How Byron Buxton Helped Lure Carlos Correa Back to the Twins

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It was 40 minutes before kickoff for his beloved Georgia Bulldogs in the college football national title game when Byron Buxton’s phone rang Monday night. Carlos Correa was calling.

The shortstop had a secret he couldn’t wait to share with the Twins’ center fielder. A text message wouldn’t suffice.

Most conversations between the two old pals this offseason have focused on life, family and checking in on Correa’s well-being whenever his ordeal as a free agent came to a halt. However, after remaining out of the free agent process, Buxton was involved earlier this month after Correa’s deal with the New York Mets began to falter.

Still, Buxton didn’t want to be blunt. Although he already knew that Correa’s wife Daniella was pregnant, Buxton innocently asked Correa if the couple were having another child. Correa quickly stopped Buxton before he could make a second attempt.

“(Correa) said, ‘She’s already pregnant – I’m going back to the twins,’” ​​Buxton said by phone late Thursday. “I was like, ‘What?’ I was in the backyard screaming and (Buxton’s wife, Lindsey) said, ‘Why are you screaming?’”

The celebration outside the Buxtons’ Georgia home on Monday night was one of many that took place during the organization this week.

Two days later, Correa finalized a six-year, $200 million contract with $70 million in rights and team options that could keep him in the Twins uniform until 2032. The deal also means that Buxton, who signed a seven-year contract with Gêmeos in December 2021, and Correa will play together for at least another six seasons.

Twenty minutes after our conversation, Buxton revealed a secret: he had a hand in bringing Correa back.

Carlos Correa texted Byron Buxton this photo of the duo from their recruiting days earlier this week. (via Perfect Game)

On January 5, Buxton decided to become involved again. He was previously involved shortly before Correa agreed to a 13-year, $350 million deal with San Francisco, but has since remained aloof. Most of the talk was about making sure Correa, who Buxton had known since they were selected with the top two picks in the 2012 amateur draft, was okay.

But then it became obvious to Buxton that the twins might have a chance to sign Correa again. It’s been 15 days since Correa struck a 12-year, $315 million deal with New York, and the lawsuit has had little momentum.

As they discussed the situation, Buxton not only determined that Correa would not become a Met any time soon, but also realized how much the two-time All-Star wanted to return to the Twins after spending the 2022 season with the organization.

Buxton immediately called Dustin Morse, the twins’ vice president of communications and content, for more information. He knew Morse, his football teammate, was close to the situation and could bring him up to speed.

“Byron called and asked, ‘So how serious are we?’” Morse said. “I told him, ‘We’re serious.’

Morse briefed Buxton how his call with Correa coincided with a text message from agent Scott Boras earlier in the day to Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey, which gave an indication that the talks may have some traction.

Up until that point, sources said Boras was primarily focused on the twins’ original 10-year, $285 million offer. He didn’t relent. But last Thursday, Boras changed its stance and was open to a shorter term and high average annual value.

Authorized by the front office to provide this information to Buxton, Morse spilled the beans.

“I think Byron really wanted Carlos back,” Falvey said. “He wanted to make sure he was talking to (Correa) about it and was trying to get him back that we would actually make an offer.

“It’s never specific and specific information, it’s more like we want to keep the momentum of a conversation going. It probably happens in more trades than you might think.”

Similar to how most, if not all, teams operate, the Twins weren’t afraid to rely on close friends of their free agent players to stay in touch during the process. Morse’s friendship with Nelson Cruz proved to be instrumental in the team’s push to re-sign the hitter ahead of the 2021 season.

While Boras, Falvey and general manager Thad Levine are negotiating and doing the heavy lifting, any current information a friend can provide could be helpful.

While they’ve obviously grown closer this season playing with each other, Buxton and Correa are oldies. In addition to their draft connection, Correa and Buxton spent the 2013 season playing in the Midwest League, Correa in the High-A Quad Cities, and Buxton in Cedar Rapids.

Whenever they played, their competitive spirit took over and created a “fun” base. The two enjoyed pushing each other to perform during head-to-head games. Their friendship grew further that summer, when they were each named Midwest League All-Stars, spending the event together as pitching partners.

Buxton also recalled a conversation the two later had at second base once they reached the major leagues, when Correa asked about the center fielder’s experience in Minnesota and Buxton provided a strong scouting report.

The two quickly bonded this past spring after Correa signed his three-year, $105.3 million contract in late March. Correa went out of his way to let Buxton know he didn’t want to step on anyone. Buxton was impressed with how Correa wasn’t fake and how, being himself, teammates gravitated to the shortstop.

“He came up to me, looked straight at me and said, ‘Don’t hide anything from me and I won’t hide anything from you,’” Buxton said. “That’s how it is.”

Despite a close friendship, Buxton has avoided pressuring Correa, who on Wednesday described their relationship as “beautiful”. Buxton wanted Correa back, but did not think it was fair to influence Correa’s decision.

Well, at least not at first.

“I don’t feel like (Correa) needed to be pressured,” Buxton said. “’You do what you think is right for you and your family.’ It was just being there to encourage him in whatever he does. Once he got back into limbo, that’s when I kind of got into the loop a little bit more. I was like, ‘Alright, what’s going on?’ They gave me a little insight. I was like, ‘Alright, hang up the phone, I’m about to call (Correa).’

“I immediately called him. We talked for a while and he said, ‘Don’t say anything, but it’s possible that we’re brothers again on the same team.’ I was like, ‘We’re already brothers, but I’m referring to the same team.’ He said, ‘But don’t tell anyone.’ I got off the phone, called Dustin, and said, ‘Stop sugarcoating and get straight to me.’ He said, ‘It’s a good possibility.’”

Unofficially empowered by what one source described as a “rogue faction” of the front office to give Correa a push, Buxton reiterated what Falvey and Boras had previously discussed: the twins wanted Correa back, but it would have to be on a closer deal. short with a higher AAV.

“I got off the phone and texted him,” Buxton said. “I was like, ‘Bro, I just want you to be happy. I know things are tough. If you need someone to talk to, just talk to me. I’m here’, he replied: ‘I love you, brother’.

Three or four days later, Buxton heard from Correa again. Though they always suspected the other shoe might drop and Mets owner Steve Cohen would show up at the last minute to finalize their deal, the twins felt better about their chances knowing Correa was motivated to come back.

For some reason, Buxton always suspected that Correa would return. He saw how Correa invested in the Twins, studying the farm system, trying to improve individual players and being aware of the team’s upcoming moves in the offseason.

When he saw Correa calling on Monday, he thought it was good news. However, that didn’t stop Buxton from squealing loudly enough in excitement for his wife to join him outside.

“He took the time to study our team,” Buxton said. “He put his heart into the team. I saw that and I feel like he had a connection. Two seconds later, (de Correa’s) wife texted my wife and told her and she said, ‘Now I understand why you’re yelling.’ I don’t even know if I can describe it. It’s something you can’t make up.”

(Photo by Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa: Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)


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