By Ken Rosenthal, Dan Hayes and Andy McCullough
A surprising new team has appeared in the Carlos Correa sweepstakes — or perhaps not too surprising, given the amount of money the New York Mets have already spent this off-season.
Yes, Steve Cohen may be present again.
Cohen’s Mets are showing interest in Correa, according to sources familiar with the team’s thinking. Correa, 28, would likely play third base for the Mets along with fellow Puerto Rican shortstop Francisco Lindor.
“I’d say there’s some smoke,” said one Mets person. “However, I’m not sure how big the fire is.”
Mets general manager Billy Eppler declined comment.
While a full chase of Correa may feel like a long shot given the size of Correa’s expected payday and the spending already incurred by the Mets this winter, Cohen has already expanded the parameters of what an owner can spend.
The acquisition of Correa would be another stunning addition for Cohen, whose team has already signed pitcher Justin Verlander, center fielder Brandon Nimmo and three other free agents this offseason, pushing its luxury tax payroll to nearly $350 million, according to Fangraphs. With fines, the Mets’ total payroll would be about $421 million, by far the highest in major league history.
For everything Cohen has invested, people familiar with his thinking indicated that the owner still believes the Mets need more offense, prompting the team to explore the market not only for Correa, but for players like JD Martinez and Michael Conforto.
Correa, the top remaining free agent, would likely cost another $30 million plus per season, or perhaps less on an average annual basis if he signs a deal for more than 10 years — a possibility, according to sources. Two other free-agent shortstops, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts, signed 11-year deals worth $300 million and $280 million, respectively.
The Mets wouldn’t be alone in Correa’s pursuit. The Minnesota Twins see him as their prime target, and the San Francisco Giants would also be in the mix. After missing out on Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, the Giants are under a lot of pressure to find a franchise pillar to build around.
At the start of the off-season, many executives viewed Correa as the most attractive player in the market, given his outsized talent, relatively young age, and ability to hold onto a critical defensive position such as shortstop. As the Winter Meetings concluded last week – after Turner, Bogaerts and Judge all closed seismic deals – Correa remained the best player in the market. A Mets foray could encourage clubs like Minnesota or San Francisco to meet the demands of Correa and his representative, Scott Boras.
Correa, a two-time All-Star, failed to find a long-term commitment last winter that lived up to his expectations. He agreed to a three-year, $105.3 million deal with the Twins, then pulled out after hitting 22 home runs with an .834 OPS. While advanced defensive stats hurt him in 2022, Correa won the Platinum Glove as the sport’s top defenseman with Houston in 2021.
At some point, the Mets are expected to take steps to reduce their payroll. Catcher James McCann and right-hander Carlos Carrasco are among the players they could trade, and third baseman Eduardo Escobar could also leave if Correa joins the club. The Mets may also need to explore interest in top prospects like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos.
The athletic‘s Will Sammon contributed to this report.
(Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)