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, according to reports.
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.
Correa is represented by Scott Boras, who also represents Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who 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 biggest question might be what it is the Giants (who had agreed on 13-year, $350 million deal) saw in the medicals that the Mets may or may not care about. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants found something in his physical that doctors disagreed with, but it’s unclear what the issue was. Slusser also said it was not related to Correa’s back, which has sent him to the injured list three times from 2018-2019.
The deal 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.