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Minnesota Twins come to terms with shortstop Carlos Correa

(Twinsbaseball.com) Not once, but twice this offseason, it looked like the Twins were out of the Carlos Correa sweepstakes for good.

But somehow, the craziest free-agency saga in recent memory has come full circle, all the way back to Minnesota.

For the second offseason in a row, the Twins have stunned the baseball world by reportedly agreeing to terms with Correa, this time on a long-term deal guaranteeing six years and $200 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. The contract also includes four additional vesting seasons that can be worth up to an additional $70 million. Either way, it represents the largest free-agent commitment in Twins history, both by years and dollars.

But still, the deal, which the team has not confirmed, is still pending completion of a physical — and those words have done a lot of work throughout the nearly month-long process involving Correa and agreements with three different teams.

That winding road, reportedly involving long-term concerns regarding Correa’s surgically repaired lower right leg, is why the Twins were able to agree to terms once again with Correa against all odds, bringing him back as his former teammates had earnestly hoped. In doing so, they finally have the splashy move that eluded them throughout free agency, during which a reunion with the shortstop always remained a focus.

Here’s how Correa and the Twins got here, and here’s what remains to be done:

On Dec. 13, Correa agreed to a 13-year, $350 million deal with the Giants, but his introductory press conference was abruptly canceled amid reported concerns regarding the physical, and on Dec. 21, an incredible pivot saw Correa agree to a 12-year, $315 million contract with the Mets — again, pending a physical.

But Correa and the Mets have hovered in limbo in the three weeks since, with additional reports continuing to emerge of concerns regarding the leg, which Correa broke during a 2014 Minor League game and had surgically repaired. After all that time, initial reports emerged on Monday night that talks between the Twins and Correa were again intensifying — and Tuesday saw the reports emerge of the third deal.

It’s been a process unlike anything in the recent history of baseball’s free agency — and it’s not over yet, because Correa still needs to go through the Twins’ physical process, too, which had not yet begun in earnest as of the time of the deal being reported, according to a source.

With that said, the reported structure of the Twins’ deal is inherently less risky than the original deals between Correa and the Giants and Mets, simply because the guarantee of the contract only spans six seasons, through Correa’s age-33 season. (San Francisco’s original guarantee would have taken Correa through his age-40 season, while the Mets would have taken Correa through his age-39 campaign.)

A 33-year-old shortstop is still well in his physical prime, and the Twins are paying a premium — an average annual value of $33.3 million — to keep Correa through that prime. And Minnesota’s commitment to seeking “creative” solutions, as president of baseball operations Derek Falvey maintained throughout the process, seems to have come into play with the four additional vesting seasons at a lower average value, which could both mitigate the Twins’ long-term risk if the years vest and satisfy Correa’s desire to establish long-term roots in an organization.

If the four additional years vest, the total contract would come very close to the 10 years and $285 million the Twins were reportedly willing to offer Correa before this entire saga began.

All told, Correa’s leg appears to have knocked seven guaranteed years and $150 million off his original contract with the Giants — but it’s also worth noting that Correa has never spent time on the Major League injured list with a right leg issue. He played 136 games last season, only missing time for COVID-19 and after being struck in the hand by a pitch.

Correa had a career-best 140 OPS+ last season, hitting .291/.366/.467 with 22 homers and 24 doubles after signing a three-year, $105.3 million deal with a pair of opt-outs that had already come as a shock to the baseball world at the tail end of a free agency deeply impacted by the lockout.

In that one year, the sides found mutual respect and admiration far beyond what they could have hoped — and, after another massive coup, the Twins appear to have their man again. This time, it’s for the long-term — allowing them to pair Correa and Byron Buxton up the middle through at least the 2028 season.