As Carlos Correa slipped a newly designed Minnesota Twins jersey around his shoulders Wednesday, he uttered the words that could have ended his free agent saga a month ago.
“These are clean,” he said of the fresh gear.
Of course, had doctors for the San Francisco Giants or New York Mets said the same about MRI results before finalizing commitments of more than $300 million last month, Correa would not have been back at Target Field. Instead, a decade-old ankle fracture that gave examining orthopedists pause scuttled agreements of $350 million over 15 years (from the Giants) and $315 million over 12 (from the Mets), sending him and agent Scott Boras on an unprecedented free agent hunt for a nine-figure contract and, most of all, a belief.
That Correa was healthy. That his surgically repaired right ankle would remain intact through the life of a decade-long commitment. And that even if the 28-year-old shortstop eventually encountered health woes, the remaining peak years of his career would be worth any risk on the back end.
MLB 2023: All the latest news, opinion and analysis
NEWSLETTER: Get the latest sports news straight to your inbox
He found that belief in the same place he left, albeit for $150 million less than the Giants promised. But Correa’s guaranteed six-year, $200 million deal – that can grow to $270 million over 10 years by meeting plate appearance plateaus – is an outcome that belies an unprecedented process.
“The journeys are not always linear,” says Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations who signed Correa to a short-term deal in March 2022, kept in contact with his camp all winter and then, suddenly, provided a comfortable fallback. option.
“Sometimes, they are circular.”
Correa’s re-introduction as a Twin shed at least some light on that pilgrimage from San Francisco, to Queens and finally back to the Twin Cities, where the real MVP of this agreement arguably is not Boras or Correa or Falvey, but rather Twins medical director Chris Camp, who had access to Correa’s medical file for nearly a year.
When this saga once again reached its final lap on Tuesday, and Correa underwent yet another physical, Camp raised a checkered flag rather than a red one, to the relief of many.
Perhaps the Twins will regret this risk. Or the Giants and Mets will mourn the loss of a true franchise player. Or maybe it will be as right as an imperfect process can be – that the reduced length and value of the deal will match Correa’s viability and availability through 2028.
“One thing I learned throughout this whole process is, doctors have a difference of opinion,” Correa said at a news conference attended by his wife Daniella, son Kylo, parents, in-laws and siblings – the expected attendees on Dec. 20, when the Giants canceled his San Francisco rollout just hours in advance.
“When the news came, I was shocked. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster.”
The biggest climbs and falls came as Correa was expected to slip on a cream-colored Giants uniform, before doctors raised concerns about the physical. Boras, fearing the worst of a prolonged delay caused by medical fears, pivoted quickly to Mets owner Steve Cohen, who entered the fray too late to beat out the Giants, but never met a nine-figure contract he didn’t like.
The deal was done in hours. And undone between Christmas and New Year’s.
How, the shortstop and his agent wondered, could an injury that never befell him during an eight-year major league career sidetrack the deal of a lifetime?
“Very surprising. Especially because in 2022 I did three physicals,” says Correa, counting his physical with the Twins before signing a three-year, $105.3 million deal that he opted out of, an independent physical with orthopedist and Dodgers medical director Neal ElAttrache and his exit physical with Camp in Minnesota.
“My body feels great. Never felt better. Through that whole month when people were speculating, I was running sprints, I was working out, I was taking ground balls, I was hitting. It was more funny to me that people were having speculations when I was doing all this work and feeling great.”
Boras, the super agent who could probably create leverage against a raging bull in a phone booth, suddenly had one of the most vexing negotiations of his career. Correa hired him in January 2022, after Correa’s former agent failed to land him a deal before Major League Baseball’s 99-day lockout began.
The highly public nature of the Giants and Mets deals – both leaked despite not being finalized – meant the entire industry knew of the medical red flags. Throughout it all, Falvey and the Twins lurked, knowing their income might not be able to match the Giants and Mets but keeping a healthy relationship open in the event something happened.
In this case, familiarity bred approval. And it’s clear who now holds the title of Boras’s favorite doctor.
“Dr. Chris Camp, throughout this process, has been the most understood orthopedist,” says Boras. “That was paramount in making great decisions and what the organization can do. It gave Derek and I a very sound foundation to work from, and a clarity that other organizations didn’t enjoy – that depth of understanding of who Carlos was and his medical standing.
“We’re not here to blame other doctors. But day-to-day examination is far more important than an MRI. That really allowed the theater for us to put together a fair and equitable process.”
Correa was effusive in praising “the best agent in the game,” and thanked Boras for “probably the hardest job you had to do.”
“I will always appreciate Scott’s work,” says Correa, “because it was a thing of beauty.”
The mutual admiration was emanating throughout the dais, Falvey crediting the “trust, respect and admiration of (Correa’s) representation,” Boras lauding Falvey and assistant Thad Falvey for a mere Correa midseason appreciation phone call, and Correa relishing another bite at Minneapolis’ iconic “Juicy Lucy” hamburger.
Now, to build on his own Twin Cities legacy. Correa hit 22 homers, batted .291 and produced 5.4 WAR, his fourth year between 5 and 7 WAR in six full seasons. Despite the seeming impermanence, with an opt-out looming, Correa emotionally invested in the Twins, earning plaudits for his clubhouse presence and top-shelf baseball IQ on the field.
Now, against all odds, the relationship is solidified, after a December longer than he could have imagined.
“All that matters is what I do from this moment forward for this organization,” says Correa. “I’m really focused on giving my all. Me and my family are going to be very dedicated to this city.
“And that’s going to be for a really long time.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Twins’ Carlos Correa ‘shocked’ that Mets, Giants deals fell through