NEW YORK — A new year has arrived, with no change in Carlos Correa‘s status.
Even though it has been more than half a month since Correa’s contract saga began, the resolution still isn’t exactly clear. Here’s a quick primer on where things stand as the holiday season draws to a close:
What’s going on with Correa?
A brief synopsis of where we are: On Dec. 14, the Giants agreed to terms with Correa on a 13-year, $350 million contract. Six days later, they abruptly canceled Correa’s press conference because they wanted more time to work through concerns over his medical reports. Correa’s agent, Scott Boras, instead bid adieu to the Giants, called up Mets owner Steve Cohen and came to terms with the club on a 12-year, $315 million deal.
That was early on the morning of Dec. 21. One day later, Correa flew to New York to undergo a physical examination. The Mets — like the Giants — subsequently became concerned with Correa’s medical reports, and the deal has been in limbo ever since.
So what’s the actual hang-up?
When a team agrees to terms with a free agent, the player typically flies to his new home for a physical and to sign the contract. This process, in nearly all cases, is a formality. Only under rare circumstances is it not.
The Mets are reportedly concerned with Correa’s right ankle, which was surgically repaired while he played in the Minor Leagues in 2014. (Correa had a stabilizing plate inserted into his leg at that time.) Although it caused pain for him during a slide into second base last September, the ankle injury hasn’t directly caused him to miss any time over the past eight seasons.
So Correa is injured?
No, which his agent, Boras, has stressed. Correa has appeared in 89 percent of his team’s games over the past three seasons, proving that he can play through whatever damage exists in his ankle.
Asking again then: What’s the hang-up?
This isn’t just a one-year contract for Correa; if it were, there probably wouldn’t be any issue. This is a 12-year commitment, and the Mets need to be confident that he’ll remain reasonably healthy through the life of it. If they have reason to believe Correa’s ankle injury could affect him five or six years down the line, then that’s a big deal.
So what can be done?
We can only speculate, because the two sides aren’t discussing the matter publicly (mostly for legal reasons). The most reasonable thing would be for the parties to negotiate new language into Correa’s contract protecting the Mets in the event that he suffers some sort of career-altering ankle injury. But that’s a tricky thing to pull off in a way that will satisfy both the team and the player, which is probably why this is taking so long. Correa isn’t going to have much interest in reducing the value of a deal he already agreed to, while the Mets aren’t going to want to play fast and loose with the health of a $315 million player.
Is there any precedent for this sort of thing?
Yes. Way back in 2004, Boras negotiated a four-year, $40 million contract for catcher Ivan Rodriguez with the Tigers, including language that protected the team against a career-altering back injury. Specifically, if Rodríguez spent 35 or more days on the injured list in ‘04 or ‘05 because of a lower spine issue, Detroit had the ability to void the entire contract for a $5 million buyout. If it happened in ‘06, the buyout fell to $4 million.
Fourteen years later, Boras negotiated a five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox for J.D. Martinez that included similar salary relief if Martinez, who had missed significant time the previous season due to a ligament sprain in his right foot, missed significant time over the life of the contract due to a foot injury.
In neither case did the updated contract language ever come into play.
Will a deal ultimately get done?
This is the most important question of all, and the most difficult one to answer. History indicates that a deal should still happen, though it’s far from a guarantee. Already, this process has dragged on longer than Boras and Mets officials expected.
But there is significant incentive for both sides to finalize the contract. From the team’s perspective, Correa is the centerpiece of its offseason spending spree. For both baseball and public relations reasons, it would be a massive disappointment for this deal to stall.
From Correa’s perspective, re-entering the market after contracts with both the Giants and Mets fell apart would be extremely risky. Few other suitors are likely to exist at the $300 million-plus level, and anyone who did agree to sign Correa would be quite concerned about his health; after all, two teams would have passed on him after initially agreeing to massive deals. For Correa, not signing now would mean risking never seeing anything close to that amount of money again.
For those reasons, a happy resolution still seems realistic. But anything involving this many doctors and lawyers is bound to take even more time than it already has.