Twins' agreement with Carlos Correa complicates market for Blue Jays

Hazel Mae and Shi Davidi discuss strong performances from Vladimir Guerrero Jr following Toronto's win, who looked in mid-season form, as well as the Blue Jays' number two prospect Orelvis Martinez and how other teams hold him in high regard.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Word of the agreement reached overnight between the Minnesota Twins and Carlos Correa – a $105.3-million, three-year deal that includes two player opt outs – had yet to reach Jose Berrios as he got to work Saturday.

“The Twins signed him?” the Toronto Blue Jays ace asked. “Really?”

His surprise was echoed around the big-leagues as the industry awoke to news of the pending contract, and not solely because the small-market Twins are an unlikely financial match for the superstar shortstop.

What made the move all the more jarring is that it came after World Series hero Eddie Rosario was non-tendered ahead of the 2021 season and a sell-off last summer followed, highlighted by trades that sent Berrios to the Blue Jays and Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays. Earlier this week, they dumped Josh Donaldson, a marquee signing ahead of the 2020 season, along with just acquired Isiah Kiner Falefa on the New York Yankees.

They didn’t seem to be a team gearing up to acquire a game-changer like Correa.

“You know what? It's surprising because of the way they rebuilt the team and then they spent money,” said Berrios. “They still have a good group, but my thought is it's not the same one we had the past three or four years, know what I mean? This is a sport that we love, that we are passionate about, but at the same time, it's a business and they know how to manage the business.”

That they’d stretch financially to land Correa, who is sure to opt out to chase the long-term megadeal he didn’t get this winter if he performs well this season, when they didn’t extend Berrios, a beloved homegrown star who was embedded in the franchise fabric, is all the more curious.

During the November GM meetings, Derek Falvey, the Twins executive vice-president and chief baseball officer, said the sides had explored an extension and “we felt that (Berrios testing free agency after 2022) was going to be the case where we were.”

Yet Berrios needed just two months with the Blue Jays to settle on a $131-million, seven-year extension. Given what the Twins are willing to pay Correa, why wouldn’t they make a similar commitment over a longer term to one of the game’s most durable, effective starters?

“I don't have a thought like that,” said Berrios. “If God didn't let them get there, it's for a purpose, for a reason. We moved to Toronto, we're enjoying it, we like the city and we had the opportunity to extend my career here. That was the plan God had for me and it’s working.”

The Blue Jays aren’t complaining either, and Berrios is now one of the franchise’s cornerstones through the current window of opportunity. But with GM Ross Atkins still seeking more adds, Correa’s agreement leaves Michael Conforto as the top remaining free agent.

The left-handed hitting outfielder makes obvious sense for a right-handed dominant lineup and the Blue Jays are among the many teams that have been in touch about him, according to an industry source. Whether they’re determined to add him or engaged in due diligence isn’t clear, but their options in pursuit of platoon balance narrowed this week.

They had offers in on Brad Miller, Joc Pederson and Corey Dickerson, according to another industry source, but each landed elsewhere, which is why barring a dramatic run at Conforto, or a middling bench move, left-handed offensive help is likely to come via trade.

Jose Ramirez has long been atop their wish list but the Blue Jays’ acquisition of third baseman Matt Champan complicates things because the Cleveland Guardians star would have to move to second base. He hasn’t played there since 2018, when Cleveland acquired Donaldson from the Blue Jays at the August waiver deadline, and was said at the time to have been uncomfortable with the switch.

Forcing a trade acquisition into an uneasy position shift isn’t ideal, especially when the cost will be exceptionally steep, but it’s worth noting Cleveland had a scout at the Blue Jays’ complex this week taking video of Kirk’s entire routine.

Considering all that, raiding the asset base may make more sense for Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks, given that he could slot right into second base, with the ability to protect centre field and shortstop should either George Springer or Bo Bichette miss time.

But with three more years of club control – an $8.4-million salary this year, plus club options of $8 million in 2023 and $10 million in 2024 – the Blue Jays would have to pay not only for the talent, but also for his payroll-friendly contract.

Doing that without sacrificing either of the club’s gilt-edge prospects – Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez – will require some deft touches from Atkins.

While Moreno is still working through visa issues, Martinez is already making an impression at camp, taking all-star Aaron Nola deep in Saturday’s 3-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

His homer came in the second inning, nearly to the same spot as a first-inning laser launched by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“I thought to myself, well, if he did it, then I've got to do something similar,” Martinez quipped through interpreter Hector Lebron. “I just want to feel like I belong here, feel like one of them, at the same level. Of course, I've got to work for that and that's what I'm trying to do.”

Martinez has been carefully following around Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez, pumping them for information about routines and approaches. His batting practice shows have been must-sees.

“When I see Orelvis at the plate I think about Hanley Ramirez back in the day, young Hanley. It's pretty good,” Guerrero said through Lebron. “I actually think we have a similar swing. But the thing that I really like is he always come to us to talk or asking for advice -- how do you guys get prepared for a game? He's good at that.”

The Blue Jays dealt 2021 first-rounder Gunnar Hoglund as part of a four-player package for Chapman and dealt 2020 first-rounder Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson for Berrios, so they need to carefully manage their system. They can still afford to deal more from the group, but they also must be cognizant of not stripping the roster down too far.

At the same time, they’re going to be adding, if not in the spring then ahead of the trade deadline this summer, so subtractions are coming. As much as there’s the future to consider, there’s a present to leverage, too.

“When I came last year and I saw who we have, I said, we are already good enough to compete and we can do a lot of good things for the city,” said Berrios, a major step forward in that process. “At the same time, they keep adding. I feel excited and happy by the way they are creating the team. They are bringing great and talented ballpplayers in trades and free agency. I came here to win. I don't want anything else than to win.”

More than ever the opportunity is here for the Blue Jays, who will increasingly face the challenge of being both built for now, and the future, too.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.