SAN DIEGO — The Twins believe they’re still in the mix for free agent Carlos Correa, but face much fiercer competition with Aaron Judge now off the board.
A day after agent Scott Boras suggested the Twins continued to show strong interest in the All-Star shortstop, the team met with Correa’s camp for the third time since they arrived in California for the Winter Meetings. But with Judge signing a $360 million deal on Wednesday morning, the Twins now face a different landscape for Correa after suitors who missed out on the Yankees slugger have pivoted to one of the few impact players still available.
While Correa remains the team’s top target, the Twins have tried to line up a pivot of their own. Team sources confirmed a Tuesday video conference with free-agent shortstop Dansby Swanson in case their pursuit of Correa falls through. Sources indicate the team is also open to trading several prominent players and reshuffling the roster’s veteran core.
“The Twins normally are fishing in one of their 10,000 lakes,” Boras said late Tuesday morning. “Well now I think they’re in the deep ocean. … They again have an amazing young core of players. They’re certainly trying to retain the veteran leadership that Carlos provided them last year.”
Unfortunately, the ocean the Twins are fishing in boasts several sharks with massive payrolls, including the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres.
San Francisco’s oft-reported pursuit of Judge had the Winter Meetings buzzing Tuesday, but early Wednesday morning New York wrapped him up.
That was seemingly bad news for the Twins’ chances of re-signing Correa, since the Giants have long been considered a potential landing spot for the 28-year-old shortstop and were left with $300 million-plus to spend on someone other than Judge.
However, industry sources speculated that the Yankees likely would have pivoted to one of the top remaining free agents had they lost Judge. In other words, it’s possible the Judge signing simply removed one team from the Correa mix while adding another.
That ball got outta here in a hurry! ?
Carlos Correa gives the #MNTwins an early 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/84JNiKiLPw
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) September 15, 2022
There hasn’t been as much focus on San Diego as a potential Correa suitor, but the Padres made unsuccessful $300 million-plus offers to both Judge and shortstop Trea Turner, so it’s clear they have huge money to throw around and, at least in Turner’s case, felt adding a high-end shortstop was worthwhile in that price range.
Turner, who was rumored to prefer the East Coast, agreed to an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies, turning down significantly more money from the Padres.
If the Twins were to swing and miss on Correa, like the Padres did with Judge and Turner, and the Giants did with Judge, it’s unclear where they’d pivot next. Several star-caliber free agents remain unsigned, with Xander Bogaerts and Swanson joining Correa on the shortstop market, and left-hander Carlos Rodón sitting atop the pitching market as an ace-level starter.
Beyond that, though, impact free agents are limited. Star position players Judge, Turner, Willson Contreras and José Abreu are already off the board, as are front-line pitchers Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. And one of the top remaining free-agent position players, left-handed-hitting outfielder Brandon Nimmo, is seemingly not a fit for the Twins given their depth in that player type.
It’s not necessarily Correa or bust, but it might be Correa, Bogaerts, Swanson, Rodón or bust, at least in terms of free agents. Pivoting to the trade market is another possibility, although the Twins dealing away a handful of their top prospects at the Aug. 2 trade deadline has thinned out their farm system to the point that they may be more inclined to deal from the major-league roster.
Team sources indicated that outfielder Max Kepler has drawn trade interest, although not enough to be the centerpiece of a deal bringing back a prominent player. And in the right trade, first baseman Luis Arraez might even be available as the headliner in a package for front-line pitching.
While they may not be considered front-runners for Correa because they’re battling bigger spenders — San Francisco and San Diego each regularly rank among MLB’s top 10 payrolls — the Twins remain hopeful and still believe they’re in the fight.
Team president of baseball operations Derek Falvey knows the Twins can’t be considered strong contenders solely based on nostalgia, good vibes and a strong first impression.
The Twins do believe if they ended up in a financial tie with another bidder, the six months Correa enjoyed in Minnesota would give them the edge. But getting there would require casting their line deeper than they ever have.
The team’s original offer and subsequent conversations have demonstrated their willingness to spend the kind of money it would take to sign Correa. The team also has expressed to Correa’s camp that they remain flexible and are open to taking a creative approach to a contract similar to March when they signed the Boras client to a three-year, $105.3-million contract with multiple opt-out clauses.
“We’ve made no secret that we’ve had that conversation again,” Falvey said. “We just have to continue to see where the market takes it. He has options. We knew that.”
Now, it just depends on whether one of those big spenders is motivated enough to make an offer that blows the Twins out of the ocean.
(Photo of Carlos Correa: Scott W. Grau / Icon Sportswire via AP Images)