The old Mets fired managers in the middle of the night. The new Mets sign All-Stars in the middle of the night.
The Mets pulled off a major coup for shortstop Carlos Correa somewhere between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. It was an absolutely stunning turn of events, considering Correa was expected to sign with the San Francisco Giants, but an issue with his physical left the door open for the Mets to step in overnight and strike a deal for $315 million over 12 years, a source confirms to the Daily News.
However, that deal is still pending a physical.
Should Correa pass, the Mets will carry a $380 million payroll in 2023 and it will be near $500 million after taxes. Owner Steve Cohen is changing the game by committing nearly half a billion dollars to one season.
The biggest question might be what it is the Giants saw in the medical reports that the Mets may or may not care about. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants found an old injury in his physical that doctors disagreed with.
The club canceled what was expected to be Correa’s introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon and informed his agent, Scott Boras, that they would like to consult with other doctors about the issue. Boras wanted a timeframe and when San Francisco failed to provide it, he began negotiations with the Mets, who previously had an interest in Correa before he agreed to terms with the Giants.
“I said, ‘Look, I’ve given you a reasonable time. We need to move forward on this. Give me a time frame. If you’re not going to execute, I need to go talk with other teams,’” Boras told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
“While we are prohibited from disclosing confidential medical information, as Scott Boras stated publicly, there was a difference of opinion over the results of Carlos’ physical examination,” the statement said. “We wish Carlos the best.”
The superagent recently described Cohen as a “Goliath” who can outspend the Davids in free agency until the farm system starts regularly producing big league talent.
“Our game needs Goliaths, we have to have Goliaths,” Boras said last week at Citi Field. “You can envision Steve Cohen hanging on to the Empire State Building. And it’s maybe not Steve Cohen, it’s maybe Steve Kong.”
Jokes aside, Boras thinks what Cohen is doing is good for baseball. There is no salary cap in baseball or a salary floor, and while teams like the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays will always find ways to stay competitive through other means, ultimately baseball is a league where spending is celebrated.
The Mets are spending to be perennial contenders and Boras views that as a positive during a time when many teams are choosing to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
“When you try to create restraint, you’re hurting the game and you’re hurting competitiveness,” the agent said.
The contract Correa agreed to with the Giants eight days before the questionable physical was for $350 million over 13 years. Signing with the Mets will also require a position switch for the two-time All-Star shortstop. He’s expected to move to third base, a position that the Mets have struggled to fill since David Wright began battling degenerative back and neck issues in 2015.
However, the Mets currently have Eduardo Escobar at third base and they have two top third base prospects who were expected to vie for time at the hot corner this season in Brett Baty and Mark Vientos. Escobar is only signed through 2023 and the hope was that Baty could step in full-time in 2024.
Correa has never played third base at the Major League level, but the Mets are still expected to use Francisco Lindor at shortstop. Lindor has nine years left on his $341 million contract and he’s a key leader on a team that has made great progress toward building a winning culture in the clubhouse. Defensive metrics would favor Lindor as the better shortstop (9.3 UZR per 150 games vs. Correa’s -2.3 UZR/150).
Playing time typically has a way of working itself out but the questions about Correa’s usage are unavoidable. However, this does give the Mets a big bat that was badly needed. The station-to-station offense didn’t produce in the postseason and the Mets exited the playoffs after falling to the San Diego Padres in three games in an NL Wild Card series.
Correa will contribute 20 or more home runs to a lineup that features NL batting title winner Jeff McNeil, 2019 NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, Starling Marte and Lindor.
Correa also has significant playoff experience, having won a World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017 as a teammate of Justin Verlander. In 79 postseason games, he hit .272 with a .849 OPS and 18 home runs.
In a league with no hard salary cap or floor, the playing field will never be fully level. But by committing nearly $500 million in luxury tax payroll, Cohen has made it clear that the Mets are playing a whole different ballgame.
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