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HomeSportsCarlos Correa Q&A: Inside his free agency saga. ‘Is this real? Is...

Carlos Correa Q&A: Inside his free agency saga. ‘Is this real? Is this a dream? Is this a joke?’

The Minnesota Twins re-introduced Carlos Correa at a news conference Wednesday, but the shortstop could not possibly address all of the questions surrounding his tumultuous free agency in one day.

In nearly a half-century of major leaguers hitting the open market, Correa had an experience like no other. He agreed to three contracts totaling $865 million, moving from a team on the West Coast to one on the East Coast, then back to where he played last season, to a club in the Midwest. All because of a surgery he underwent to repair a fractured right fibula and minor ligament damage as a 19-year-old prospect with the Astros in June 2014, issues he thought were behind him.

Thanks to the words “pending a physical,” Correa learned otherwise. First, he was unable to complete a 13-year, $350 million agreement with the San Francisco Giants. Then, he was unable to finalize a 12-year, $315 million deal with the New York Mets. Both teams, after conducting medical reviews, expressed concern about the long-term stability of his right ankle.

Correa eventually landed back with the Twins after his agent, Scott Boras, negotiated a six-year, $200 million deal with four vesting or club options that could increase the total value to $270 million. Life-changing money, no matter how you look at it. But Correa never imagined the twists and turns that occurred during his 29-day journey from the Giants to the Mets to the Twins.

In a 25-minute phone interview with The Athletic on Friday afternoon, Correa talked about that journey, expounding upon his ankle, his conversations with Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor when he thought they were about to be teammates and his fondness for the team that turned out to be his third choice, the Twins.

Here is a transcript of the interview, edited slightly for length and clarity:

The Athletic: Let’s start at the beginning, when you first found out the Giants had an issue with your physical. What did they tell you was wrong?

Carlos Correa: I was looking for houses already over there (Correa’s introductory news conference with the Giants was scheduled for the next day). Then I get back to the hotel that night, and Scott calls me. I remember last time (in free agency) when he called me with Minnesota, he was like, “Congratulations. It’s official. You’re going to Minnesota.” This time, he said, “I need you to come to the room. We need to talk.”

At that point, I knew something was wrong. His voice sounded serious. There was not a lot of energy behind it. I headed over to his room and that’s when he told me. He said, “We’re having a problem with the physical. They’re talking about the MRI and the ankle.” I remember going like, “What?” I couldn’t believe it. I was in complete shock.

I had my suit and everything ready. My body has been feeling great. I did a physical before going to free agency last year. I did a physical before signing with the Twins. And I did an exit physical with the Twins. I didn’t think there was going to be a problem. I was 100 percent confident this was going to go through.

At that moment, everything felt slow. Everything felt like, “Is this real? Is this a dream? Is this a joke?” But it was real. From then on, we had to deal with a lot of things.

TA: What did the Giants say to you about the ankle?

Correa: The conversations were about the future. We were talking about a 13-year deal. What they were saying is that in the future it might not hold up. Which I couldn’t understand. That was the toughest part for me.

I never missed a game because of my ankle. You look at my complete medical record in the big leagues, there is zero treatment on my ankle. And it has never hurt. I couldn’t understand how they were predicting the future, saying 8-10 years down the line something might happen to it.

TA: Did the Mets later tell you the same thing?

Correa: The Giants used an ankle specialist who didn’t pass me. Then the Mets used the same specialist, who obviously wasn’t going to pass me. He had already given an opinion to another team about my ankle. He was not going to change that. He was going to stand by what he was saying, of course, because that is what he believed.

We did have other ankle specialists look at it and say it was going to be fine, orthopedists who know me, even the one who did the surgery on me. They were looking at the functionality of the ankle, the way the ankle has been the past eight years. I’ve played at an elite level where my movement has never been compromised. It was just a year ago when I won a Platinum Glove at shortstop, one of the most demanding positions, where you have to move the most. But the one doctor that had never touched me or seen me or done a test on me, that was the one who said it wasn’t going to be fine.

TA: What kind of work have you done over the years to keep the ankle strong? Will you need to be more proactive about managing it now?

Correa: Ever since the surgery, I’ve always done a lot of stability (work) on my ankles. I just incorporated it in my prep routine. I do (exercise) bands, walks on my toes, stuff like that. On the treadmill, I run and I walk backwards and stuff. But I’ve never done anything because I thought it was not going to hold up in the future.

Obviously now, knowing what some doctors are saying, what we know, there is going to be more emphasis on that area, for sure. You know me. I take really good care of my body. I don’t plan to stop doing that. If I want to be one day in the Hall of Fame, which has always been a goal of mine ever since I was a little kid playing in Puerto Rico, I’ve got to post. I’ve got to post and play baseball. There is motivation on my part to go out there and make this a 10-year deal with the Minnesota Twins.

TA: That first night in San Francisco, who from your family was there?

