Zaidi clarifies Correa-Giants details as saga finds resolution originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The wildest story in free agency history lasted 30 days.
It started with the Giants seemingly landing, at last, their superstar free agent and ended on Wednesday when Carlos Correa was re-introduced in Minnesota. For Correa, it included three separate agreements worth a total of $865 million, along with three intense physicals, two of which raised red flags.
The final one was passed, and Correa stood behind a familiar podium on Wednesday and said he was happy to be back with the Twins. That press conference came three weeks after the Giants had hoped to introduce a new face of the franchise at an 11 a.m. press conference on the third-base side of the club level at Oracle Park.
Dec. 20 was supposed to be a whirlwind day in San Francisco for Correa, who had a photo shoot for the team, scheduled radio and TV appearances, a cable car ride in downtown San Francisco and much more on his itinerary. The day was to start with Correa holding up a No. 6 Giants jersey and smiling as his wife, parents and other family members proudly looked on.
Instead, it turned into one of the stranger ones in the history of free agency, and an unprecedented situation for a Giants franchise that rode a roller coaster throughout and sat through a public relations nightmare for three days until it became known that the New York Mets also had medical concerns.
That second failed physical -- and Correa ultimately settling for just $200 million guaranteed -- seemed to bring a level of vindication for the Giants, but on Thursday, speaking for the first time since the Correa deal finally became official, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said that's not the case.
"Not at all, not at all," he said on a Zoom call with beat reporters. "I'm happy for Carlos. He's one of the great players in the game, and he seems happy with where he's going. I think the whole situation was really unfortunate and (it was) way more public than it should be if things are running in an ideal way.
"We're going to stick to our process and the only vindication that we're seeking and that we put any credibility in is being a good team on the field, and that's our focus right now."
Zaidi said the Giants had a couple of conversations with Correa's camp after the Mets' 12-year, $315 million deal hit a snag a few days after the Giants' 13-year, $350 million agreement did, but "it sounded like they had other things they were more focused on."
For Zaidi, there's no doubt about where his focus currently lies. He started Thursday's call by addressing the end of the Correa saga as well as Brandon Belt signing with the Blue Jays, adding that he's ready to start discussing all of the players who will be at Scottsdale Stadium next month, many of whom have already reported to the Giants' nearby minor league facility at Papago Park to start ramping up.
But for better or worse, this offseason will always be at least in part about Correa.
The Mets may have backed what the Giants found during their physical, but it'll be years before it's clear if the Giants made the right risk assessment. They were so concerned about the future stability of Correa's surgically-repaired lower right leg that they backed away from the biggest contract in franchise history, but Correa and agent Scott Boras continued to push back on Wednesday.
"I had a lot of doctors tell me that I was fine, I had some doctors that said it wasn't so fine," Correa said. "It was shocking to me because since I had the surgery, I never missed a game. I never (got) treatment in my ankle, my ankle's never hurt."
Correa has played in 342 of a possible 384 games the last three seasons, but the Giants were concerned about the ankle -- which has a plate in it -- holding up over a long-term deal. While they feel very confident that they went through good processes with Correa, they ended up without a player they hoped would lead them the rest of the decade.
They also took some hits along the way as the sensitive nature of the negotiations forced them to keep quiet publicly. Some were self-inflicted wounds, others the result of the nature of how news moves these days.
It's standard for players to take the physical a day before the press conference, but the Giants are usually extremely cautious, and they admit they made a mistake in announcing the press conference before the physical was complete. That added fuel to the fire.
The Giants couldn't say much publicly because, but that silence in the days leading up to Christmas allowed other parts of the story to take on a life of their own. Boras stepped into the void, putting the Giants in a tough spot even as they negotiated a deal with the agent over another client, Michael Conforto.
You didn’t have to search long on social media last month to find fans who were livid that Correa had reportedly been looking at homes in Lafayette when the deal was put on hold, but the reality is that it's a standard part of the process for players the Giants bring to town. A few weeks before Correa arrived, Aaron Judge was driven through Lafayette.
One of the biggest hits came when Sports Illustrated reported that Correa was already dressed for his Tuesday morning press conference when he found out it had been pushed back, but a source familiar with conversations said Boras was informed on Monday evening that the press conference was being postponed. By the end of that night, Giants employees involved in Tuesday's festivities had been told, too.
“Any suggestion that this was an 11th-hour thing is just not accurate,” Zaidi said later.
The biggest mistake to most Giants players may have come when the original 13-year deal was leaked on Dec. 13. The news spread before Giants officials had time to inform Brandon Crawford that he would be switching positions after 11 seasons as the team's shortstop, and some teammates and friends are angry that the organization's longest-tenured and most popular player was treated that way.
Zaidi explained later that he hung up the phone with Boras that night and immediately set up a call with Crawford and manager Gabe Kapler. But social media often works too quickly.
“I don't think we could have prioritized that communication any higher than we did,” Zaidi said in late December.
Zaidi understands why it was a frustrating time for Crawford but he feels all their goals are now aligned.
“I think some of it is just understanding the reality that if we pursued shortstops, if we signed a shortstop, there would just be an inherent element of feeling disrespected there no matter how we handled it,” he said. “I understand that, Kap understands that, we all understand that, because he's been a great player. He's been really important to this franchise and I'm guessing he's happy to be back at his natural spot.
“If there's some awkward or negative feelings from the past couple of weeks, hopefully we turn the page when we get to spring training. We all want the same thing, which is success for this team.”
The Giants feel good about the group they’ve put together, but the long search for a free agent superstar will have to wait until another offseason. Giancarlo Stanton once rejected the Giants to force his way to New York. Shohei Ohtani preferred the American League because of the DH. Bryce Harper got far more money in Philadelphia and Judge never wanted to leave the Yankees.
But Correa said yes.
While Judge may have used the Giants to get the largest possible offer out of the incumbent, Giants people who spoke to Correa after the initial agreement was reached came away inspired by how excited he was about potentially wearing orange and black. On his way out of town after the deal fell apart, he thanked some members of the organization for their hospitality during the whole process.
Correa arrived in San Francisco on Dec. 18 expecting to sign up for 13 years with the organization. He's now back in Minnesota, and the Giants are ready to move on.
On Thursday, nearly a month after this all started, Zaidi said he was proud of the work his group did this offseason. He pointed out that the Giants have signed seven veteran free agents and five of them have been All-Stars in the past. Three of them have rings.
The offseason work started with a reunion with Joc Pederson, who will primarily be the DH. The Giants added two corner outfielders in Conforto (who will play left) and Mitch Haniger (who will play right), along with two starting pitching options in Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling. The bullpen was bolstered with Taylor Rogers and Luke Jackson.
The Giants have long circled this offseason as their chance to spend, and while their $350 million-plus offers to Judge and Correa didn't ultimately lead to deals, they have committed about $194 million to free agents. Zaidi said the additions bring "a lot of pedigree" and pointed out that "they're all excited to be Giants. They all picked us over other teams."
The group will gather for the first time on Feb. 20 in Scottsdale and open the season on March 30 at Yankee Stadium. After the weirdest offseason in franchise history, it's possible the Giants have never been so anxious to simply get back to baseball.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm for the group we have and what we can do," Zaidi said. "I understand there's going to be some skepticism because we had a couple of pursuits fall short, but we also did a lot of work and we think got better. We're excited to be able to start seeing the fruits of that once games begin."