Correa, Báez Potential is Alluring, But What About Canó?

Beyond the big-ticket items on the wish list, the Mets will need to find Robbie a role

Let the hot stove begin simmering!

Free-agent shortstop to be Carlos Correa got the winter wheels turning on Wednesday, remarking on his impending dip into the open market with Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago, even touching on potential interest coming from Flushing.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be after a shortstop in the market, but we’ll see,” he said, alluding to Francisco Lindor’s long-term presence at the position for the Mets. “We’ll see what happens.”

Correa told Astros reporters in spring training this year that he’d be willing to move to third base for Houston or any other future employer. He hasn’t played the position professionally, but he did spend time there throughout the 2017 World Baseball Classic, playing alongside Lindor and Javier Báez for Team Puerto Rico.

Lack of experience aside, that could bode well for a Mets roster that's noticeably lacked a starting-caliber, glove-capable third baseman in recent years.

J.D. Davis’ bat played but his defense at the hot corner mostly did not. Luis Guillorme could have very well handled the duties but never got a true chance to prove his mettle. Shame. Jeff McNeil, as we’ve intimated here in the past, appears to be much more valuable to the organization as a roving super-utility knife, especially with the designated hitter expected to be enacted leaguewide next season.

Defensively, Correa is elite, racking up 28 outs above average at shortstop since the start of 2019 (+12 OAA in 2021; sixth in MLB among SS). One would assume a shift to his right would be mostly inconsequential with regards to his effectiveness at a new position. It’s certainly worth a discussion.

On the offensive side of things, the 27-year-old’s bat is as potent as ever. Over 640 plate appearances this season, the former first-overall draft pick (2012) hit .279/.366/.485 with a career-high 26 homers, 34 doubles, an 11.7% walk rate, 134 wRC+ (24th in MLB), and 5.8 fWAR (eighth).

The parameters of a potential deal would be substantial, no doubt. At just 27 years old, an eight-to-10-year contract would seem to be in the ballpark for a player of Correa’s ilk. Whether the Mets are prepared or willing to commit to another decade-long deal with Lindor’s extension only kicking in this season is unknown. And quite the conundrum, if we’re being honest.

There are many other decisions to make regarding this roster and funds that will need to be allocated elsewhere. For instance, Javier Báez made quite the case to call Flushing his home for the foreseeable future following his trade from the Cubs.

Báez, 28, hit .299/.371/.515 with 18 extra-base hits over 186 plate appearances with the Mets. And his sterling contributions in both in the field (mostly at the keystone) and on the basepaths when he wasn’t raking were duly noted, as well.

Annual salary hits for both Báez and Correa will be similar, though Correa is expected to get a much lengthier deal and will expectedly have a compensation pick forfeiture attached to him as the presumed recipient of a qualifying offer from Houston. Many, many layers to this lasagna.

The Mets could theoretically have their pick of the two. Either would be a significant addition, both to the roster and as an indicator of where this organization is headed.

Or, if they’re feeling saucy, sign both and run out the most jaw-droppingly expensive and talented infield in recent memory (Pete Alonso, Lindor, Báez, Correa; lol, come on…). It’s a new day in Metsville and the gentleman with the checkbook has deep pockets. A splash is there for the making, for sure.

But before the Mets embark on their journey into a new era, there are relics that remain to remind us all where this organization is departing from. That relic comes in the form of second baseman Robinson Canó.

Canó, 39 later this month, is set to return to the Mets in 2022 after serving a 162-game suspension for PED use in 2020 (his second offense; 2018).

As many of you remember, the one-time Hall of Fame shoo-in was acquired by former Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen (along with Edwin Diaz) for a cache of Mets assets, including top prospect Jarred Kelenic ahead of the 2019 season. It hasn’t worked out to plan just yet.

His first year in Flushing, Canó had arguably his worst season as a major leaguer, slashing .256/.307/.428 over 107 games. The Dominican product came back to hit .316/.352/.544 over 49 games in the COVID-shortened season before his failed test and subsequent banishment in November 2020.

So, which is the true Robbie? Well, that could be an extremely pricey puzzle to solve.

With two years and $40 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million deal he signed with Seattle ahead of the 2014 season, the Mets are in a precarious spot.

Canó is expected to play in the Dominican Winter Leagues this offseason and, per his Twitter feed, has been training throughout his layoff. Though, what can the Mets really expect at this point? There are certainly better and less risky options to take over duties at second base, right?

I mean, if we’re debating who’s potentially more valuable to the Mets over the next two years, Canó at $20 million per or Báez at, oh, let’s say $25 million, the answer is Báez, obviously.

So where does that leave Canó? On the bench, as the most expensive role player/insurance policy in the history of the game, of course (I’m being told Albert Pujols would like a word).

Is it ideal? Heck no. But, big picture, having Robinson Canó coming off your bench to pinch-hit or DH or slide into the starting spot in the event of an injury probably ain’t the worst thing in the world.

If the Mets can eat some money and find a taker via trade, great. But ya gotta believe that’s gonna be tough.

Though as Francisco Lindor told the New York Post earlier this month, before Canó can get the process of re-acclimation started, he’s going to have to make some sort of amends with the teammates he let down.

“He probably has to apologize,” he said. “I am assuming that is what he is going to do when he comes back […] He’s got to be honest with the group. But I know at the end of the day he’s a man, and we all make mistakes.”

Fair enough. Fun times.

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