How the Tigers Let Carlos Correa Slip Through Their Fingers

Tigers fans will see a lot of Carlos Correa in 2022. It just won’t be in the uniform they hoped for.

The All-Star shortstop signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Twins last week that place the superstar in the same division with Detroit. But every home run he hits and double play he turns in a Minnesota uniform will be a reminder of how the Tigers failed to get their man.

Detroit reportedly offered Correa $275 million for ten years back before the lockout that paused the MLB offseason. When a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was agreed to earlier this month, a flurry of activity saw free agents going to new teams. But Correa, the biggest star of them all, was unsigned. Then the Twins swooped in with a surprise move that landed them the 27-year old infielder, the best shortstop to hit the market in years.

Al Avila is the executive vice president of baseball operations for the Tigers. He’s also the general manager, which means he’s the man whose job it is to form the roster. The Tigers knew they wanted a shortstop and the team expressed their interest in Correa, who at 27 is a generational talent. He’s just now entering his prime, and could put up eight or even ten more great seasons.

Correa previously played for the current Detroit manager A.J. Hinch in Houston. Reportedly, Hinch met with his former shortstop last November to plead the case for Carlos to sign with the Tigers. But the offer that Avila came up with was doomed to fail.

Avila failed to realize the changing landscape in baseball. Not every player is seeking the long contract to be strapped to one team. Not every player wants to be locked in like that. Increasingly, some athletes are looking for short term deals that allow them to have flexibility. A younger star like Correa would rather hit the free agent market again (and possibly again after that) than get a $200 or $300 million deal that would see him underpaid a few years into it as the market changes.

Avila could have had Correa for a three or four year deal for less overall money than Detroit offered. The Twins got the shortstop for $105.3 over three seasons, with opt-outs after year one and year two. The deal makes Correa the highest-paid position player (based on average annual salary) in baseball.

And that’s what he wanted all along.

Avila enters his seventh full season as the key man in the Detroit front office. He reports to only one person: owner Christopher Ilitch. He’s overseen a team that’s spiraled out of contention, through a supposed rebuild, and five straight losing seasons. The Tigers have finished last three times under Avila, and while they have a few promising players spinning to the top of their farm system, the club doesn’t appear to be ready for a playoff run any time soon. Correa at shortstop would have changed that, even if Avila could have only gotten the All-Star for a year or two.

A better strategy would have been to use a two-pronged approach to Correa and his agent. Avila should have recognized the tenor of the market, and the wishes of Correa and his camp. After years as part of an ensemble in Houston, Correa is seeking respect. He wants to be compensated as one of the game’s higher-paid players. He’s got that now in the form of a relatively cost-effective contract, it’s just too bad it’s with one of Detroit’s rivals.

2 replies on “How the Tigers Let Carlos Correa Slip Through Their Fingers

  • J.D. Danielewicz

    I sure would rather have Correa than Baez. We don’t need another player in the lineup who strikes out in 40% of his ABs.

  • Chris Guyor

    While it may be true that we could have had Correa on a shorter contract, Baez is hardly a “booby prize”. If what Correa wanted was a shorter contract, I have to believe he would have been given one, unless he insisted on an opt-out clause every year like he has with Minnesota. The Tigers wanted to continue to build with a consistent core… Correa wants to be a moth, flipping to the brightest light on a whim, so ultimately, the Tigers got the right man in Baez.

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