Correa: Everybody. It was my parents. My brother. My sister. My wife’s parents, who are with us all the time now that we have a baby and another one on the way. They’re the ones who help us around the house. They’re with us full-time. And there were people from my agency, Boras Corp. And my hitting coach — José Rivera, who has been with me since I was 11 years old — and a couple of people from my inner circle who work with me. We were all in the hotel waiting for the press conference the next day.

TA: When the Giants postponed it, what happened?

Correa: I came back to the room. Everyone was in the room. And I told them straight away: The deal is not going through. There is an issue with the physical. They looked at me kind of funny, like, “You’re joking, right?” I said, “No, I’m being serious.” Then there was complete silence for a little bit. Then I noticed my mom getting teary-eyed. She walked away and came back, I’ll say, 20 minutes later. Her and my dad had been crying.

It was a way tougher moment for me to see my family go through that than it was for me to find out the deal wasn’t going through with San Francisco. Everything I do, I do for my family. The reason I played baseball growing up was to get my family out of poverty.

I knew a deal was going to get done at some point. If it was not with (the Giants), maybe with another team. For me, the tough part was seeing my family crying and hurting because of the news.

TA: What were your thoughts about playing for the Giants? Their home ballpark, Oracle Park, is pitcher-friendly.

Correa: I didn’t really give (the ballpark) much thought, to be honest. The thing I thought about the most was the division. You have the juggernaut of the Dodgers. And the Padres now have a really, really good team. My thoughts were, how can we improve our roster and make that team better for us to be, in a couple of years, the top dogs in the division.

TA: Did you talk with Brandon Crawford at all? You were going to be replacing him at shortstop.

Correa: The first player I called was B-Craw.

TA: How did that go?

Correa: It went smooth. I’ve talked to him before. I said, “Hey, I respect you as a person and as a player. I know I’m coming in, and I’m a shortstop just like you. But I want you to know that I want to make this work. I want us to work together in order for us to accomplish the goals the team wants to accomplish. And I want to learn a couple of things from you also, that you can do at shortstop very well that I can’t. I want to be able to pick your brain, so we can help each other improve our games.”

He welcomed me right away, said he was happy I was going to be part of the team and that I was going to make us better. It was like a 5-6 minute conversation.

TA: Did you talk to any other Giants people?

Correa: I talked to everybody. Pretty much all the players on the phone. And the whole coaching staff. Remember, there was a week in between the announcement of the deal and flying (to San Francisco).

TA: Did you think the talks with the Giants would continue after what happened with the physical?

Correa: Everything happened so fast I didn’t have time to think about that.

TA: Did everyone in your family just jump on a plane to New York?

Correa: We flew back to Houston the next night (after the Giants’ news conference was postponed). I dropped them off. Then I flew by myself to New York the first thing the next morning for the physical. (Mets owner) Steve (Cohen) sent his plane. I got on the plane and flew there, did the physical that night. The next morning, I did some blood tests. After that, they took me to Citi Field. I did some extra testing over there. Everything seemed fine.

TA: Did you really tackle Scott after learning of the Mets’ deal?

Correa: Oh yeah, I tackled him.

TA: What was that moment like?

Correa: I gave my family the news that there was no deal, that we were still free agents. Then all of a sudden, this great dude — I don’t think I can curse here, but in baseball terms you’d say this bad m——f——  gets me another deal in a matter of hours.

He told me again the same words. “We need to talk. I need you to come to the room.” I was like, “OK, here we go again.” He gave me that news. He was sitting in bed. I just tackled him a little bit.

The thing I was most concerned about was having to wait a long time again to get another deal done. What I went through last year with the free-agent process, where the market closed in on me with the lockout and everything, I was concerned that might happen again.

TA: Did you talk to (Mets shortstop Francisco) Lindor?

Correa: Right away. Forty-five-minute conversation.

TA: What was that conversation like?

Correa: It was more me talking about how I was OK with playing third base and I was never going to step on his toes. Out of my mouth would never come the words, “I want to play shortstop.” Out of my mouth would never come any form of betrayal toward him.

From that moment on, from the moment the deal was agreed on, my mind was set to play third base every single day. That was never going to change. I wanted him to know I would always be loyal. I would always be there for him, whatever he needed. Just making sure we left everything clear. When players of both our calibers play shortstop and there’s a change there’s always some animosity in there. I wanted to make sure he knew out of the gate I was OK with playing third base. I was going to make the move, no problem.

TA: How comfortable were you moving? I know you take a great amount of pride in what you’ve accomplished at short.

Correa: I was comfortable because he’s a really good shortstop and a really good player. At this stage of my career, it’s all about winning. I do feel like in that case, me moving to third base was going to make the Mets a better team. So I was OK with it. My main focus right now is winning championships. I’m not focused on anything else.

TA: Did you do the same thing with the Mets players and coaches that you did with the Giants, talking to everybody?

