Nobody has had a worse offseason in baseball than the San Francisco Giants. Hell, you’d be hard pressed to find any team in major American sports to have screwed up as badly recently as this team has.
The latest hit comes as Carlos Correa inked a 12-year contract with the Mets, AFTER he agreed to a 13-year deal with the Giants — leaving the San Francisco front office to cancel a celebratory press conference, put away their checkbook, and confront fans devastated as the team missed on a second major signing of free agency.
There’s still a lot unknowns when it comes to why San Francisco spurned Correa. The full story may take time to emerge. Still, here’s what has been reported so far and why the ramifications of the collapsed deal extend beyond just missing out on an All Star shortstop in 2022.
Correa wanted to be in San Francisco
This was a hand-meet-glove signing that seemed destined to happen. The Mets were the other major team looking to land Correa, even if it didn’t make a ton of sense for them on paper with Francisco Lindor locked as their shortstop of the future when New York traded for him in 2021.
The Mets and Giants both heavily pursued Correa, and last week this seemed settled when agent Scott Boras informed the Mets his client was no longer interested in negotiating with them, turning down a 12-year contract offer. The seas parted for the Giants to sign Correa more or less uncontested, and so certain was the deal that Boras, Correa, and Correa’s family had traveled to San Francisco in preparation for his introductory press conference.
Obviously, that never happened — but why?
Nebulous “medical concerns” seem to have been what turned the tide
The last step to signing Correa was to complete what was believed would be a routine physical. Correa has played over 180 games over the last two seasons, and hasn’t missed significant time other than some more unusual issues. In 2018 he had surgery to correct a deviated septum to increase his breathing, he also sustained a minor shoulder injury in 2016, and a fractured rib in 2019 — as well as an on-again-off-again back problem. However, there was nothing on the surface that would suggest the kind of injury filled history worth derailing a contract of this magnitude.
When the Giants conducted their physical everything changed. The team reportedly took issue with a 2014 ankle injury sustained when Correa was in the Astros’ minor league system, which required surgical intervention. This led to what Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi called a “difference of opinion.”
“While we are prohibited from disclosing confidential medical information, as Scott Boras stated publicly, there was a difference of opinion over the results of Carlos’ physical examination,” Zaidi said in a statement put out by the team. “We wish Carlos the best.”
This became enough for Correa’s camp to re-open free agency, accept calls from the Mets again, bolting in the middle of the night to sign with New York.
How valid were these concerns, or was this a cover for another mistake?
Certainly when we’re talking about the kind of $300M+ investment like the Giants were making, it behooves them to do every bit of due diligence. However, the justification for modifying the deal based on their concerns about an injury from 2014 are shaky, at best.
While old injuries can certainly rear their head, the idea that this old ankle issue — which hasn’t been a problem since, would be the main reason why the Giants got cold feet is curious. Scott Boras spoke out about the issue, essentially saying it’s ridiculous to take routine free agent uncertainty, and harm a player’s reputation inside MLB by reporting on a medical condition which wasn’t really an issue.
“You’re talking about a player who has played eight major-league seasons,” Boras said. “There are things in his medical record that happened decades ago. These are all speculative dynamics. Every team has a right to go through things and evaluate things. The key thing is, we gave [the Giants] medical reports at the time. They still wanted to sign the player and negotiated with the player.”
To further muddy the water is where Brandon Crawford fit into this puzzle. The Giants already had an All-Star shortstop on their roster, and while Crawford is certainly aging (he’ll be 36 to start the 2023 season), the team reportedly didn’t consult with their star player on the idea of moving to third base as recently as eight days ago. It’s unclear how this impacted the decision making behind signing Correa, but at the very least it was supremely disrespectful to be finalizing negotiations with Correa, which would have discussed him taking over SS in San Francisco, without consulting with a player who helped bring two World Series titles to the Bay Area.
The Mets were more than happy to take Correa “as is”
With access to the same medical records as the Giants had, New York wasted no time in signing Correa to a 12-year, $315M deal. It was slightly less money per year than the Giants’ offer, and one year less — but it was a deal that could be executed quickly and kill any rumors about Correa’s health.
With the Mets it’s Correa who will move position, rotating over to third base and ceding shortstop to Lindor. This may have been a holdup in the original negotiations, but with the Giants deal falling through Correa was reportedly more than happy to play with his Puerto Rico teammate and give up his position.
Now a 101-win team from last season is somehow even more terrifying, all at the expense of San Francisco, who after missing out on Aaron Judge AND rejecting Correa find themselves with money to spend, and nobody to spend it on.
It remains to be seen how this will impact the Giants’ future
Attempts to ink Aaron Judge and the signing of Carlos Correa were designed to be a prelude for a bigger pursuit: Shohei Ohtani. Set to become a free agent in 2023, the Giants were expected to mount a huge effort to sign Ohtani and return to competitiveness in the NL West against the Dodgers and Padres. Now that effort seems very uncertain.
Not only do San Francisco no longer have the firepower on the field to compete with other teams that will offer Ohtani huge money a year from now, but this entire fiasco may have poisoned potential free agents from entertaining offers from the Giants. It’s one thing to have normal concerns about Correa’s medicals, but another to progress the deal to the point of no return, only to walk it back and plant seeds of doubt publicly about his health.
It’s the kind of blatantly selfish, face-saving move that will give top agents and free agents pause about whether they can negotiate with the Giants in good faith — and it was all avoidable.
The Giants were wrong, even if they’re right
Time will tell when it comes to Carlos Correa. Someone is going to be right on this move, and someone will live to regret it. Perhaps San Francisco’s hesitation based on Correa’s medicals will be founded, and the ankle injury will flair up in New York —or it will bear out that backing away from Correa was a huge error, as he helps lead the Mets to new heights.
Regardless of the on-field results, the way the Giants’ front office botched the negotiations with Correa will have an impact they extends far beyond the 2023 season and could put this team in the unenviably position of overpaying free agents to help them see past how they botched the Correa negotiations.
San Francisco has now missed out on every major free agent. Their roster hasn’t improved dramatically. They alienated an All-Star player, and their negotiation tactics are being questioned. The worst part is how avoidable this all was.