Mets Cement Status as World Series Favorites with $315M Carlos Correa Heist

Zachary D. RymerDecember 21, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 13: Carlos Correa #4 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates his two-run home run as he rounds the bases against the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning of the game at Target Field on September 13, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Royals 6-3. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

While you were sleeping, the New York Mets were busy adding yet another star to the best World Series contender money can buy.

Carlos Correa, formerly of the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins, will not be a San Francisco Giant after all. As Jon Heyman of the New York Post was first to report in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the decorated shortstop will instead be a Met by way of a 12-year, $315 million agreement.

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

Amazin' switch: In a late-night stunner, Carlos Correa makes a $315M deal to be Mets 3B, <a href="https://twitter.com/nypost?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nypost</a> has learned. More complete story follows. "This really makes a big difference," Mets owner Steve Cohen tells The Post. "This puts us over the top."<a href="https://t.co/kYNC6xHsnN">https://t.co/kYNC6xHsnN</a>

Wait. What happened?

That's the question on everyone's mind, all right, but only the broad strokes are public.

The Giants were set to introduce Correa, who on Dec. 13 had agreed to terms with them on a contract worth $350 million over 13 years, on Tuesday but postponed the proceedings at the last minute because of a medical concern. Per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants got hung up on a "very old" injury.

Did that necessarily have to kill the deal? Perhaps not, but it was clearly the only excuse that Correa and his agent, Scott Boras, needed to seek other options.

Enter Mets owner Steve Cohen, who Heyman says negotiated directly with Boras to seal a deal that has pushed the club's offseason spending to an unthinkable $806.1 million.

The Amazin' Mets Have an Amazin' Roster

Francisco Lindor and Correa are set to be teammates.
Francisco Lindor and Correa are set to be teammates. Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

How loaded are the Mets? So loaded that Correa won't even play shortstop.

The plan is for him to move to third base in deference to Francisco Lindor, which is nothing if not a good look on paper. The left side of the Mets infield shall consist of the two most valuable shortstops in baseball since 2015, not to mention the best to ever come out of Puerto Rico.

As for whether Correa's game will translate to third base, "yes" seems a safe guess. His bat, which has produced a 130 wRC+ and 155 home runs, would play anywhere. Ditto for his Gold Glove-winning defense, specifically to the extent that any arm capable of 95.0 mph throws is good enough for the hot corner.

With Lindor still in the early stages of a 10-year, $341 million contract that runs through 2031, there's surely plenty of time for the Mets to reap returns from the left side of their infield. But the idea, of course, is to win now.

To this end, whatever doubts that had been lingering can go away.

The Mets may have lost Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker from a roster that produced 101 wins last season, but retaining Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Díaz and Adam Ottavino and adding Correa, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, José Quintana and David Robertson smacks of the phrase "net positive."

If FanGraphs' WAR projections are any indication, the Mets are the team to beat in 2023.

The offense? It's elite. It tied for fifth in MLB in scoring even without Correa in '22, and his coming helps fill eight of their nine lineup slots with hitters who were well above average last season:

Graph via Google Sheets

The starting rotation? It's also elite. Verlander and Max Scherzer are future Hall of Famers with six Cy Young Awards between them. No matter how Senga, Quintana and Carlos Carrasco line up, they'll comprise perhaps the best 3-4-5 in the majors.

The bullpen? Yup, also elite. Robertson and Ottavino were two of the best right-handers in the business in 2022, while Díaz was arguably the best as he used his blazing fastball and wipeout slider to whiff 118 of the 235 batters he faced.

Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

Edwin Díaz, K'ing the Side. 🎺🎺🎺 <a href="https://t.co/DsOb8GliAR">pic.twitter.com/DsOb8GliAR</a>

Granted, there's a non-zero chance of the various red flags associated with this roster—Verlander and Scherzer have 77 combined years on this earth, and there's whatever suddenly had the Giants wary of Correa—coming back to bite the Mets.

There is, however, also a non-zero chance that they're not done adding. There's still time aplenty before spring training, after all, and it bears noting that the Mets were rumored to be in on Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks before the Correa news hit, per Metsmerized's Michael Mayer.

Steve Cohen Just Can't Stop Spending. Good.

New York Mets owners Steve and Alexandra Cohen wait for the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

What's beyond all-in?

