The San Francisco Giants may have wanted Aaron Judge, but Carlos Correa was always the guy they needed.
Bully for them, then, that Correa's the guy they got. As ESPN's Jeff Passan was first to report late Tuesday night, the Giants came to terms with the decorated shortstop on a 13-year contract that will pay out $350 million.
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Breaking: Carlos Correa agrees to a 13-year, $350M deal with the Giants, per <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffPassan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JeffPassan</a> 💰 <a href="https://twitter.com/BRWalkoff?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BRWalkoff</a> <a href="https://t.co/n9qFIDUUp6">pic.twitter.com/n9qFIDUUp6</a>
In contrast to the opt-out-laden deal that Correa signed with the Minnesota Twins in March, this one's pretty much for life. Per Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the 28-year-old's pact with the Giants features full no-trade protection and no opt-outs. He's locked in to play in the Bay Area through his age-40 season in 2035.
He'll certainly be well-compensated. The $350 million guarantee puts Correa at the high end of what he was reportedly seeking last winter, not to mention atop the heap among the highest paid shortstops in history.
If reports of their $360 million offer to Judge are accurate, the Giants have nonetheless saved money in pivoting to Correa after the reigning American League MVP returned to the New York Yankees. And that's just one way that that outcome was for the best.
Aaron Judge Never Made Much Sense for the Giants
To be frank, the Giants' interest in Judge always smacked of corporate types saying, "Let's get this guy because he'll make us money," rather than baseball operations types saying, "Let's get this guy because he'll help us win games."
At least on paper, Judge was an ideal solution. A 6'7", 282-pound slugger fresh off hitting an American League-record 62 home runs, and from nearby Linden to boot? That's a draw, all right.
And yet, something a rival executive said to Heyman sums up how awkward of a fit Judge and the Giants were: "He's going to leave the greatest market to go across country to a team where it's hard to hit homers? Come on."
Besides, Judge is a guy with a concerning injury history who's pushing 31. Whoever signed him was going to be committing to a win-now window, which would have been an odd thing for the Giants to do on the heels of an 81-81 effort in 2022.
Carlos Correa Makes Tons of Sense for the Giants
Signing Correa, on the other hand, isn't strictly a win-now move. It's much more one of the win-now-and-later variety.
Unless he's planning on putting on Michael Lorenzen-ian levels of bulk so he can also pursue home run history, Correa's ceiling doesn't go quite as high as Judge's. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a contemporary superstar with a higher floor, as it's not by accident that Correa has averaged 7.2 rWAR per 162 games throughout his eight MLB seasons.
As evidenced by his well-above-average 129 OPS+ and 18 career postseason home runs, the guy can hit no matter the time of year. The guy can also field, for which you can see his 70 defensive runs saved since 2015.
Correa likewise boasts less quantifiable qualities, such as how he carries himself in the clubhouse. It's telling how strong of an impression he made on his fellow Twins despite only being with them for a few months.
"[Correa] studies players; he studies the game," Nick Gordon told Dan Hayes of The Athletic. "It's the type of player you are, the type of player you want to be, things like that. Potential. He can just see. He sees. He's got an eye for the game. It can be anything, baseball, non-baseball, whatever. It really doesn't matter."
This is a guy the Giants can build around, even if it involves shifting Brandon Crawford to third base in the near term and perhaps Correa himself there in the long term. He's young enough that the Giants should still have years before they have to worry about that. And once they do, they'll need not worry about whether his arm will play at the hot corner.
What's more, Correa didn't cost the Giants any draft picks, as he was ineligible for a qualifying offer, and the structure of his contract is surely conducive to team-building. His $26.9 million average annual value is far short of the $40 million per year Judge got.
That's advantageous in many ways, but particularly as it relates to AAV-driven luxury-tax calculations.
The extra flexibility could come in handy in any number of ways, be they unforeseeable or very much seeable. For instance, potential runs at Rafael Devers or Shohei Ohtani on next winter's free-agent market look that much more feasible.
As for whether Correa himself will be good for business, the Giants don't need him to be. They're getting more than $100 million per year just from TV deals, or enough for basically four Correas.
But if he does boost ticket sales, well, it wouldn't be for the first time:
If this particular brand of history repeats itself, it may not be simply because Giants fans also want to turn out for a guy whose credentials include a Rookie of the Year, two All-Star nods, a Gold Glove and a World Series ring.
Correa figures to be that much more of a draw when the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town, as the very real hate they have for him down there is all the more reason for Giants fans to have his back.
Are the Giants a Contender Now, Though?
It's all well and good that the Giants have made a sensible long-term gamble on Correa, but the question remains: Does he put them over the hump in the here and now?
If it were just him, no way. But it's not just him, as the Giants had been loading up their offense and pitching even before they agreed to write a $350 million check:
Though the absence of ace left-hander Carlos Rodón—who pitched to a 2.88 ERA over 178 innings for the Giants in 2022—still looms large, that's a good haul that has the Giants looking that much better in relation to National League rivals.
FanGraphs, for example, gives them the eighth-highest WAR projection of any NL team for 2023. Not great but seemingly within the margin of error for a pursuit of the league's three wild-card berths.
This is also assuming that the Giants are done shopping, and they might not be. They have about $26.7 million worth of breathing room between them and the first luxury-tax threshold for 2023. That's plenty to accommodate the club's remaining needs, such as a proper center fielder and a late-inning arm.
To squeeze this long story down into a short one: The Giants look a heck of a lot better than they did at the end of the '22 season. Their new shortstop is but one reason.