Mets Interested In Carlos Correa

The Mets are showing interest in Carlos Correa, report Ken Rosenthal, Dan Hayes and Andy McCullough of the Athletic. It’s not clear precisely how committed they are to making a run at the top remaining free agent, but their presence on at least the periphery of the market makes for a fascinating twist.

This offseason has been dominated by Mets headlines, with the team signing a number of top free agents. New York made nine-figure commitments to retain Edwin Díaz ($102MM over five years) and Brandon Nimmo ($162MM over eight years). The Mets brought in Justin Verlander on a two-year, $86.66MM deal — tying the annual salary record they established with last offseason’s three-year pact for Max Scherzer. They agreed to terms with Kodai Senga on a five-year, $75MM pact and have signed smaller but still notable deals with José Quintana (two years, $26MM) and David Robertson (one year, $10MM).

That spending spree added to a roster that already had the league’s highest payroll. Certainly, the Mets faced a number of key departures as well. They allowed Jacob deGromChris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker to sign elsewhere. That said, they’re already projected well beyond this year’s spending level. New York opened the 2022 campaign with a player payroll around $264MM; they’re projected by Roster Resource at a staggering $336MM figure for next season.

It’s an unparalleled number in league history, one that leaves open the question of how far owner Steve Cohen and his front office are willing to go. Cohen has proven himself undeterred by traditional spending habits, and he’s certainly seemed unfazed by the luxury tax that’s ostensibly in place to prevent any team from spending head and shoulders above the rest.

Roster Resource projects the Mets’ luxury tax number around $350MM at the moment. They’re $117MM clear of the base tax threshold and are going to blow past all four tiers of penalization. New York paid the CBT this past season, so they’re also facing escalating penalties for going over for a second straight year. The Mets will pay a 30% tax on their first $20MM above the threshold ($6MM), a 42% tax on their next $20MM in overages ($8.4MM), a 75% tax on their next $20MM in surplus spending ($15MM) and a 90% tax on any additional dollars. New York is currently an estimated $57MM above the fourth and final tier, one colloquially known as the “Cohen tax” after being introduced in the most recent CBA at least partially in response to Cohen’s reputation for spending. That’s another $51.3MM in taxes, bringing New York’s total projected tax bill to a staggering $80.7MM.

Of course, that’s before considering the possibility of adding another megadeal. Correa is the best free agent still on the board. At the start of the offseason, MLBTR forecasted a nine-year, $288MM contract. The two top shortstops already off the board — Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts — each best our predictions, with Bogaerts’ $280MM contract coming in well above most expectations. In light of the strength of the market, Correa pushing past $300MM now seems likely, and one could argue for him to approach the $360MM guarantee Aaron Judge received from the Yankees given Correa’s youth and greater defensive value.

Even if we conservatively pencil Correa in for the pre-offseason prediction of $288MM over nine years, that’d come out to a $32MM annual salary. New York would be taxed at 90% on top of that, effectively making it a $60.8MM commitment to the star shortstop for next season. It’d be the kind of move a team has never made for an individual player, and again, that now seems a rather pessimistic view of Correa’s earning power. Certainly, the deal could push longer than nine years and lower the annual salary somewhat — Turner and Bogaerts each received 11 years despite being older than Correa — but any permutation of the contract would involve the team investing an immense sum. Cohen has clearly established himself as an owner unconcerned with precedent, and it’d be foolish to count the Mets out on any free agent at this point.

The Mets don’t need a shortstop, of course, with Francisco Lindor locked in as their long-term answer at the position. Third base isn’t accounted for by a star, with veteran Eduardo Escobar coming off an average season and top prospect Brett Baty still unproven at the MLB level. Relying on Escobar and Baty wouldn’t be a disaster, but installing Correa alongside Pete AlonsoJeff McNeil and Lindor would lock in All-Star caliber players everywhere on the infield.

Beyond the Mets, the Giants and incumbent Twins are reported to be prioritizing Correa at this stage of the offseason. They’re widely viewed as the top suitors, while teams like the Cubs and Red Sox have been more loosely linked to him. Dansby Swanson, who’s drawing attention from many of the same clubs, remains available as the clear second-best position player still on the open market.

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