MLB star at peace after bizarre free agency saga cost him $100 million

PHOENIX — He watched his 13-year, $350 million contract go up in flames just three hours before his press conference in downtown San Francisco.

Three weeks later, his 12-year, $315 million deal with the New York Mets went belly-up when their officials were also were concerned by his eight-year-old left ankle surgery.

Now, 1 ½ seasons later, losing more than $100 million after signing a six-year, $200 million contract with four option years with the Minnesota Twins, Carlos Correa says he’s never been happier.

The stress, the frustration and the anger have all disappeared, and Correa believes the Twin Cities is where he belonged all along.

“This is the best thing that could have happened to me and my family,’ Correa tells USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t know what the other places would have been like, but this is a great place with a great family environment and great people all around that care about you. These are people that I feel comfortable with that I’ve grown to love.

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“You know, the six years and the options seem a lot better than 13 years with the kids growing so fast and requiring so much attention to them. At some point, I’ve got to make the tough decision of, ‘Hey do I want to keep doing this or do I want to be with my family?’ So, it’s a lot easier with the structure on this contract than it was with a 13- or 12-year contract. This is definitely the best thing that could happen to me and my family.’

Correa, who missed 17 games with an intercostal strain, also happens to be having perhaps his finest season since 2017, when he helped lead the Houston Astros to the World Series title. He’s hitting .305 with 11 homers, 45 RBI and an .882 OPS while playing stellar defense. In the last 26 games, he’s hitting a blistering .402.

In a league filled with sensational young shortstops, led by 23-year-old Gunnar Henderson of the Baltimore Orioles and 24-year-old Bobby Witt of the Kansas City Royals, the All-Star Game should find a place for Correa, 29, too.

Simply, he has been the Twins’ most valuable player on the field and in the clubhouse.

“It’s really good season, but I’d be a lot prouder if I played every game,’ says Correa, who wakes up every morning to look at his WAR rating, which is currently 3.2, 22nd in baseball. “But the three weeks I missed cost me a lot and the teams as well. For me, staying healthy is the main thing. When I’m healthy, I know what I can do. The three weeks I missed, those are a lot of WAR points I missed.

“So, when people ask me what stats register the most, I say, games played. You play games, your WAR is going to be accumulated. The contract is something that doesn’t motivate me anymore, so I’ve got to figure out new ways to keep me motivated. I strive to be the best shortstop I can be and WAR is a great stat to look at when evaluating the overall package. They pay me this mound of money and I want to give back to them in WAR.’

When Correa grew up, there was the historical shortstop class of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra. Now, he looks around, there’s the 24-year-and younger kiddie corps of Henderson, Witt, Anthony Volpe, Elly De La Cruz, C.J. Abrams and Masyn Winn.

“The game is in great hands,’ Correa says. “When you look at those guys, those guys are special. Their level skill is insane. I feel like every single generation that goes by keeps getting better. The shortstops are more athletic, more powerful, all of the information we have now. They make me feel like an old guy.

“I’m going to be retired, watching these guys play. It’s fun because there’s a lot of talent out there.’’

Still, Correa isn’t about to pass that baton yet. He helped the Twins to the AL Central title a year ago, and they are now 50-39, sitting in the second wild-card spot.

He has one World Series ring with the Astros.

He’d love to get one for the other hand.

“I’m having a lot of fun here,’ says Correa. “There’s a lot of young guys here, and you have a guy like Royce Lewis, who’s a generational talent. When he’s one the field, he’s unbelievable.

“I’m just trying to push everybody to get better every single day. Sometimes, you got to be the bad guy in order for people to understand how things are meant to be done. But we’re in a good place as a team.

“Hey, everything is working out here just fine.’

Around the basepaths

– Who will be the most aggressive teams at the trade deadline, GMs and baseball executives say?

The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres and Atlanta.

The trouble is that the trade inventory is painfully thin with only five teams out of playoff contention. It also lacks star power unless three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is traded by the Texas Rangers, or New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso or Chicago Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger are moved.

But Scherzer has a full no-trade clause and can say he’s staying put.

Bellinger is still owed a hefty $52.5 million after this year if he doesn’t opt out of the remaining two years of his three-year, $80 million contract.

And Alonso is staying as long as the Mets remain in the wild-card race.

The hottest commodity will be relievers, GMs say, knowing how valuable bulpen arms are in the postseason being able to pitch every day while starters rarely go deep.

– The Angels are getting bombarded with interest for closer Carlos Estevez, who may be the best reliever available on the market with Oakland A’s strikeout machine Mason Miller likely unavailable. He was the AL reliever of the month in June, yielding just two hits without a walk in 10 shutout appearances. He retired 26 consecutive batters during one stretch, and is 16 for 19 in save opportunities. He’s a free agent after the season with only about $2.2 million remaining on his contract at the trade deadline.

