Scott Boras talks Carlos Correa saga, billion dollar MLB winter – USA TODAY

The American Airlines flight landed at 9:41 Wednesday night and Scott Boras walked off the plane at the Santa Ana (Calif.) Airport, still weary after spending the day in Minneapolis, with the Carlos Correa saga coming to a merciful conclusion at Target Field. 
Boras walked towards the baggage claim, saw the silver Rimowa suitcase come down the conveyer belt, grabbed it, walked to his car and had just pulled up to his home when his cell phone rang. 
“Mr. Boras, this is American Airlines,’’ the person said. “We have your bag here.’’ 
Boras: “No, I have my bag right here.’’ 
Boras, bewildered, reached for his suitcase. 
Uh oh. 
He had the wrong luggage, picking up someone else’s that looked just like his. 
Boras went back to the airport, exchanged suitcases, drove back home, got into his bed, and crashed. 
When you negotiate $865 million worth of contracts alone for Correa alone over a 28-day span, enduring two failed physicals and a canceled press conference before winding up with a six-year, $200 million guarantee from the Minnesota Twins, who can blame a fella for a little mix-up? 
Boras again was back at work at 5:30 the next morning, checking e-mails, making calls, and spending 2½ hours on the phone with USA TODAY Sports, talking about one of the wildest winters of his career, resulting in $1.1 billion worth of free-agent contracts. 
“It’s been quite the ride,’’ Boras says, “to say the least.’’ 
While certainly pleased with the winter results, Boras still fumes how one physician’s opinion can turn Correa’s 13-year, $350 million deal with the San Francisco Giants to a 12-year, $315 million deal with the New York Mets to a six-year, $200 million contract with the Twins. 
The Giants’ deal collapsed only after consulting with orthopedic specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, who expressed concerns about the fragility of Correa’s right ankle that required surgery in 2014. Farhan Zaidi, Giants president of baseball operations, said  the deal was off. Boras summoned Correa to his hotel room to break the news, leaving Correa in disbelief. 
Boras retreated to his room and within an hour was on the phone with Mets owner Steve Cohen. Just 15 hours later, they had a deal. Correa and his family, who had even spent a day house-hunting in San Francisco before the scheduled press conference, tackled Boras in excitement in his room. The Correa family flew home to Houston, and then were off to New York on Cohen’s private plane for a physical to make it official. 
Correa took his physical, and two days later, the Mets balked too. Yes, they had also consulted with Anderson, who advised against a long-term contract, leaving Boras absolutely seething. 
“I don’t understand the Mets,’’ Boras said. “I gave them all of the information. We had them talk to four doctors. They knew the issue the Giants had. And yet, they still call the same doctor the Giants used for his opinion. There was no new information. So why negotiate a contract if you were going to rely on the same doctor? 
“It was different with the Giants because a doctor had an opinion they didn’t know about. But the Mets had notice of this. They knew the opinion of the Giants. So why did you negotiate when you know this thing in advance?” 
The Giants never engaged in negotiations again with Boras but the Mets still wanted to work out a revised deal, with Boras and Correa remaining confident they could still reach a resolution. 
Boras offered contract language that would protect the Mets. If Correa’s previous right ankle injury caused him to miss more than 60 days, the Mets could reduce the contract. If he spent more than 120 days on the injured list over a two-year period, they could void the contract. If he finished a season on the injured list, the Mets would have the right to give him a physical to determine if they wanted to part ways. 
The Mets instead wanted to slash their original agreement in half. The Mets would guarantee $157.5 million for the first six years, with club options for the next six years that would pay him another $157.5 million. But it would also require Correa to undergo a complete physical after every season in which the Mets could terminate the remaining six years of the contract. 
“I said [to Mets lawyers], ‘You’re now putting the contract at risk,’ Boras said. “I’ve got to cover your risk by your deferral. You can’t have everything. You can’t defer the contract, save $100 million on the CBT taxes, and have him take all of the risk at the back of the contract that’s not guaranteed.’’ 
The stalemate went on for two weeks when Boras and Correa realized the Mets weren’t going to budge. Even if the Mets picked up the first two club option years at $26.5 million a year, the backloaded contract would pay him $210 million over the first eight years –keeping the annual average salary at $26.5 million. 
