Arguably the biggest question for the Twins this offseason is how they’ll address shortstop. Minnesota’s shocking Spring Training signing of Carlos Correa solved the position for the 2022 campaign, but it’s again up in the air after the two-time All-Star opted out of the final two years on his contract.
That Correa’s now back on the open market puts Minnesota in competition with the league for his services. Twins ownership and the front office has spoken about their desire to bring him back, although they’re up against traditionally bigger spenders. Unlike last offseason, when the former first overall pick settled for a three-year guarantee to secure the highest per-year salary for a free agent position player in MLB history, he’s expected to command a long-term deal this winter.
During a recent appearance on the Talk North podcast, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggested the Twins have put forth contract offers of varying lengths to Correa. Neal indicates Minnesota’s proposals range from six to ten years with differing average salaries in each. The shorter-term offers would surely feature higher annual payouts, with the comparatively lesser length reducing the team’s longer-term risk.
Financial terms of the proposals aren’t clear, but it’s notable Minnesota is ostensibly willing to make a long-term commitment to play at the top of the market. The Twins signed Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184MM extension in March 2010 but have otherwise only reached or narrowly exceeded a nine-figure guarantee twice ($105.3MM for Correa and $100MM for Byron Buxton, both last offseason). A Correa deal of six-plus years would almost certainly set a new high-water mark for the organization, even if the contract contained one or more opt-out chances.
Correa is the #2 free agent of this winter in MLBTR’s estimation, predicted for a nine-year deal worth $288MM. Headed into his age-28 campaign, he’s still the youngest of the four top open market options at the position. Dansby Swanson is going into his age-29 season, while Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts will each spend most of next season at 30 years old. Correa narrowly led that group with a .467 slugging mark this past season, while Bogaerts finished first with a .377 on-base percentage. On a rate basis, Correa was the top offensive player by measure of wRC+, although a pair of minimal injured list stints for a finger contusion and a battle with COVID-19 kept him to 590 plate appearances.
While retaining Correa figures to be the Twins’ ideal course of action, Neal relays that Bogaerts would be Minnesota’s secondary target. Dan Hayes of the Athletic similarly suggested earlier this month the Twins were likely to pivot to the longtime Red Sox star if Correa were to land elsewhere. Boston has consistently maintained a desire to keep Bogaerts, while he’s also drawn some reported interest from the Phillies.
The Twins acquired Kyle Farmer from the Reds last week, at least mitigating the need to dip into the lower tiers of free agency if they come up empty on their pursuit of the top four shortstops. Farmer’s a competent defender coming off a .255/.315/.386 showing during his final season in Cincinnati. His presence raises the floor at the position, but he’s certainly capable of assuming a utility role off the bench if the Twins make an impact move.
Minnesota presently projects for a 2023 payroll around $98MM, per Roster Resource. They have just over $19MM in guaranteed commitments by 2024. Minnesota opened this past season with player spending a bit above $134MM, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. There’s pretty clear flexibility to make a significant investment at the shortstop position, although the front office will have to weigh that course of action against their desire to upgrade in the bullpen, behind the dish and in the corner outfield/designated hitter mix.