By Ken Rosenthal, Dan Hayes and Andy McCullough
A surprising new team has emerged in the Carlos Correa sweepstakes — or maybe not so surprising, considering the amount of money the New York Mets already have spent this offseason.
Yes, Steve Cohen might be at again.
Cohen’s Mets are showing interest in Correa, according to sources familiar with the team’s thinking. Correa, 28, likely would play third base for the Mets, alongside his fellow native of Puerto Rico, shortstop Francisco Lindor.
“I’d say there’s some smoke,” one Mets person said. “I’m not sure how big the fire is, though.”
Mets general manager Billy Eppler declined comment.
While a full-blown pursuit of Correa might feel like a stretch, given the size of Correa’s expected payday and the expenditures already washed out by the Mets this winter, Cohen has already expanded the parameters of what it is possible for an owner to spend.
The acquisition of Correa would represent another stunning addition for Cohen, whose team already has signed pitcher Justin Verlander, center fielder Brandon Nimmo and three other free agents this offseason, pushing its 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.
For all Cohen has invested, people familiar with his thinking indicated the owner still believes the Mets need more offense, prompting the team to explore not just the market for Correa, but also for players such as JD Martinez and Michael Conforto.
Correa, the top remaining free agent, likely would cost another $30 million-plus per season, or perhaps less on an average annual basis if he signs a deal of more than 10 years — a possibility, according to sources. Two other free-agent shortstops, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts, signed 11-year deals worth $300 million and $280 million, respectively.
The Mets would not be alone in any pursuit of Correa. The Minnesota Twins view him as their primary target, and the San Francisco Giants also are believed to be in the mix. After missing out on Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, the Giants face significant pressure to find a franchise pillar with which to build around.
At the outset of the offseason, many executives viewed Correa as the most compelling player on the market, given his outsized talent, relatively young age and ability to stick at a crucial defensive position like shortstop. As the Winter Meetings concluded last week — after Turner, Bogaerts and Judge all inked seismic deals — Correa remained the best player on the market. A foray by the Mets may invigorate clubs like Minnesota or San Francisco to meet the demands of Correa and his representative, Scott Boras.
A two-time All-Star, Correa failed to find a long-term commitment that met his expectation last winter. He settled for a three-year, $105.3 million agreement with the Twins, then opted out after hitting 22 home runs with an .834 OPS. Although advanced defensive metrics dinged him in 2022, Correa won the Platinum Glove as the sport’s best defender with Houston in 2021.
At some point, the Mets are expected to make moves to lower their payroll. Catcher James McCann and right-hander Carlos Carrasco are among the players they might trade, and third baseman Eduardo Escobar also could be on the move if Correa joins the club. The Mets may also have to explore interest in top prospects like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos.
The Athletic‘s Will Sammon contributed to this report.
(Picture: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)