On Tuesday night, six days and 500 miles from the scene of his greatest disappointment as Giants president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi put the finishing touches on what could be his greatest decision in that role. After an organization-wide recruiting push publicly failed to pry right fielder Aaron Judge from the Yankees, San Francisco snagged shortstop Carlos Correa. In the end, he may well be the better fit.
The contract—reportedly 13 years for $350 million, four years longer and $10 million shy of the offer Zaidi reportedly made Judge and the one Judge eventually took to remain in New York—will install Correa in the Bay Area until he is 41 years old. It could leave an even longer legacy than that.
Correa is among the most talented players of his generation, a 28-year-old, 6'4" slugger who, by force of will—and thousands of ground balls—molded himself into a Gold Glove shortstop. He shines brightest when the spotlight does: His .836 OPS becomes .849 in the playoffs. And perhaps most important, he can fill the leadership void left when catcher Buster Posey retired after 2021.
The Giants need a shortstop. (Incumbent Brandon Crawford, who will be 36 next month, has one year left on his deal.) But more than that, they need someone who wants to be the guy. And Correa has spent his whole life preparing to be the guy.
As a third-grader in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he asked his parents to send him to a bilingual school so that when he became a major leaguer he would not need an interpreter for interviews. As the first pick of the 2012 draft, he embraced the idea that he would lead the Astros’ rebuild. As a 20-year-old in 2015, he won American League Rookie of the Year. As a young player, he became fluent in advanced metrics and developed into one of the most prominent voices in Houston’s dynastic clubhouse. As a 25-year-old, in the wake of the revelation that the Astros had cheated during their ’17 championship season, he agreed to just about every interview request—in two languages. As a Twin last year, he devoted himself to helping younger players grow.
Correa knows he will never outrun the sign-stealing scandal. And he has made his peace with that. He lets the scorn fuel him while remaining open about his regrets. In the two years since the world learned of the team’s misdeeds, he has apologized on behalf of himself and the team, again and again, as many times as people asked him to.
The first thing the Giants asked him to do was say yes. San Francisco felt some organizational pressure to stop finishing second on major targets. Before the 2018 season, DH Giancarlo Stanton decided, after considering the Giants and the Cardinals, that he would only waive his no-trade clause to play for the Yankees. A year later, right fielder Bryce Harper chose the Phillies over San Francisco. And a week ago, Judge informed the Giants that he, too, was headed to the East Coast.
You can be sure Correa will speak passionately and articulately in his introductory press conference about how much he wanted to be a Giant. Giants fans should love that. They should also love the fury the deal will inspire in their chief rivals, the Dodgers, whose players and fans have already made their dislike of the former Astro clear enough that Los Angeles reportedly ruled out acquiring him. Correa will be a perfect character in a rivalry that could use some reigniting.
And he will likely be in San Francisco for the rest of his career. Correa first hit free agency last winter, but his market never developed the way he wanted it to, so he signed with the Twins for three years and $105 million with opt-outs after each year. This time, he got what he was looking for. The Giants deal reportedly includes a no-trade clause and no opt-outs. Correa becomes the third player this winter to sign a contract of at least 11 years, and the fifth to sign one of at least eight. (Shortstop Trea Turner, 11 years to the Phillies; shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 11 years to the Padres; Judge, nine years to the Yankees; center fielder Brandon Nimmo, eight years to the Mets.) These longer-term megadeals, in addition to offering the player an attractive measure of security, serve to lower the team’s luxury-tax hit: Correa’s pact is the fourth-most lucrative ever by total value but only the 31st largest by average annual value. So it should leave the Giants room to keep adding.
The task ahead of them remains daunting. The Dodgers have won the National League West in nine of the last 10 years; only a Giants franchise-record 107 wins in 2021 scraped by them. The Padres seem to be trying to run out an All-Star at every position. And Correa’s first act as a Giant will be to displace Crawford, a franchise icon, to third base. But they got the guy who can handle that.