Amazingly, Carlos Correa will join the Mets instead of the Giants

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In one of the most stunning offseason flops in recent baseball memory, Carlos Correa will now be the New York Dead, not the San Francisco giants, when spring training begins seven weeks from now.

A week ago today, Correa agreed to a massive 13-year, $360 million deal to join the Giants and serve as a worthwhile consolation prize after their failed pursuit of champion Aaron Judge. But the giants postponed Tuesday a press conference in which they were scheduled to introduce Korea. And early Wednesday morning, billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen made his move, agreeing to pay Korea $315 million over 12 years, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Giants canceled Korea’s press conference due to medical concerns, and a person familiar with Korea’s situation said the Giants backed off due to doctors’ differing opinions — despite the specifics of those opinions and the exact medical concerns involved. Not immediately available. Correa’s deal with the Mets is also on hold, and the New York front office hasn’t exactly been known to look the other way when it comes to medical concerns either. But if that deal goes through, they’ll add a second short of the premiere to a lineup that already includes Francisco Lindor.

Correa is expected to play third base, according to a person familiar with the situation. He and Lindor are two of the best shortstops to come out of Puerto Rico, more than know each other, and seem to share a mutual respect at least outwardly. It now looks like they are likely to share a city, a uniform, and a very hard-line boss who has now pledged more than $650 million to the duo over the next decade.

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The Correa deal would pay him about $26 million annually, than the Giants deal would have paid him annually, albeit with a lower guarantee. The Giants deal made Korea the most profitable, by total money guaranteed, in baseball history. The Mets deal could make him one of the third highest-paid baserunners in baseball history when the dust settles.

But more importantly for Major League Baseball as a whole, that $26 million annually would push the 2023 Mets payroll to about $380 million for competitive credit tax purposes. Not only is this an unheard of figure, even by New York baseball’s luxury standards, but it will come with a tax hit of over $90 million when all is said and done. If Cohen stops now, he’ll spend nearly half a billion dollars on the 2023 New York Mets — or what the Pittsburgh Pirates have spent on their entire roster since 2016. The New York Yankees are currently expected to be the next-highest opening-day payroll and tax bill with about $290 million. Dollars committed to the 2023 slate as of early Wednesday morning. Their expected tax bill is less than $30 million.

Ironically, just nine months ago, Max Scherzer, president of the New York Mets baseball players’ association, urged union members not to vote for a collective bargaining agreement they felt was specifically designed to discourage Cohen from spending freely like this. That deal, which their colleagues eventually agreed to, included an unprecedented limit on the Class IV competitive credit tax that became known as the “Cohen’s tax”.

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Previous collective bargaining agreements included only three tax thresholds with progressively higher penalties for those who exceeded them. With a fourth implementation, Cohen’s less extravagant peers hoped to prevent someone from what some have referred to as “runaway spending,” the kind of thing that could, in theory, force anyone else to spend more to keep up. Cohen’s threshold this year has been set at about $290 million. I exploded with it.

If the deal becomes official, and one can forgive a few additional caveats given the way Correa’s Giants tenure has been resolved, the Mets will be the most star-studded lineup in a division loaded with plenty of them. The National League Champion Phillies added Tria Turner, Tejuan Walker and more to their already proven roster in October. The 2021 World Series champions Atlanta Braves traded for one of the best catchers available before allowing Dansby Swanson to walk to the Chicago Cubs.

But this past week alone, the Mets introduced Justin Verlander and Japanese rookie Kodai Senga to join Max Scherzer in the veteran rotation. They’ve already locked up longtime friends Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo in deals worth over $100 million each. Their lineup retains linebacker Pete Alonso, troublesome title contender Jeff McNeil, and Starling Mart veterans Marc Kanha and Eduardo Escobar from a group that nearly edged out Atlanta for the National League East title in 2022. The 2022 lineup was lacking in strength. Correa, who made his major league debut at the age of 20, has hit at least 20 batters in six of his eight major league seasons.

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Free agent deals like this always seem to drop out before the physical formalities are finalized, and the common understanding among executives, agents, and players amounts to the assumption that for elite athletes at this level—especially non-pitchers—the physical aspect is a formality. But it’s worth noting again that Correa hasn’t outgrown the Mets physically yet, though his old team, the Minnesota Twins, was comfortable offering him a franchise-record deal as recently as a week ago.

At the time, Correa seemed destined to be San Francisco’s brightest star since Buster Posey, and maybe even Barry Bonds. At the time, he seemed like exactly the kind of player who could soften the blow for Giants who failed in their much-discussed pursuit of the California native. On Tuesday, the Giants were supposed to introduce this superstar to a rejuvenated fan base. Wednesday, they’ll watch as the Yankees introduce Judge at a press conference, one that still appears frequently on the schedule until the early morning.

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