Correa: I did talk to some coaches and some players. But not as many as I did with the Giants. When I (agreed) with the Giants, right away they sent me all the numbers, all the information I asked them to. It was easier for me to connect. The (Mets) players that texted me are the ones I talked to. I never got a chance to speak with Buck (Showalter). He was waiting for it to be official to talk about it.

TA: Did you ever speak with Steve Cohen?

Correa: Yes I did.

(The conversation took place after Correa returned to Houston from San Francisco, and before he left for New York.)

TA: What was that like?

Correa: He was very happy. He was very excited. I even spoke with his wife. It was a good, fun conversation. He was in Hawaii. He seemed like a really, really nice guy. I definitely enjoyed that conversation. He was just welcoming me and all that.

TA: When did you start to think the Twins could be an option again?

Correa: When we started moving forward with the negotiations, the Twins were always in the conversation. It was because of the way my family was treated when I was there. I feel like whatever clubhouse I’m in, I’m going to make it work for myself, do the right things to get along with my teammates and coaches. But when your family feels a certain special treatment, that’s something I value a lot.

The Minnesota Twins did that for us last year. My father and my wife’s father would drop me off at the ballpark. They would stay and watch BP. They would sit in the stands. They could go to the press box. They could go to the Champions Club. They got their badges, and they were like part of the staff at Target Field.

I always took that into consideration. I never forgot that. I never forgot that feeling. I never forgot those conversations with my family when I got back to our house after games about how great everyone made them feel. I always told Scott, “Never stop talking to the Twins. Try to make it work.” My wife loved it there. Simply everybody loved it there.

Then the thing with the physical happened with the Mets and Scott started talking about (contract) language with their lawyers. That’s when it looked like the deal was not going to get done, because of certain things with the language that were impossible to accomplish. That’s when I told Scott, “Make me a Twin. Let’s make it work with the Twins.”

Carlos Correa and Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey. (Abbie Parr / AP)

TA: We had a story today about your conversations with Byron Buxton. What role did he play in getting this done?

Correa: I read the story. I know for sure everything he did with the front office and Dustin (Morse, the Twins’ vice president of communications and content). But the one thing I appreciated more about Buxton is that he never called me to try to get me to sign with the Twins.

He always called me to talk like a brother, to make sure I was OK, to ask me about my family and kid and Daniella’s pregnancy (with their second child). Never did he say, “Bro, I want you to be in Minnesota. Please sign with us. Please consider us.” Never. He was always very kind and very professional.

The last thing you want in free agency is for a lot of people to call you, saying sign here, sign there, everybody throwing a pitch at you. What you want to do is sit down with your family, go through the process as a family and make a decision. He was so respectful. For him throughout that tough process to just call to check in, not even talk about baseball, for me that meant a lot and truly said a lot about our relationship.

TA: Back to the ankle. How much does it bother you that it’s going to be a topic of conversation now, and probably for the rest of your career?

Correa: I don’t think it’s going to bother me. It doesn’t bother me now, so I don’t think it will bother me moving forward. I’ve gone through pretty tough things in my career. The way I handle it is, if I can control it, I’ll control it. If I can’t, then I’ll just move forward.

I can’t control the perspective of people and what they’re going to say about my ankle. What I can control is the work I put in to post, taking care of my body every single day to make sure I go out and perform for 10 years for the Minnesota Twins.

Like I said, if I can’t control it, I won’t stress over it.

TA: Do you look forward to proving wrong the doctors who were negative?

Correa: It’s not about proving them wrong. It’s about proving to myself that the work I put in is going to pay off at the end of the day. As you know, I don’t go out. I just dedicate myself to this game. I’m obsessed with everything involved in this game.

Some people think it’s extreme that I don’t even drink during the season, that I try not to have added sugars. I have a diet. I go to sleep at certain times. I stretch a lot. Everything revolves around baseball 24/7 during the baseball season.

Obviously, the doctors’ opinions give you an extra motivation to just go out there, perform and play out the whole contract in a beautiful way. But proving to myself at the end of my career that all the work will pay off, that I was right, that’s all I honestly care about.

TA: Giants fans might always wonder what might have been if we had gotten Correa. Mets fans might look at it the same way. Will you look at it that way?

Correa: No. I move forward very quickly. This is something that was part of my story. It was very well-documented. A lot of people talked about it. But it’s time to move on and focus now on the Minnesota Twins and the things that I started doing last year with the team, to try to win a championship for Minnesota.

There’s no hard feelings toward both (the Giants’ and Mets’) organizations. There’s nothing but respect for them. Doctors have differences of opinion. That’s fine. But God took me here to the Minnesota Twins. I couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity.

You put everything into perspective when you go through a process like this. You focus on the things that matter most. One thing I learned is that I love my family, I love the support system I have around me. I have a small circle I can trust and that is loyal.

At the end of the day, God put me in the right spot.

(Photo: Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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