By Ken Rosenthal, Dan Hayes and Andy McCullough
A surprising new team has emerged in the Carlos Correa Sweepstakes — or maybe not so surprising given how much money the New York Mets have already spent this offseason.
Yes, Steve Cohen could be back.
According to sources familiar with the team’s mindset, Cohen’s Mets are showing interest in Correa. Correa, 28, would likely play third baseman for the Mets alongside fellow Puerto Rican native Francisco Lindor.
“I would say there’s some smoke,” said a Mets person. “I’m not sure how big the fire is, though.”
Mets general manager Billy Eppler declined to comment. While a full-blown pursuit of Correa may feel like a stretch given the size of Correa’s expected payday and the spending the Mets have already squandered this winter, Cohen has already expanded the parameters of what an owner can spend.
The acquisition of Correa would be another impressive addition for Cohen, whose team has already signed pitcher Justin Verlander, midfielder Brandon Nimmo and three other free agents this offseason, taking his luxury tax payroll to nearly $350 million, according to Fangraphs . With penalties, the Mets’ total payroll would be approximately $421 million, by far the highest in major league history.
Despite all that Cohen has invested, people familiar with his thinking said the owner still believes the Mets need more offense, leading the team to consider not just the market for Correa, but players like JD Martinez as well and to explore Michael Conforto.
Correa, the top remaining free agent, would likely cost another $30 million per season or maybe less on an annual average if he signs a 10-plus year contract — a possibility, sources say. Two other free-agent shortstops, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts, signed 11-year contracts worth $300 million and $280 million, respectively.
The Mets would not be alone in their pursuit of Correa. The Minnesota Twins consider him their prime target, and the San Francisco Giants are also believed to be in the mix. After missing out on Yankees hitter Aaron Judge, the Giants are under significant pressure to find a franchise pillar to build on.
As the offseason began, many executives viewed Correa as the most compelling player out there given his outsized talent, relatively young age and ability to hold onto a crucial defensive position like shortstop. As the winter meetings drew to a close last week – after Turner, Bogaerts and Judge all signed seismic deals – Correa remained the best bidder on the market. A push by the Mets could bolster clubs like Minnesota or San Francisco to meet the demands of Correa and his agent Scott Boras.
A two-time All-Star, Correa failed to find a long-term commitment that met his expectations last winter. He settled on a three-year, $105.3 million contract with the Twins, then exited after hitting 22 homers with an .834 OPS. Though advanced defensive metrics hampered him in 2022, Correa won the Platinum Glove as the sport’s top defender with Houston in 2021.
At some point, the Mets are expected to take steps to lower their payroll. Catcher James McCann and right-hander Carlos Carrasco are among the players they could potentially trade and third baseman Eduardo Escobar could also be on the move if Correa joins the club. The Mets may also need to look at interest in top prospects like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos.
the athlete‘s Will Sammon contributed to this report.
(Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)