By Ken Rosenthal, Dan Hayes and Andy McCullough
A surprising new team has emerged in the Carlos Correa lottery, or perhaps not so surprising considering the amount of money the New York Mets have already spent this offseason.
Yep, Steve Cohen may be at it 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 Rico native shortstop Francisco Lindor.
“I would say there is smoke,” one Mets person said. “Not sure how big the fire is, though.”
Mets general manager Billy Eppler declined to comment. While an outright pursuit of Correa might seem like a stretch, given the size of Correa’s expected payday and the Mets’ already lavish spending this winter, Cohen has already broadened the parameters of what an owner can spend on.
The acquisition of Correa would be another tremendous addition for Cohen, whose team has already signed pitcher Justin Verlander, center fielder Brandon Nimmo and three other free agents this offseason, bringing his luxury tax payroll to nearly $350 million, according to Fangraphs. With the penalties, the Mets’ total payroll would be approximately $421 million, by far the most in major league history.
Despite all that Cohen has invested, people familiar with his thinking have indicated that the owner still believes the Mets need more offense, prompting the team to explore not only the market for Correa, but also for players like JD Martinez and Michael Conforto.
Correa, the best remaining free agent, would likely cost another $30 million more per season, or possibly less on an average annual basis if he signs a 10-plus-year deal — 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 going after Correa. The Minnesota Twins see him as their main target and the San Francisco Giants are also believed to be in the mix. After losing Yankees slacker Aaron Judge, the Giants face significant pressure to find a franchise mainstay to build upon.
Going into the offseason, many executives considered Correa the most compelling player on the market, given his outsized talent, relatively young age, and ability to hold a crucial defensive position like shortstop. At the conclusion of winter meetings last week – after Turner, Bogaerts and Judge signed seismic deals – Correa remained the best player on the market. A Mets incursion could reinvigorate clubs like Minnesota or San Francisco to meet the demands of Correa and his rep, Scott Boras.
A two-time All-Star, Correa couldn’t find a long-term commitment that met his expectations this past winter. He agreed to a three-year, $105.3 million deal with the Twins, then waived after hitting 22 home runs with a .834 OPS. Although advanced defensive metrics have affected him in 2022, Correa won the platinum glove as the best defensive player in the sport with Houston in 2021.
At some point, the Mets should make moves to lower their payroll. Catcher James McCann and right fielder Carlos Carrasco are among the players who could trade, and third baseman Eduardo Escobar could also be on the move if Correa joins the club. The Mets may also need to explore interest in top prospects like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos.
The AthleticWill Sammon of contributed to this report.
(Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)