Derek Falvey, Twins executive vice president and chief baseball officer, kept checking in with Boras throughout the process. He realized the longer there was an impasse, the better chance the Twins could re-engage in negotiations. 
The Twins’ final offer to Correa before he initially agreed with the Giants was a 10-year, $280 million contract (not the widely reported $285 million). They began negotiating again the weekend of Jan. 6-8, and this time had leverage.
They began intensive talks on Monday morning, Jan. 9, and agreed to a six-year, $200 million contract at 8 p.m. The contract, with four club options, could turn into a 10-year, $270 million deal if the Twins pick up the option years, or become automatically vested if Correa basically stays healthy finishes in the top five of the MVP race, wins a Silver Slugger or wins the World Series or ALCS MVP award. The six-year guarantee pays Correa an average salary of $33.34 million, the second-largest by a shortstop. 
Correa is earning $42.5 million more in the first six years of the Twins’ contract than he would have if he had taken the Mets’ offer. If the contract extended to eight years, the Twins were still paying $35 million more than the Mets. The Mets’ salary advantage wouldn’t have started until 2031 when Correa will be paid $15 million and $10 million in 2032 by the Twins. The Mets were paying $115 million the final four years in the club options. 
“I think this is a better deal for him because of the structure of the contract,’’ Boras said. “The likelihood of playing 12 years [without injury] was unforeseen. It wasn’t a favorable deal unless he had solid guarantee language. This contract is better because of the probability. There’s far more present-value.’’ 
And, oh, by the way, there are no opt-outs in the entirety of the contract. 
“Look,’’ Boras said, laughing, “we never want to go through anything like this again.’’ 
Boras was confident Correa would have no problems with the Twins’ physical considering he already had three exams last year by their doctors. They wouldn’t have sent a private plane to pick up Correa’s extended from Houston, putting everyone up at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Minneapolis, and taking everyone out to a five-hour dinner on Tuesday night at the 112 Eatery. 
Still, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning when the Twins called Boras, telling him the deal was official, that he could finally exhale. 
“It was like a 100-pound weight was lifted off my shoulders,’’ Boras said. “I called up Carlos, and I didn’t even say hello. All I said was, ‘It’s done.’”
Correa’s reaction: “Fantastic.’’ 
“When Carlos put that uniform on at the press conference,’’ Boras said, “there was finally, finality. It was for real.’’ 
The saga was over. 
“This was so hard emotionally because you’re sitting in front of a player, his wife, his parents, her parents,’’ Boras said, “and you have to share disappointment, not once, but twice. It was really, really stressful for Carlos and his family. 
“But in the end, seeing how happy he was and how excited the Twins are, maybe this was the way it was meant to be all along.’’ 
While the Correa theater dominated the headlines, Boras had 13 free-agent players who signed major-league deals totaling $1.1 billion. It’s the third time Boras and his staff –including 30 researchers, eight trainers, six negotiators, five lawyers and two medical review members – eclipsed $1 billion worth of deals in a single off-season. 
Boras on his other clients:
– Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who had an opt-out in his Red Sox contract, turned three years and $60 million into 11 years and $280 million with the San Diego Padres
“It was just really clear to us there was a separation where Boston was going to go for Bogaerts,’’ Boras said, “compared to where the market was. They probably made a decision they were going to sign [Rafael] Devers, and were going to pay only one of them. So we knew at the forefront that Bogey would be somewhere besides Boston. Minnesota, the Cubs, the Blue Jays, they were really after him. But we kind of knew the Padres’ guy was Bogaerts (after Trea Turner rejected their offer). They wanted that personality, that leadership in that locker room.’’ 
– Starter Carlos Rodon turned his opt-out – paying him $25 million if he remained with the San Francisco Giants – into a six-year, $162 million deal with the New York Yankees
“Whatever concerns the Giants or anyone else had of him a year ago,’’ Boras said, “he pitched so well he had 11 teams after him. Yankee Stadium was really a place he enjoyed pitching. He really wanted to go there.’’ 
– Outfielder Brandon Nimmo returned to the Mets on an eight-year, $162 million contract
“The Giants had strong interest in Nimmo,’’ Boras said, “and so did Tampa Bay. There were five or six teams who were after him. But I knew he was so central to what the Mets wanted him to do.’’ 
– Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. 
“He was a guy that Boston really wanted,’’ Boras said. “There’s not a lot of swing and miss there, great vision, he’ll adapt really well to Major League Baseball. I think he’ll be a great asset to them, no question.’’ 
