The Mets are moving on.
Carlos Correa passed his physical with the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday and the deal became official. It’s been quite a month for Correa, who tested free agency for the second year in a row and was briefly a member of the San Francisco Giants, then the Mets and now he’s back where he started his free agency journey in Minnesota. It took three teams and three physicals but the third time appears to be the charm.
The two-time All-Star shortstop will stay in Minnesota for another six years, possibly even longer.
If you haven’t been keeping up, here’s the short version of a long journey: Correa and his representatives, led by super agent Scott Boras, had an agreement on a 12-year, $315 million contract with the Mets that came shortly after a 13-year, $350 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Both deals fell apart due to the first two teams finding something concerning with his surgically-repaired right ankle on his physical.
The Mets released a statement Wednesday saying, “We were unable to reach an agreement. We wish Carlos all the best.”
Two sentences can hardly sum up nearly a month’s worth of drama yet it still spoke volumes.
So, now what?
The Mets don’t have to do anything major. Correa was an unexpected extra. He was the icing on the cake of what was otherwise a very productive offseason. He was expected to slide over to third base to accommodate his good friend Francisco Lindor, but the Mets already had a third baseman on the roster in Eduardo Escobar, plus two in waiting in Brett Baty and Mark Vientos.
But the Mets were playing the long game by adding Correa. The 28-year-old alone wouldn’t have pushed the Mets over the top next season. One player does not win a team a World Series. But there is no argument that he would have made the Mets a better team and the lineup more formidable next season and beyond.
So if the Mets are looking for an elite, impact player for the 2023 season, then they’ll have to go the trade route since Correa was the last of the elite free agent group left unsigned. But the Mets should not be reactionary and make a trade just to make one.
If the Mets have a chance to trade for an impact bat like Bryan Reynolds of the Pittsburgh Pirates, then it’s worth exploring. However, Reynolds is still under club control and will come at a high cost. With the Mets’ desire to turn the club into a sustainable winner then it’s important to retain their top prospects. Right now, the Mets don’t have a ton of them either.
General manager Billy Eppler has talked about building through free agency for the next few years and even Boras said that’s how he sees the team operating right now. So it’s far more likely that the club makes some depth moves to bolster a team that is more or less set for 2023.
The Mets need another outfielder and they could use an upgrade at DH. They could sign Andrew McCutchen to fill the outfield role and add a veteran clubhouse leader to the mix. Nelson Cruz would’ve been a good option, but the 42-year-old signed a one-year deal with the San Diego Padres, according to reports. Cruz’s addition in San Diego is a low-risk, low-cost move — signing for just a million dollars.
McCutchen is not the same player he was in Pittsburgh when he made five straight All-Star teams and his power numbers did dip in Milwaukee last season, but American Family Field isn’t exactly a homer-friendly park. But it’s worth noting what he did against left-handed pitching last season: .221/.303/.435 with a .738 OPS. Of his 17 home runs, seven came off lefties.
McCutchen may not check every box but he checks a few important ones, especially since Darin Ruf was not the answer against left-handed pitching that the Mets hoped he would be and Francisco Alvarez is still unproven.
You could make the argument that without Correa, the Mets’ current roster isn’t too much better than it was last season. The club filled the spots of the pitchers who vacated and they retained Brandon Nimmo. That team did win 101 games but made an early exit in the postseason, mostly because they didn’t have enough impact hitters.
So maybe the way to go is to make some minor moves for depth in the coming weeks and look for ways to improve the lineup as the season progresses. Losing Correa was a disappointment but it isn’t devastating. There are still some questions remaining, but for now, there is finally a resolution to one of the winter’s strangest storylines.
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