How Are the Mets and Giants Supposed To Live Without Carlos Correa?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Correa is a Minnesota Twin. There’s a contract, there was a press conference, he joked about his son growing up Minnesota Nice — after almost a month of bizarre uncertainty, Correa’s future is locked down. Which probably means you’ll start trusting this in your gut somewhere around mid-August.

Spare a thought for the Mets and Giants, both of which were thought to have signed Correa last month, before those deals fell through. Neither club deserves that much sympathy, because both reneged on $300 million-plus contract offers on the basis of troubling medical reports. The Twins seem convinced that Correa’s fibulas are not made of marzipan, after all. And don’t be a coastal snob, they have good doctors in Minnesota — the Mayo Clinic, and so on.

But while it was the Mets and Giants who left Correa at the altar, and not the other way around, both teams were ostensibly making plans to build a lineup around one of the best infielders in baseball. And while there was never any official announcement, the public was in a frenzy. Unlicensed swag was sold, tickets purchased, blogs posted on the premise that Correa would be a Met and/or a Giant.

Now, both clubs are bereft of their erstwhile top free agent signing. And both teams are left to contemplate Bolton’s First Interrogative: How am I supposed to live without you?

For the Mets, that’s a relatively simple proposition. When I was under the impression (mistaken, it turns out) that Correa would be a Met, I explored that club’s options on the infield and came away positively gobsmacked by New York’s infield depth. Correa would’ve been an upgrade at third base, as he would for most teams, but what made that signing so audacious (again, while it lasted) was how little the Mets actually needed him.

Eduardo Escobar isn’t as flashy a name as Correa, but dating back to about 2014 or so, he’s been an extremely reliable average-to-above-average infielder. Escobar was godawful in 2016, and again in the shortened ’20 season. But apart from those two outliers, you know what you’re going to get: not a lot of walks or stolen bases, but decent strikeout numbers and 50-60 extra-base hits per year, which usually comes out to a wRC+ a couple ticks above average. He’s been even more consistent if you start counting using his first big power season, 2017:

Eduardo Escobar, 2017-22
High* .272 .334 .511 8.2 18.5 35 74 117 3.5
Average .255 .312 .464 7.5 20.3 22 52 104 2.1
Low* .240 .295 .406 6.6 23.8 20 42 97 1.7
*Not including 2020

Now, Escobar is 34 years old. He posted troubling OBP and batting average numbers in 2022, and struck out at a career-high rate. ZiPS has him at about the same level for 2023, maybe a little worse. The Mets ought to be able to live with that, considering the rest of their infield is Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil, and Pete Alonso. But if not, there are alternatives. Luis Guillorme doesn’t have much power to speak of, but he does have a career .354 OBP and 101 wRC+.

The best outcome for the Mets probably involves Brett Baty, their 2019 first-round pick, jumping up and grabbing the third base job full-time. Baty got a couple weeks’ worth of major league playing time in 2022 before a torn ligament in his thumb sidelined him from the end of August on, and he’ll be back to compete for at-bats this spring.

Escobar’s defensive numbers took a dive in 2022 — perhaps the result of aging, perhaps a one-year fluke — and neither Guillorme nor Baty profiles as Brooks Robinson. But apart from that, they have three players who can fill different situational niches. Escobar hits for power, Guillorme gets on base. Guillorme and Baty are lefties, Escobar is a switch hitter who hits lefties much better than righties. I don’t know exactly how the Mets are going to dole out playing time at the hot corner in 2023, but whatever happens they’ll probably be fine.

The Giants, on the other hand, have few suitable options. Certainly, not having Correa allows them to pretend they never had to have the awkward conversation with Brandon Crawford about moving off shortstop. Crawford has, at times, been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, and in 2020 and ’21 he also rebuked the traditional aging curve to put up two of the best offensive seasons of his career. The latter, a .298/.373/.522 campaign with a 138 wRC+, 6.3 WAR, 24 homers, and 11 steals (all career highs), got him legitimate attention in the MVP race. But Crawford is about to turn 36. Last season he slid back down to .231/.308/.344 (which still plays, given his defense) and he’s in the last year of his contract. And unlike the Mets, the Giants don’t have an incumbent starter to lean on; Evan Longoria is now a Diamondback.

In the days after the Correa deal fell apart, the Giants spent the money allocated to that deal elsewhere. Having already inked Mitch Haniger to a contract, they brought in Michael Conforto; both are signed to multi-year pacts that will cost a combined $32.5 million against the tax in 2023. Signing not one but two corner outfielders is an odd choice for a team that already had Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater in hybrid center field-corner outfield roles and LaMonte Wade Jr. under team control. Not only that, the Giants made the one truly puzzling qualifying offer decision of the winter by tendering Joc Pederson. I’d even argue that J.D. Davis, who’ll become important in a minute, would be best suited to an outfield corner at this point in his career.

