Home News With Eduardo Escobar at third, Mets don’t need Carlos Correa

With Eduardo Escobar at third, Mets don’t need Carlos Correa

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PORT ST. LUCIE — The Carlos Correa almost deal made for an exciting and suspenseful few weeks. And, undoubtedly, Correa would have raised the Mets’ immediate World Series hopes.

But ultimately, it would have been a mistake.

Correa is one of the handful of best baseball players in the world. But he wasn’t the right move for the Mets.

It’s not because of his allegedly iffy ankle, either. Sure, we all know one doctor did say one MRI was about the worst he’s ever seen (and it was an NFL doctor so presumably he’s seen some messed-up ankles). But other doctors said he’d be OK, and most importantly, the doctor who gave the negative review didn’t know Correa.

Nine years after his ankle surgery, here’s the key ledger: No missed games for the ankle, not even any treatment. Correa is a world-class athlete and he may just have pain tolerance to match. Third base might also have provided the ankle a safer haven.

It wasn’t the ankle and it wasn’t him. It was the deal that wasn’t worth it for the Mets. It was rich, even for a billionaire 17 times over. And while Steve Cohen didn’t care about the money, eventually, it may have affected his ability to do other things to improve the team, which he definitely does care about.

Cohen was excited upon agreeing to the $315 million, 12-year deal back in the early-morning hours of Dec. 21, telling me that night, “We needed one more thing, and this was it.”

Eduardo Escobar
Corey Sipkin

The Mets’ 2023 chances surely would have improved with Correa, who’s not only one of the game’s best defenders but also one of the better October players of this generation. But at what cost?

Ultimately, considering the deal, and the tax associated with — especially the tax — it wasn’t a deal worth making. Nothing against Correa. But counting the so-called “Steve Cohen” fourth-tier tax that is 90 percent now, and rises to 110 percent next year, and assuming it stays 110 percent even through the next few collective bargaining agreements (some rival owners will surely stump for it to go up further) Correa would have cost the Mets about $656 million over the 12 years. It also may have hardened the hard-line owners stances regarding a cap (though the players’ union will never go for that).

I remarked to one management person that no player except maybe Barry Bonds in his prime is worth $656 million. “Not even Barry Bonds,” that person said. (On second thought maybe Shohei Ohtani is close, but that’s it.)

It also must be reassuring to know the Mets’ incumbent is solid. This isn’t an area of weakness for the Mets.

Eduardo Escobar is an above-average major league hitter who showed us all what he could do in September, when he stopped “trying to do too much” and started to resolve a situation that was weighing on him (more on that later). Plus, he’s an actual proven third baseman (though it’s a fair assumption Correa’s defense would have translated to third). Plus, the Mets have a top-20 MLB prospect who happens to play third base in Brett Baty. So even without Correa, the Mets are somewhere between solid and stacked at third.

Carlos Correa on Aug. 9, 2022.
Carlos Correa on Aug. 9, 2022.

Folks around the team well know Escobar is better than he was the first few months of 2022, too, and that he was in the middle of a divorce that was weighing on him. He finished with a 106 OPS-plus, about his career norm even after that rough start, thanks to a September where he carried the team at times. He hit eight homers and logged a 1.046 OPS in the final month to finish with a respectable 20 homers and above-average .726 OPS.

“Last year was really, really hard,” said Escobar about the trying personal situation. “A lot of people here supported me. Buck [Showalter] and [third-base coach] Joey [Cora]. The front office. Everybody.”

Escobar was home in Venezuela when he heard the news about Correa agreeing to a deal with the Mets, who soon enough were starting to get trade inquiries on Escobar (Miami was one that called). Understandably it hit him.

“I saw the reports, and I felt a little sad,” he said. “But I trust the decisionmaking from the front office. And I understand the business of baseball. I love this team. I love everyone here.”

Most importantly, Escobar is in a good place.

“I’m happy here,” he said. “I’m happy playing baseball.”

Showalter noted in his press briefing that Escobar is smiling more than anyone these days, and that obviously takes some doing, as his left-side infield partner is Francisco Lindor, who is appropriately known as Mr. Smile. And it’s clear he has two reasons to smile. His family situation is more settled now that his divorce is final. And he is still a Met. It was the right outcome — for him and for the Mets.

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