Correa promises ‘championship culture’ for luckless Twins

Carlos Correa Twins
Posted at 10:03 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 22:03:36-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Carlos Correa has declared October “his time.” It certainly hasn’t been Minnesota’s.

The Twins hope Correa can fix that, even if his stay in Minneapolis is short.

“I want to build a championship culture in this organization,” Correa said.

The former Houston Astros star tugged on a Twins’ No. 4 jersey and was formally introduced Wednesday, five days after agreeing to a $105.3 million, three-year contract that includes opt-outs after the first and second seasons.

The Twins have famously lost 18 straight postseason games since their last October victory in 2004 — their most recent loss was in the 2020 wild-card round when Correa hit a go-ahead homer at Target Field to complete Houston’s sweep.

Correa is a World Series champion who cemented his playoff stardom last fall by celebrating a go-ahead homer against Boston by pointing to his wrist, looking into the home dugout and affirming “it’s my time.”

“He elevates the confidence because this person has simply done this before,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

It’s part of why small-market Minnesota went for such an unusual deal. Correa’s $35.1 million average salary trails only Mike Trout’s $36 million with the Angels, a total in the same range as entire projected opening day payrolls in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

The financial commitment from Twins ownership a year after finishing last in the AL Central stands out in a sport where so-called tanking fueled acrimony from players that led to a 99-day work stoppage.

“When I called (Twins Chairman) Jim Pohlad as we were getting closer to this on Friday, immediate support,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “I mean, there’s no other way to describe it.”

Correa will be baseball’s highest-paid infielder this season — and he’ll have a chance to seek more after.

The 27-year-old switched agents during the lockout from William Morris Endeavor to Scott Boras. Correa said Wednesday that Boras pitched him on a shorter deal that could get him back to the market soon. Together, they set sights on a ballpark where Correa could thrive.

They hit a bull’s-eye at Target Field. Correa is a career .413 hitter with a 1.205 OPS in 15 games in Minnesota.

“When a player is that comfortable in a ballpark, we knew that there was a joint fit,” Boras said.

If he opts out after 2022, Correa would join a free agent market that could also include shortstops Trea Turner of the Dodgers, Xander Bogaerts from Boston and Tim Anderson from the White Sox. Correa is younger than all of them.

First, though, he’s hoping to make an impact in Minnesota. Correa hit .279 with 26 homers, 92 RBIs and an .851 OPS last season. He’s a two-time All-Star, the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year and has an .849 OPS over 79 career postseason games.

“His leadership, his character, and his commitment to this community are what make Carlos a very special person,” Astros owner Jim Crane said in a statement. “He will forever be one of the great Astros players.”

Correa joins a club with several holdovers from AL Central titles in 2019 and ’20, including Byron Buxton, Miguel Sanó, Max Kepler and new double-play partner Jorge Polanco. Correa and Buxton went 1-2 in the 2012 draft and have known each other since high school.

“Carlos is now going to elevate it from his experiences and add to that group,” Falvey said.

Baldelli already sees it happening. He’s noticed that Correa has a precise manner of speaking around the clubhouse, sparking conversations that Baldelli says dig far past “surface level.”

“They are making his teammates think and react and do things differently and in a better manner maybe than they’ve ever done it before,” Baldelli said. “That’s his goal every day when he shows up.”

“When we’re taking practice,” Correa explained, “we’re searching for perfection. ... That’s a culture we want to build here.”

Correa has even begun mentoring his potential replacement, top prospect Royce Lewis. Correa took Lewis’ No. 4 but paid him back with a Hublot watch. Lewis joined former Twins Rod Carew and LaTroy Hawkins to watch Correa’s press conference.

“I know accidentally I took his number,” Correa said. “Royce, sorry.”

Notes: Correa would earn $100,000 for World Series MVP, $50,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $100,000 each for making the All-Star team or winning a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger. He has a limited no-trade provision for this year, then a full no-trade provision.