The MLB off-season took a strange turn Wednesday morning.
Carlos Correa, who one week ago agreed to a 13-year deal with the San Francisco Giants, abruptly signed a 12-year, $315-million deal with the New York Mets on Wednesday morning.
It’s the sort of shocking, last-minute flip one expects to see on National Signing Day. Except this is professional sports, where these things almost never happen. In this case it appears the Giants were wary of what they saw during Correa’s physical.
The first sign something was amiss came Tuesday afternoon, when the Giants sent a terse, one-sentence email announcing their introductory press conference for Correa had been canceled. Naturally rumors swirled, and questions about Correa’s health arose. But most still expected him to sign in San Francisco. After all, the Giants were already using Correa to sell tickets.
For fans in San Francisco this is another crushing loss. Correa seemed like a strong consolation prize after the Giants finished second in the Aaron Judge sweepstakes. But there’s no silver lining to missing out on this one. All the impact free agent bats are gone. If San Francisco wants offensive help, they’ll need to make a trade.
And now the Mets, owners of the largest payroll in baseball history, add another franchise player. It’s one more sign their owner Steve Cohen is willing to do whatever it takes to win. The Mets will now pay roughly $385 million in player salaries next year, along with another $110 million in luxury taxes. There are seven MLB teams with payrolls lower than the Mets’ luxury tax bill.
And this is where we shoehorn the Detroit Tigers into the topic.
Could the Detroit Tigers trade with the Mets?
Rogelio was prescient enough to ask this question just the other day. But now New York seems like an even more natural trade partner.
The Mets have shortstop Francisco Lindor signed through the 2031 season, and Correa is set to man third base through 2034. If you’re a Mets prospect looking to play on the left side of the infield, you’re gonna have to wait awhile.
And the right side of the infield doesn’t offer much opportunity either. Second baseman Jeff McNeil and first baseman Pete Alonso are both under club control through 2024. Luis Guillorme is controlled through 2025. Veterans Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar are signed through next season, with reasonable club options for 2024. And the Mets just signed infielder Danny Mendick to a one-year deal.
The Mets have an overstuffed 40-man roster, but they appear to lack depth in the outfield, and their starting rotation is awfully old. The Detroit Tigers could conceivably put together a package to land third-base prospect Brett Baty. One theoretical deal would involve Detroit parting with Wilmer Flores, Jace Jung, and one of their younger outfielders, like Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, or even Parker Meadows.
Flores, whose older brother played in the Mets organization for 11 years, is an ideal fit for the Mets. He doesn’t need to be on the 40-man roster right now, but he’s a top-100 prospect who is ready to pitch in Triple-A. Jung’s MLB timeline meshes well with McNeil heading into free agency, and the outfielders would give New York a little more depth in case of injury.
Of course other teams will be after Baty, too. But there are certainly potential deals to be made here, whether it’s for Baty, Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, or even Canha and Escobar.
What about trading Javier Baez?
We can now throw the Giants back into the mix of teams potentially looking for a long-term shortstop. Detroit Tigers President Scott Harris still has plenty of connections in San Francisco, but the trade options aren’t great. The clubs would have to get pretty creative.
Javier Baez’s contract is a bit of a double-edged sword. If he’s good in 2023, then he likely opts out of the remaining four years on his deal. If he struggles again, teams would be on the hook for $98 million over the next four seasons.
The best fit for the Giants and Tigers might just be swapping Baez for Tommy La Stella, who is a left-handed bat and can theoretically play third base. But that doesn’t really fix any problems for the Tigers.
There are other teams who may be interested in Baez’s services, though. The Boston Red Sox lost Xander Bogaerts and have a glaring need up the middle. And what about Los Angeles? Both the Angels and Dodgers appear poised to take infielders with weak arms and wedge them in at shortstop. Minnesota and Seattle are other potential trading partners.
Tigers fans soured on Baez last year, but he represents a potential upgrade for a number of teams looking to compete. Scott Harris has some options if he wants to make a trade.
And with the massive deals signed by shortstops this offseason, Baez now looks like a relative bargain. But maybe that’s all the more reason to hold onto him.