLB history. The Twins reportedly offered close to $285 million over 10 years, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, more than double the club’s previous free-agent records for years (four for and Ervin Santana) and money (Correa at $105.3 million).

But none of that will matter come Opening Day, because the Twins have to move forward.

"I would say I don't feel a specific pressure, [where] if there's no Carlos, then there's one other player we have to get," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said at the Winter Meetings. "We have to just be thoughtful and in the market and make sure we know what is moving. If we find there's another good way to make our team better, we're going to have that conversation."

So, where do they go from here? Here are a few options.

1. Go hard after

The Twins still need a shortstop, and only one of the top talents at the position remains on the market in Swanson, who was second among all MLB shortstops with 6.4 WAR last season, per FanGraphs. But this pursuit won’t be easy.

Unlike with Correa, the Twins don’t have a history with Swanson, and there’s no shortage of shortstop-needy teams remaining, including some potentially big spenders in the Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox, who will be more motivated than ever. Swanson hit .277/.329/.447 with 25 homers in 2022 and led all shortstops (by a wide margin) with 21 outs above average, per Statcast -- though he has only posted two full seasons with an above-average OPS+.

Swanson will be entering his age-29 season, and the market has been primed by 11-year deals for both (Phillies) and (Padres) along with the eye-popping 13-year commitment to Correa, so the bidding could get expensive. Still, he’s the only shot remaining for the Twins to use their payroll flexibility on an impact shortstop in free agency.

2. Make a big pitching move

The Twins are no strangers to making a big pivot. That’s what they did ahead of the 2020 season, when they missed on free-agent pitching and instead made a four-year, $92 million commitment to Donaldson to further supplement an offense that appeared to need less help.

This is what it might come to, with and representing the two top starting pitchers remaining on a quickly dwindling market. The Twins already have a full rotation on paper, with depth to spare, but raising the ceiling of the group with a pitcher like Rodón would clearly make a difference -- and a longer-term deal would make sense beyond 2023, with , and bound for free agency.

This option would also involve either playing at shortstop or signing another stopgap at the position, then hoping that either (coming off a second ACL surgery) or (drafted five months ago) quickly emerges as the clear long-term solution -- which leaves the Twins with much less certainty in the short term.

3. Get aggressive on the trade market

The Correa negotiations took long enough that most of the top free agents have already signed elsewhere, and the Twins had much more flexibility this offseason in payroll than in trade assets, considering the number of prospects they traded away in the last calendar year to acquire win-now pieces like Gray and Mahle.

With the farm system less robust, the Twins might have to deal from areas of excess on their Major League roster, which mostly exists in the corner outfield and among young starting pitchers. ’s name continues to come up in trade rumors, but a true impact addition might require moving a younger player like or . Could defending batting champion , who lacks a clear defensive fit, also enter that conversation?