The Angels also are expected to trade reliever Luis Garcia. But unless they receive overwhelming offers, the Angles likely will hang onto starters Tyler Anderson (who gave up 3 hits in 8 shutout innings Saturday against the Cubs) and Griffin Canning, and outfielder Taylor Ward, who still are under team control through at least 2025.

– GMs are skeptical whether any team will meet their high price-tag for oft-injured center fielder Luis Robert Jr., of the White Sox, but believe the market will be robust for starter Erick Fedde (6-3, 3.13 ERA).

– The Cubs are telling teams they still remain undecided whether they will be sellers at the trade deadline, but are preparing for a potential sale, with Bellinger, Jameson Taillon and Nico Hoerner expected to draw interest. It’s hard to believe how things went south on the Northside after their 17-9 start.

– Miami Marlins lefty Jesus Luzardo is on the injured list until at least Aug. 18 with a lumbar stress reaction (back), but it hasn’t stopped teams from inquiring about his availability, believing he’d still make an impact in the pennant stretch and postseason.

– The Philadelphia Phillies are keeping a close eye on Oakland A’s left fielder Brent Rooker. The Phillies rank 26th in OPS among left fielders this season.

– Barring a dramatic turnaround, rival GMs expect the Rangers to make starters Max Scherzer, Michael Lorenzen and Andrew Heaney available, along with relievers David Robertson and Kirby Yates.

– Rangers veteran starter Nathan Eovaldi needs to pitch 76 more innings this year for his $20 million conditional player option to vest in 2025. He has a limited no-trade clause.

– The Boston Red Sox, after losing 8-1 to the Yankees on June 14, were 14 games behind the Yankees in the AL East with a 35-35 record.

They since went 13-5, while the Yankees went 4-14.

The Red Sox are now within 5 ½ games of the Yankees.

– Pardon the Dodgers for openly rooting that Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker signs with an American League team this winter as a free agent, moving far, far away from Dodger Stadium.

He has morphed into Babe Ruth in Chavez Ravine.

He just hit five home runs in a three-game series against the Dodgers this past week, going 8-for-13, and now has hit 19 homers at Dodger Stadium dating back to 2018. He has slugged more home runs than anyone in history in their first 42 games at Dodger Stadium since it opened in 1962, and his seven homers in a five-game span against the Dodgers is tied for most with Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and Todd Helton.

“It’s just one of those things,” Walker told reporters. “There’s not a rhyme or reason to it … I think anytime you play well in a park, there’s a few parks around the league where something feels different about the batter’s box and maybe the lights, maybe just the visuals, but just one of those things, not really one specific thing.”

Considering that Walker is second in the NL with 22 homers, second in slugging percentage (.526), fourth in RBI (62) and seventh in OPS (.871), he deserves to be in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.

Good news for the Dodgers: The Diamondbacks don’t play another game at Dodger Stadium the rest of the regular season.

– Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is nearly on pace to hit 60 home runs again but as far as breaking Barry Bonds’ HR record of 73 one days, he insists it’s not possible.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to break that,’’ Judge told reporters. “Any time you get up into the 50s and 60s [in homers], people start pitching you differently. They don’t give you as many opportunities to hit. Like with Bonds that year, he would get like one pitch to hit in a series, and he’d hit it out. I don’t think we’ll ever see that again.”

– Strange but true: Atlanta has lost 28 consecutive games when their opponent scores at least four runs.

The last time they won a game giving up at least four runs?

April 17, when they beat the Houston Astros, 5-4.

They also are just 3-28 since May 1 when allowing at least three runs.

– Minnesota Twins talented third baseman Royce Lewis, exasperated by his rash of injuries, says he’s now open to anything to stay healthy.

‘If someone said, ‘Hey, if you smoke cigarettes like Babe Ruth and that’ll work,’ then I’ll do that, too,’’ Lewis told reporters. “I’m open to anything.’

– The NL West could become a juggernaut with all of the injured starting pitchers expected to return in July or August:

The Giants will have Cy Young winners Blake Snell and Robbie Ray, along with Alex Cobb joining the rotation.

The Dodgers will have Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Walker Buehler and Dustin May.

The Diamondbacks will have Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez.

And the Padres will have Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove.

– You think the Mariners are desperate for offensive help at the deadline?

They entered Saturday having struck out at least 10 times in 56 games this season, including 14 in a row. They have also scored two or fewer runs in 31 games.

No wonder the Mariners lit sage in the clubhouse this past week trying to ward off those evil slumping spirits.