– Outfielder Michael Conforto signed for $36 million with the Giants, including an opt-out after the 2023 season – almost immediately after the Correa talks collapsed in San Francisco. So Conforto passes his physical after missing the entire season recovering from shoulder surgery but they reject Correa because of an eight-year-old injury?
“I’m not going to let prior transactions or emotions interfere with what’s in the best interest of that player,’’ Boras said. “He could have signed with Houston [late] last year. They really wanted him. But we wanted to get him fully rehabbed, so we focused on that. He got to show teams where he was at.’’ 
More Boras guys:
They are still kids themselves, trying to establish their own identity in baseball, hoping to have long, illustrious careers. 
Hunter Greene, 23, the second pick in the 2017 draft, made the Cincinnati Reds’ opening-day roster, spent the entire season in the big leagues and is regarded as one of baseball’s most talented young pitchers. 
Justin Dunn, 27, the 19th pick in the 2016 draft, has spent part of the past three years in the big leagues with Seattle and Cincinnati. 
Yet, there they were this past weekend, giving back to the game and trying to make a difference in young lives, volunteering their services at the MLB Dream Series. 
Major League Baseball, addressing the scarcity of Black players in their game – just 6.8% on the 2022 opening-day rosters – began the Dream Series six years ago in Tempe, Ariz. 
The idea was to particularly focus on the lack of Black pitchers and catchers. There were fewer than 15 Black pitchers (seven starters) last season, and there hasn’t been a single everyday African-American catcher since Charles Johnson, who retired in 2005. 
Greene, who attended the first Dream Series, and Dunn became the first active major-league players to attend the event. They not only just showed up to help the high-school prospects, but instructed the young players and Greene even opened his house to them. 
He invited all 80 of the high school players from the Dream Series to his home, telling them not to put any limits on their goals or desires, that anything in the game of baseball is possible. 
“Since it’s called the Dream Series, I want them to dream,’’ Greene said. “Without sounding vain, I wanted to bring all of the kids to the house to show them what to strive for, how your life can be changed, and what you can provide not just for yourself, but to your family. I want them and see the home and say, ‘Wow, he’s only five years older than me. I’m not that far off.’ 
“To see a player that looks like me, to see where I am now, they need to see it in person, they need to feel it, they need to know it’s attainable to them. It’s important for them to see that, and know it’s real.’’ 
So, there they were Friday night, sitting around, listening to stories, asking questions, and believing that one day, well, they can make it, too. 
“I love it, I just love it,’’ said Dunn. “It’s something my dad and I always dreamed of, playing on a team with everybody that looks like you. There’s just so few and far between.’’ 
Dunn, a native of Freeport, N.Y., never played on a single baseball team growing up that included another Black player. 
“It was like that every level of travel ball, really, all of the way from when I was 9 years old to college,’’ Dunn said. “It wasn’t until I got to the Seattle Mariners where I had Black teammates.’’ 
Dunn wants to be an inspiration for other young Black players, letting them know that baseball can pave a way to a possible college scholarship, or perhaps even a future in professional baseball. He remembers being stunned one day when a direct message was sent to his Twitter account. It was from Chris Archer, who was young pitching star with Tampa Bay, reaching out to let him know that he would be available for anything he needed. 
“I couldn’t believe it, I was telling guys, no way did Chris Archer DM me,’’ Dunn said. “But it was from him. It was a verified account. I remember he said, “’Listen, bro, there are very few of us in the league. But if you ever need anything, just text me, I’ll be a voice for you, and a shoulder you can lean on.'” 
Dunn has never forgotten, and now plans to be that same mentor for others. 
“It’s very important to me, man,’’ Dunn said. “It’s something I want to give back to young kids, let them I was once in their shoes. If you can see it, believe it, you can do it. If I can do it, you can do it.’’ 
Greene, who never even received more than a 75% college scholarship being the No. 1 prospect in the country, remembers his Dad driving 1 ½ hours each way for him to pitch at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton. He played in the RBI [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] program. It allowed him the opportunity to play baseball with other Black and minority players. 
Now, with a platform to help others, Greene wrote a two-page handwritten letter that he plans to copy and leave with every player in the Dream Series camp, hoping to be an inspiration. 