Whatever it is, that's where Cohen is in his quest to deliver the Mets' first World Series championship since Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden roamed Shea Stadium in 1986.

Given that he proposed a three-to-five-year timeline for this event to take place upon purchasing the Mets in 2020, it's as if Cohen is feeling antsy after coming up short in 2021 and 2022. It's also as if he's simply wealthier than every other owner in MLB and that he doesn't mind showing it.

Just as Major League Baseball has never seen anything like Cohen's offseason splurge, it's never seen anything like the payroll with which the Mets project to open 2023. The club's salaries will total $376 million, or about $100 million more than the Los Angeles Dodgers had on their record-setting opening payroll from this past season.

In reality, though, this is underselling the situation. As noted by ESPN's Jeff Passan, the luxury tax and its penalties will push the Mets' expenses closer to $500 million:

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

The New York Mets current payroll is estimated to be around $384 million. The luxury-tax payments alone will exceed $111 million. Their total payroll projects to be $495 million. <br><br>The previous max payroll in baseball: less than $350 million. Mets are at almost half a billion.

And you know what? Good.

It was only in 2019 that word came out about a replica championship belt that was awarded by the league to whichever team did the best job of suppressing salaries in arbitration. It was an all-too-perfect encapsulation. Not just of the spending stagnation that had taken hold around MLB (even in its biggest market), but of the general mindset behind it.

Win at all costs? Nah. Reasonable costs only.

Baseball thankfully seems to be moving away from these dark days, as this winter's $3.5 billion spending spree was preceded by a $3.3 billion spree on either side of last winter's lockout. Maury Brown of Forbes and Jayson Stark of The Athletic have highlighted how there's more than one reason for this, but there's no ignoring the Cohen factor.

He's spent about twice as much as any other owner across the last three offseasons, and he practically set the tone for this one with his early $102 million splurge on Díaz. The plan then seemed to be a mere $300 million payroll, but it's clear he decided to throw caution to the wind at some point.

Via Heyman, it doesn't get much more telling than this quote from Cohen in the immediate aftermath of the Correa news: "What the heck's the difference? If you're going to make the move, make the move."

One can only assume that many, if not most, of the other 29 ownership groups in MLB aren't thrilled about this. As a standard to live up to, Cohen's example is somewhere between prohibitive and impossible.

But whether other owners like it or not, this standard exists. At the least, it's good for headlines. And if the desired effect of a long-awaited title comes true, other owners' only choices might be to either catch up or get out.

Meanwhile, the Giants Are Screwed

Gabe Kapler (left) and Farhan Zaidi
Gabe Kapler (left) and Farhan ZaidiAP Photo/Jeff Chiu

First "Arson Judge," and now this for the Giants.

At least with Judge—Aaron, that is—the Giants' loss wasn't necessarily self-inflicted. They reportedly offered the reigning American League MVP the same $360 million guarantee that he accepted to return to the New York Yankees. If true, the Giants' first attempt at a major free-agent splash was undone by geography and familiarity as much as anything.

There's obviously a different story to Correa's abrupt about-face. And while the Giants, who won 26 fewer games in 2022 than they did in 2021, can't be blamed for wanting to be absolutely sure that their $350 million investment was a good one, how Slusser heard they chose to handle the situation is plenty deserving of skepticism:

Susan Slusser @susanslusser

Scott Boras tells me that after the Giants cancelled their press conference yesterday, they indicated they still wanted to negotiate about Correa. But he didn't hear anything more from them. Twelve hours later, the Mets deal got worked out.

If you want to negotiate, then negotiate. You can't push a guy out the door and hope he comes back just because you didn't close it behind him.

And now, there's neither undoing nor fixing it.

Whereas the Giants might have pivoted to Dansby Swanson a week ago, he and every other top free agent is spoken for. That bare cupboard leaves the trade market as the club's only avenue for redeeming its offseason.

The good news is that the Giants clearly have money to take on contracts that other teams don't want. The bad is that they don't have the prospect capital to pry loose players other teams don't necessarily want to lose.

The Giants are thus on their way to a lost offseason. And in all likelihood, another year as an also-ran behind the Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the National League West.

One supposes there's always next winter. But when it arrives, the Giants won't have any right to get upset if Shohei Ohtani, Rafael Devers and other superstar free agents approach them with caution, if at all.

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.