Correa-to-the-Giants was so exciting because of how the balance of power is shifting in the NL West, and the Giants are at risk of falling behind. The Dodgers have been the class of the division basically forever. (Do you remember anything that happened before 2014? I don’t. That was, like, 100 years ago.) The Padres are not only loaded for bear, they can’t seem to stop loading for bear. Plus, they finally got past L.A. in a playoff series last fall. And Diamondbacks in the mirror are closer than they appear.

So while the Giants have been fairly active this offseason, they failed to land an absolute superstar free agent, though they finished on the podium for both Correa and Aaron Judge. Well done.

What they have done is spend liberally in areas where you get a lot of bang for your buck in this class: mid-rotation starters (Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling), and corner outfield. I’ve argued that there wasn’t a real difference-making corner bat in this class apart from Judge, but if all you need is a 20-homer guy who can draw a walk and play left field without maiming himself, Haniger and Conforto are great options. Both of those positions — mid-rotation starter and corner outfield — were already positions of great depth for the Giants, but there’s something to be said for just getting the best players available and figuring it out later, particularly when the infield market fell off so sharply after the top few shortstops. If I had about $15 million to spend on a free agent, I’d choose Haniger or Conforto over…Elvis Andrus? Jeimer Candelario? Even if I needed a third baseman specifically.

Where that leaves the Giants is with basically three of the same guy at third base. Longoria’s gone, as is Jason Vosler, who started 25 games at third last year. The incumbents include Davis (13 starts with the Giants, five more with the Mets), Wilmer Flores (28 starts), and David Villar (25 starts).

All three of those guys can hit. Davis hits like a DH — he’s batted at least 200 times in each of the past four seasons, including 2020, and never posted a wRC+ under 119. He also fields like a DH. And you can tell because if he were able to play even bad defense at third, the Mets would’ve kept him instead of signing Escobar in December 2021. Flores hits for power without striking out quite so much as Davis. And if you want consistency, he’s posted a wRC+ between 102 and 120 in each of the past seven seasons. Unfortunately, he’s also a terrible defender whose WAR ended up between 0.7 and 1.5 in each of those seasons.

At 25, Villar is the youngest and least experienced of the trio. A late-blooming 11th round pick, Villar messed up Triple-A pitching in 2022: .275/.404/.617. He wasn’t half bad in the majors either: in 181 plate appearances, he hit .231/.331/.455, which adjusted for park effects comes to a wRC+ of 124. But like Davis, he struck out almost a third of the time.

The Giants have tried Villar at second in the minor leagues and even in the majors, in much the same way you might try to ride out a hurricane in a lawn chair on your porch with a 12-pack of beer: The experiment might not last long before the cops come and tell you to get back inside before you hurt yourself or someone else. But the bar for “best defensive third baseman on the Giants” is not high at all.

Ultimately, the Giants not only have less talent than the Mets at third base but less of a neat fit among their various hopefuls. All three are right-handed hitters, and all three are bat-first players at this point in their careers. Indeed, all three will likely spend time at first base, which has been left vacant by Brandon Belt. But while San Francisco’s huge collection of corner bats can fit together in many combinations, there is no obvious platoon partnership at third.

I don’t want to act like they’re all literally the same guy, but Steamer apparently does:

Giants Third Base Steamer Projections
David Villar 81 331 13 9.8 28.5 .229 .318 .423 .325 111 1.5
J.D. Davis 87 353 11 10.6 30.4 .242 .334 .404 .325 111 1.1
Wilmer Flores 118 502 16 8.7 16.4 .250 .322 .414 .322 109 1.8

This awkward fit is the result of a series of decisions that look smart in isolation, but will require some finesse to resolve into a coherent lineup. And there’s every possibility that at least one of these guys will hit enough to make up for the occasional error. But it’s less of a neat fit than just signing Correa. But that’s the difference between a $200 million team and a $350 million team — sometimes the former has to live with imperfect solutions.

Michael is a writer at FanGraphs. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Ringer and D1Baseball, and his work has appeared at Grantland, Baseball Prospectus, The Atlantic,, and various ill-remembered Phillies blogs. Follow him on Twitter, if you must, @MichaelBaumann.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

I’m legitimately mad that you made me contemplate Bolton’s First Interrogative.

Last edited 1 year ago by ackbar7
Manute Bol sings better than this
1 year ago
Reply to  ackbar7

Now that I’ve been examining you so longgggggg……..

1 year ago
Reply to  ackbar7

Saddest thing is I ALSO remember that song as a Laura Branigan song..which is only slightly less annoying then Bolton’s overwrought mess.

Last edited 1 year ago by PC1970