Carlos Correa to the ... Twins!? Grading the latest twist in the free agent shortstop's saga

by Daryn Albert - First it was San Francisco. Then New York. Does a shorter deal with Minnesota make sense?

Carlos Correa to the Twins?! Grading latest free agency twist AP Photo/Adam Hunger 1:30 PM ET David SchoenfieldESPN Senior Writer Close Covers MLB for ESPN.com Former deputy editor of Page 2 Been with ESPN.com since 1995 Carlos Correa 's wild offseason adventure has taken another surprising twist: He's going back to the Minnesota Twins , pending physical, of course. After initially agreeing to terms with the San Francisco Giants , the Giants backed out over concerns about Correa's long-term health, reportedly related to a leg injury Correa suffered in the minor leagues in 2014. Correa had confirmed in September that he has a metal plate in his leg, a result of that surgery for a fractured fibula. Correa and agent Scott Boras then quickly turned to the New York Mets as owner Steve Cohen enthusiastically agreed to a deal while on vacation in Hawaii just after Christmas. The Mets, however, ended up with similar concerns and as negotiations on a revised contract stalled, the Twins jumped back in and landed Correa on a very different type of deal: Giants: 13 years, $350 million Mets: 12 years, $315 million Twins: 6 years, $200 million with a four-year, $70 million vesting option Correa ends up with less guaranteed money, but a higher annual average value over the initial six seasons at $33.3 million. That comes in as the 12th highest AAV of all time and if he remains healthy, he'll end up with a nifty $270 million. Given everything that has transpired, it feels like a win for both sides. Correa still gets a very high guarantee while the Twins get a star player at a discount and somewhat limit their exposure if he does get injured. The Twins finally stepped up when they needed to. Editor's Picks Sources: Correa to Twins after Mets talks fizzle 24m Jeff Passan From Phillies to ... Giants: Winners and losers of the shortstop free agent carousel 20d David Schoenfield 2 Related For Minnesota, this is new territory. The only nine-figure contracts in team history had been the eight-year, $184 million extension with Joe Mauer and last year's three-year deal with Correa for $105.3 million that he opted out of after the first season. It speaks to how much the Twins wanted Correa back. Indeed, you can easily make the argument that Correa is more important to them than he would have been to the Mets or Giants. The Mets can still compete for a National League East title without Correa and have decent alternate options at third base in Eduardo Escobar and prospect Brett Baty . The Giants, while in need of a franchise cornerstone, still appear well behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres . Correa would have helped bridge that gap, but the Giants would still have projected as the third-best team in the NL West. The Twins, however, play in the weak American League Central. Remember, while they finished 78-84 in 2022, they were just one game back of the Cleveland Guardians on Sept. 1, before collapsing with a horrible final month. Some of that was injuries, but mostly, they lost seven of eight to the Guardians in an 11-game stretch and that was the end of the race. Correa not only fills a hole at shortstop -- the team had acquired Kyle Farmer from the Cincinnati Reds in December, but Farmer was never more than a stopgap kind of player -- but gives them that franchise player that, frankly, Byron Buxton hasn't been able to become because of his inability to stay on the field. Correa followed up a career-high 7.2 WAR season with the Astros in 2021 with a 5.4-WAR season in 2022, hitting .291/.366/.467 with 22 home runs in 136 games (he missed time with a finger injury and COVID-19). That 12.7 WAR is tied with Jose Ramirez and Juan Soto for fourth among position players over the past two seasons, via Baseball-Reference. On FanGraphs, he ranked 12th in that span with 10.5 WAR. Twins management has been effusive in its praise of Correa, citing his clubhouse presence, energy and game preparation. Correa kind of fell into the Twins' lap last spring when he signed following the lockout in a rapid-fire negotiation with Boras. Now he kind of falls into their lap again. While his long-term health is obviously an issue, the good news here is that Correa is still entering just his age-28 season. That makes him two years younger than Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts , the free agent shortstops who signed for $300 million and $280 million, respectively. If Correa does stay on the field for 10 seasons, it's certainly possible his deal could end up being the best of the three. Aside from the plate in his leg, the long-term issue here is how long can Correa remain at shortstop. His defensive metrics went backward in 2022: The winter of the epic contract This offseason's four biggest free agents signed massive megadeals that are not only risky, but that started a historic hot stove trend. Why paying players in their 30s rarely works out » How decade-plus deals suddenly became a thing » Defensive runs saved: +20 to +3 Outs above average: +11 to minus-3 He's also losing speed on the bases, which could explain the decline in defense. That might suggest a move to third base comes sooner than the Twins anticipate. While Correa should have several peak-level seasons in him, my research on shortstops since 1969 showed that the fast shortstops in general age much better than the slower shortstops. Correa doesn't run as well as Turner, Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor -- he was in the 45th percentile in sprint speed among all players last season -- and is a complete nonfactor on the bases (his last stolen base came in 2019). His defense at shortstop also slipped last season (18th percentile in outs above average). The Twins' top prospects happen to be shortstops Brooks Lee and Royce Lewis -- although both come with defensive issues. Lee was drafted eighth overall in 2022 out of Cal Poly but is advanced enough at the plate that the Twins bumped him up to Double-A by the end of the summer. He has a strong arm, but his future is probably at third base. Lewis filled in at shortstop for Correa when he injured his finger, but then tore his ACL 12 games into his major league career -- the second time he has torn the same ACL. His future might now be in the outfield. Correa is fine at shortstop for now and projects as one of the best all-around players in the majors in 2023. The depth charts at FanGraphs project the Guardians with 45.1 WAR and the Twins at 40.1 before Correa -- although that includes an optimistic 3.8 WAR at shortstop for the Twins between Farmer and Lewis. If Correa is a five- to six-win player, I see that more as a four-win upgrade for the Twins -- putting them right on the heels of Cleveland. Coming off that sub-.500 season, there is still a lot to like here. There is more depth in the rotation with the hopeful return of Kenta Maeda from Tommy John surgery and a full season from Tyler Mahle , plus rookies Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson project as serviceable back-end starters. No, there isn't an ace, but they might not need one in this division. Ranking all 30 MLB teams Where all squads stand now that the biggest free agents are off the board following this year's free agency frenzy. Mets or Yankees? Padres or Dodgers? » The back end of the bullpen looks pretty solid with Jorge Lopez , Jhoan Duran and Jovani Moran and perhaps they use some of their outfield depth to acquire a reliever or two. They can still dream of Buxton playing 130 games -- and don't be surprised if Lee is ready to make an impact in the second half, perhaps with Lewis. Most importantly, they have their star player back in the center of it all. Assuming he passes the physical. Grade: B