“I just wanted them to take away from this Dream Series what it’s really going to take for them to continue to be where they want to be,’’ Greene said. “The whole theme is the importance to believe in yourself, to trust in yourself, to dream obviously around Martin Luther King and his vision, and how his vision came to life.’’ 
_The timing was awfully strange for Boston Red Sox infielder Trevor Story to undergo elbow surgery last week. One Red Sox player told USA TODAY Sports this summer that Story anticipated he would need surgery in the off-season, but perhaps even with his diminished arm strength last season, Story felt like his elbow would be fine with rest. 
Now, he’ll be out at least the first half of the season after struggling most of last season. Story produced a slash line of .293/.386./.776 with nine homers and 27 RBI in 68 plate appearances from May 10-26. 
The rest of the season: 227/.290/.368 with seven homers and 39 RBI in 328 plate appearances  
The Red Sox, to compensate for the loss of Story, has expressed interest in free-agent shortstop Elvis Andrus and free agent infielder/outfielder Jurickson Profar. 
– While rumors persist that the Astros will simply have owner Jim Crane and Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell handle the top duties with the four current assistant GMs handling the day-to-day operations, Crane still plans to hire a full-time GM before the start of spring training. 
David Stearns, who is under contract through the year with the Milwaukee Brewers, still remains the Astros’ ultimate prize once the season ends. 
– The worst-kept secret in baseball is that the Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to stay below the luxury tax to jump in with all of their might to sign Shohei Ohtani as a free agent after the season. 
Their stiffest competition? 
The San Diego Padres, who also plan to be all in. 
– Mets owner Steve Cohen saved about $47 million a year with salary and luxury tax repercussions when Carlos Correa chose to sign with the Twins instead of the Mets. 
Still, the Mets spent $451 million in free agency this winter, bringing back outfielder Brandon Nimmo and closer Edwin Diaz, and signing pitchers Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana. 
– Michael Wacha, who went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 23 starts last season, is easily the best pitcher still available on the free-agent market. He’s seeking a deal that would pay him about $15 million a season. 
– Hall of Famer David Ortiz on beloved Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker: 
“That organization went through some crazy [stuff], and he continued to build up the confidence of the players, and look what happened. He was like, ‘[Bleep] it, let’s do it.’ He gave everything he had to that organization. He deserves all of the credit in the world. 
“Dusty, man, he’s just another on another level. You ask players how they feel about him, and they’ll tell you he’s like their uncle, their dad, their grandfather. He’s family.’’ 
– The Nashville Stars continue to put themselves in prime position for an expansion franchise with the hiring of beloved former MVP Don Mattingly, joining Dave Stewart’s ownership group. 
Nashville is striving to become the first majority-owned black team in Major League Baseball history. 
– The Mets could be without their entire starting infield for most of spring training with first baseman Pete Alonso, second baseman Jeff McNeil, shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Eduardo Escobar expected to play in the WBC. 
– Twins GM Thad Levine on the signing of Correa to MLB Radio: “Through the middle of this saga there were a lot of twists and turns, and I think there was a lot of emotional turmoil and turbulence, and then the end was glorious. I think we liked the end part of the story the best, if I had to dissect it.’’ 
– Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera on the news that the Tigers are bringing in the fences by 10 feet in center field at Comerica Park and lowering the wall by 7 feet: “I have been waiting for this for 15 years.’’ 
– Matt Holliday’s decision to back out as the Cardinals’ bench coach was strictly a family decision, with three kids still in high school or younger, including Ethan, who’s considered perhaps the top prep player in the country. 
– Pretty cool to see Andrew McCutchen return back to the Pirates where he became a five-time All-Star star and MVP winner, signing a one-year, $5 million contract. 
The Pirates never gave out his jersey, No. 22, after he was traded in January, 2018. 
And, in all probability no one will ever wear No. 22 again for the Pirates once McCutchen retires. 
– Giants clubhouse manager Mike Murphy announced his retirement after 65 years in the organization. Murphy, who will be 81 on Monday, was Willie Mays’ closest friend in the organization. 
– UMPS CARE Charities has organized programs for college and high school kids to teach and develop umpiring skills in Phoenix, Chicago, Cincinnati, Compton (Calif.), Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia. One of the Phoenix sponsors is the Pedro Gomez Foundation, which also provides scholarships to journalism students at ASU, University of Arizona and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. 
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale 


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