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In another twist, Carlos Correa returns to the Twins

Carlos Correa's offseason has been full of twists and turns. (Alex Gallardo/AP)

After an agreement with the San Francisco Giants fell through because of a physical and a deal with the New York Mets did the same, two-time all-star shortstop Carlos Correa signed a deal to return to the Minnesota Twins on a six-year contract, the team announced Wednesday. The deal will pay him $200 million over those six years, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday, and it includes four team options from 2029 to 2032 that automatically kick in if Correa meets certain statistical benchmarks the previous season.

Correa had opted out of his previous deal in Minnesota, which never seemed destined to be his long-term home after he signed with the Twins last offseason. But now, after the Giants decided not to commit $350 million to him after all, and after the Mets balked at giving him $315 million before seeing his medical reports, Correa is returning to the team that was steady in its pursuit of his services, even as others came and went.

“Wow what a journey it’s been,” Correa wrote on Instagram. “A lot of emotions involved throughout the whole process but always believed that at the end of the day God will put me in the right place. I’m so happy and excited to be back home with my extended family, the Minnesota @twins. From the players, staff and all the way to the front office I was welcomed and embraced as one of their own since day one. Now I’m back to finish what we started.”

The Mets were much more terse in the statement they released Wednesday: “We were unable to reach an agreement. We wish Carlos all the best.”

The injury at the heart of Correa’s unprecedented free agent odyssey is reportedly a broken fibula he suffered as a minor leaguer in 2014, one that was surgically repaired with a plate in his ankle. This past September, a runner slid into that ankle. Correa, 28, reported feeling numbness and vibrations but did not miss time because of it. It has never caused him to miss major league time.

The Twins did not hesitate to sign him to an opt-out-heavy three-year deal worth $105 million before the 2022 season and do not seem to have any concerns about his long-term future after watching him hit .291 with an .834 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 136 games last season.

The Mets reportedly were willing to reduce their offer to Correa to account for the risk involved with his ankle, according to the New York Post. But the Twins’ deal will account for that risk with a vesting seventh year that would pay him $25 million if he reaches a plate appearances threshold in the sixth. In terms of total money, the deal will commit an average of just over $33 million annually to Correa.

The Giants’ offer of 13 years and $350 million would have put him around $27 million annually. The Mets’ original commitment of $315 million over 12 years would have paid him about $26 million annually. Among shortstops, only the Mets’ Francisco Lindor ($34.1 million) has ever been paid more per season than Correa will be now.

But the legacy of Correa’s saga probably will be the money he lost to that ankle and whatever concerns the Giants and Mets suddenly confronted about it. Vesting options aside and addressing guaranteed money only, Correa essentially lost $150 million from the deal he agreed to with the Giants in early December to the one he signed with the Twins. His agent, Scott Boras, has not spoken publicly about the plot twists since the Mets deal fell apart. But watching a superstar’s value plummet is not something he is used to.

The Twins accounted for risk with an unusually structured contract that can include four more seasons if Correa stays healthy. If he takes 500-plus at-bats in the sixth year of the deal, a seventh will vest and pay him $25 million. The same will be true of an eighth year at $20 million, a ninth at $15 million and a 10th at $10 million — each pending a healthy year before it, according to a person familiar with the deal. In total, the deal could pay Correa $270 million over 10 years.

Whatever details emerge about just how Correa’s fate changed so dramatically, he will now be a pivotal member of a Twins franchise that has been open about its desire to keep and build around him. Since Correa debuted for the Houston Astros in 2015, only three shortstops have accumulated more FanGraphs wins above replacement: Lindor, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts.

Turner and Bogaerts also were free agents this offseason. Turner signed for 11 years and $300 million with the Philadelphia Phillies. Bogaerts got 11 years and $280 million from the San Diego Padres. Lindor signed for 10 years and $341 million after he was traded to the Mets before the 2021 season.

Correa’s social media accounts have marked his offseason odyssey. He changed his Twitter cover photo to a picture of San Francisco’s Oracle Park, then removed it. Last week, he posted a picture on social media that showed him holding his child, who was dressed in an “I Love NY” shirt.

By Tuesday afternoon, his Twins teammate Byron Buxton was posting about being back with Correa, making Buxton a representative of the third team to believe it would have the shortstop’s services in 2023. Buxton, perhaps, is part of the reason the Twins got him. The ultra-talented outfielder has battled injuries throughout his career, but Minnesota’s front office was willing to work around them to sign a potential franchise player for the long term. The Twins appear more than willing to take that kind of risk again.

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