Instead of landing the massive long-term deal that was once predicted for him, Correa agreed to join the rapidly rebuilding Twins on a three-year $105.3 million contract. The details of the contract were confirmed by a personal familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to discuss it publicly because it was pending a physical examination.
While the deal is far smaller in length and total value than some handed out before the lockout, the benefits to Correa are clear: It has opt-outs after each of the first two years, allowing Correa to re-enter the market as soon as next season, and it has an average annual value of $35.1 million, which supplants the deal Anthony Rendon of the Los Angeles Angels signed two years ago, which was previously the highest mark for an infielder.
Only pitchers Max Scherzer ($43.3 million) and Gerrit Cole ($36 million), and outfielder Mike Trout ($35.5 million), have higher average annual values in their contracts than Correa, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
While Correa’s new team had not officially announced his arrival as of Saturday morning, Correa changed the photo on his Twitter profile to one of Target Field, the Twins’ home stadium in Minneapolis.
Correa, 27, joins a team that has been overhauled this off-season. After an 89-loss 2021 season, the Twins front office remade the team’s infield by trading away Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the Yankees for catcher Gary Sánchez and third baseman Gio Urshela. They also traded for starting pitcher Sonny Gray.
The M.L.B. Lockout Comes to an End
And now the Twins went far larger, adding the top-ranked free agent of this off-season and one of the best overall players in baseball. A cornerstone of an Astros infield that led the team to three American League pennants in five years, Correa had perhaps his best season in 2021.
He hit .279 with 26 home runs and an .850 on-base plus slugging percentage, while also leading the major leagues in defensive wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. He won the A.L. Platinum Glove, an annual award given to the best defender in each league, regardless of position.
While injuries slowed Correa at times throughout his seven years in Houston, he hit .277 with an .837 O.P.S. and smashed at least 20 home runs in five seasons. He was a vocal team leader, living up to his hype as the first overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Correa’s short and flexible contract in Minnesota stands in sharp contrast to the one Corey Seager got when he agreed to leave the Los Angeles Dodgers this winter. Seager, a more polished hitter than Correa who is a far less accomplished defensive player, landed a 10-year $325 million deal with the Texas Rangers.
The news of Correa’s departure reverberated through the Astros’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Saturday morning. First baseman Yuli Gurriel, who was Correa’s teammate for six years, said Correa was “very active” sending messages to Astros players on Friday night and that Correa was having trouble sleeping given the big decision on his plate.
Gurriel said Astros players were surprised and they had hoped that Correa would return. He said he never imagined Correa would end up in Minnesota but he understood the business side of the sport.
“We’re going to miss him,” Gurriel said. “He helped me a lot here, not only on defense but with a lot of aspects that I needed to get better at, like sabermetrics.”
Astros Manager Dusty Baker said he heard the news from his wife on Saturday morning. He didn’t want to talk about it much until Correa’s deal was officially announced, but he said, “It’s not very pleasant news if it’s true.”
Martín Maldonado, the Astros catcher and a fellow Puerto Rican like Correa, said he talked to and visited Correa often throughout the free agency process.
“He knew after the lockout it was going to be hard to get those years that he wanted,” Maldonado said, referring to the 99-day work stoppage that froze all transactions from Dec. 2 to March 10 and forced many remaining free agents to sign during a delayed and abbreviated spring training.
Maldonado said the opt-outs in the deal were something Correa “really wanted.” He continued, “He’s betting on himself again. I know he’s going to go out there and have a monster year and hopefully go out to free agency and achieve that goal of a 10-year deal.”