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Stunning free agent: Carlos Correa heads to New York Mets instead

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In one of the most stunning offseason twists in baseball’s recent memory, Carlos Correa will now be a New York Met, not a San Francisco Giant, when spring training begins in seven weeks.

A week ago today, Correa agreed to a 13-year-old $360 million mega-deal to join the Giants and serve as a worthy consolation prize after their failed pursuit of slugger Aaron Judge. But on Tuesday, the Giants postponed a press conference they had scheduled to feature Correa. And by early Wednesday morning, billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen had made up his mind, agreeing to pay Correa $315 million over 12 years, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Associated Press reported tuesday that the Giants canceled Correa’s press conference for medical issues, and a person familiar with Correa’s situation said the Giants backed down from a difference of opinion between doctors – although the details of those opinions and the exact medical issues involved were not immediately available. Correa’s deal with the Mets is also pending a physical, and the New York front office hasn’t exactly been known to look the other way neither when it comes to medical issues. But if that deal goes through, they’ll add a second top shortstop to a roster that already has Francisco Lindor.

At 4:30 a.m. on the East Coast, it wasn’t immediately clear where Correa expected to play in Queens, though it seems safe to bet on third base — at least for now. Correa and Lindor are two of the best shortstops to ever come out of Puerto Rico, more than familiar with each other and, at least outwardly, seem to share a mutual respect. They now seem likely to share a city, a uniform and an ultra-wealthy boss who has now committed more than $650 million to the duo over the next decade.

Correa’s deal will net him around $26 million per year, roughly what the Giants’ deal would have paid him per year, albeit less guaranteed. This deal with the Giants made Correa the highest-paid, total-money-guaranteed shortstop in baseball history. The deal with the Mets could well make him one of the highest-paid third basemen in baseball history when all the dust settles.

But more specifically for Major League Baseball as a whole, that $26 million a year will push the Mets’ 2023 payroll to Somewhere around $380 million for competitive fiscal balancing purposes. Not only is this number unprecedented, even by the lavish standards of New York baseball, but it will come with a tax hit of over $90 million in the end. If Cohen stops now, he’ll spend almost half a billion dollars on the 2023 New York Mets – about what the The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent their entire roster since 2016. The New York Yankees are currently expected to have the highest Opening Day payroll and tax bill with approximately $290 million pledged for their 2023 list as of Wednesday morning. Their projected tax bill is less than $30 million.

Ironically, just nine months ago, New York Mets ace Max Scherzer and the leadership of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association urged union members not to vote in favor of a collective bargaining agreement that, according to them, was specifically designed to discourage Cohen from spending freely like that. . . this case, that their colleagues finally approvedincluded a never-before-seen fourth-level competitive fiscal equilibrium threshold known as the “Cohen tax”.

Previous collective agreements provided for only three tax thresholds with progressively higher penalties for those who exceeded them. By implementing a fourth, Cohen’s less prodigal peers hoped to prevent anyone from doing what some called “spending sprees,” the kind of thing that could, in theory, force everyone to spend more to keep up. This year, Cohen’s threshold has been set at around $290 million. He was blown away by it.

If the deal becomes official, and a few additional caveats can be forgiven given the dissolution of Correa’s Giants tenure, the Mets will be the most star-studded roster in a busy division that has plenty. the National League champion Phillies added Trea Turner, Taijuan Walker and more to their already proven October team. The 2021 World Series champion Atlanta Braves traded for one of the best receivers available before leaving Dansby Swanson walks to the Chicago Cubs.

But in the past week alone, the Mets have introduced Justin Verlander and Japanese starter Kodai Senga to join Max Scherzer in a veteran rotation. They’ve already locked up old friends Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo on deals worth over $100 million each. Their roster retains slugger Pete Alonso, annoying batting title contender Jeff McNeil and veterans Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar from a group that nearly held Atlanta for the National League East title in 2022. training 2022 lacked power. Correa, who made his major league debut at age 20, hit at least 20 home runs in six of his eight major league seasons.

Free agent offers like this always seem to leak before physicals are complete, with the shared understanding among executives, agents and players akin to assuming that for elite athletes at this level – especially for non-throwers – physical exams are a formality. But it should be noted again that Correa has yet to pass his physical from the Mets, although his former team, the Minnesota Twins, would have been comfortable offering him a franchise contract just ago. one week.

At the time, Correa seemed destined to be San Francisco’s brightest star since Buster Posey, maybe even Barry Bonds. At the time, he seemed exactly the kind of player who could soften the Giants’ blow short of their much-discussed pursuit of the California native judge. On Tuesday, the Giants were supposed to introduce this star to a rejuvenated fan base. On Wednesday, they will watch the Yankees introduce Judge at a morning press conference, a conference still on the schedule as of Wednesday morning.