Meanwhile, they are expected to part with at least one of their top prospects five who are ranked among the top 50 in Baseball America’s rankings for an impact bat.

– The Brewers took a flier on starter Aaron Civale by acquiring him from Tampa for a fringe prospect while assuming his $4.9 million salary. Yet, Civale had just a 5.07 ERA in 17 starts with a 1.379 WHIP for the Rays, and gave up four earned runs and three homers against the Dodgers in his Brewers’ debut.

The Brewers have already used 16 different starting pitchers this season, one shy of the franchise record set in 1969.

– Remember when the Cardinals were 15-24 on May 11, looking like the season was already ruined?

Well, here they are, a National League-best 31-17 since that loss.

“It was pretty much a doomsday type of feel for everybody,’ Cardinals manager Oli Marmol told reporters, “but the ones who were in that clubhouse.’

– It certainly appears that Mookie Betts will be moving back to second base, or even right field, when he returns in August from the injured list with his broken hand.

The Dodgers love Miguel Rojas’ defense (he has not made an error at shortstop this season), and believe it would be unfair to count on Betts at shortstop in the playoffs after just learning the new position.

– So, what can a historic 12 consecutive hits do for your batting average?

Twins third baseman Jose Miranda’s batting average rose from .294 to .328 with seven singles, four doubles and a HR.

– Turns out the White Sox made a shrewd move declining Tim Anderson’s $14 million option last winter. He was a bitter disappointment in Miami, hitting just .215 with a major-league worst .463 OPS without a homer, when he was designated for assignment.

– Remember when Yankees pitcher Luis Gil was the runaway leader for the AL Rookie of the Year award when he produced a 2.03 ERA in his first 14 starts?

He since has a 14.90 ERA in his last three starts while the Yankees’ rotation has yielded an MLB-worst 7.76 ERA.

– Has Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo become Wally Pipp’d?

Rookie Ben Rice, his replacement at first while he’s on the injured list, became the first Yankees rookie to hit three homers in a game while driving in seven runs, tying Lou Gehrig’s rookie record.

Rice is hitting .294 with a .971 in 51 at-bats since joining the team.

– Atlanta could have three starters make the All-Star team (Chris Sale, Max Fried and Reynaldo Lopez) for the first time since 1997 when they were represented by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Denny Neagle.

– There were 71 pitchers who won 20 games in an 18-year stretch from 1988-2005. But in the last 18 years, just 31 pitchers have done it.

– Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley’s 31 consecutive save streak ended Friday night when he was thrust into the 10th inning against the Washington Nationals with an automatic baserunner on second base.

His 31 saves are the most in Cardinals’ history in the first half, eclipsing Hall of Famer Lee Smith.

– It will be Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte, and not Shohei Ohtani, who will lead off the All-Star Game for the National League, D-backs and NL manager Torey Lovullo announced.

– Jurickson Profar and Fernando Tatis Jr. would have been the first Padres’ teammates to start an All-Star Game since Tony Gwynn and Ken Caminiti in 1997, but Tatis has a stress reaction in his right femur and won’t be able to play.

– The Rangers are the eighth defending World Series champion to enter July with a losing record since the divisional era in 1969.

None of those teams finished with a .500 record, let alone made the postseason.

– So, just how much did a signed Gunnar Henderson autographed rookie card sell for through Goldin’s auction?

Can you believe $64,660?

A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card went for $152,123.

– White Sox veteran starter Mike Clevinger, who missed spring training with his April 4 signing, is returning this week after a six-week stint on the IL. He is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in four starts, spanning just 16 innings.

“Missing spring training is just not in the cards for anybody,” Clevinger told reporters. “Highly necessary. As much as we like to say it’s too long, six weeks is the right amount of time.”

Yep, just ask Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, who also are on the IL after missing spring training with their late signings.

– Congrats to Pirates closer Aroldis Chapman, who became the all-time leader in strikeouts among left-handed relievers, with his glove and spikes going to Cooperstown.

– How rare is it for the reigning World Series champions to host the All-Star Game?

It last happened in 1939 when the Yankees hosted the All-Star Game after sweeping the Cubs in the 1938 World Series.

– Hard to believe, but the Mets still don’t have a shutout victory, their longest drought in franchise history.

– Sure, he’s a rooki and didn’t come up until May, but Pirates sensation Paul Skenes (5-0, 2.12 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 59⅓ innings) would be a great choice to start the All-Star Game. He would also be pitching on regular rest.

The last rookie to start an All-Star Game?

Hideo Nomo of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995, the last All-Star Game played in Arlington.

– Prayers to the Aldrete family. A’s hitting coach Mike Aldrete is taking a leave of absence from the tema to be with his wife, Gina, who begins treatment for multiple myeloma.

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