The kickoff for his beloved Georgia Bulldogs in the college football national title game was 40 minutes away when Byron Buxton’s phone rang Monday night. Carlos Correa was calling.
The shortstop had a secret he was eager to share with the Twins center back. An SMS would not be enough.
The majority of conversations between the two old friends this offseason have focused on life, family and checking into Correa’s well-being whenever his free agent ordeal has come to a halt. Still, after largely staying away from the free agent process, Buxton was wrapped up earlier this month after Correa’s deal with the New York Mets began to falter.
Still, Buxton didn’t want to be blunt. Despite already knowing that Correa’s wife, Daniella, was well into her pregnancy, Buxton innocently asked Correa if the couple had another child. Correa quickly interrupted Buxton before he could make a second guess.
“(Correa) was like, ‘She’s already pregnant – I’m coming back to the Twins,'” Buxton said by phone Thursday night. “I was like, ‘What?’ I was in the garden, I was screaming and (Lindsey, Buxton’s wife) was like, ‘What are you screaming?’ »
The celebration outside the Buxtons’ Georgian home on Monday night was one of many to happen throughout the organization this week.
Two days later, Correa finalized a six-year, $200 million deal with $70 million in vesting and team options that could keep him in a Twins uniform until 2032. The deal means also Buxton, who signed a seven-year contract extension with the Twins in December 2021, and Correa will play together for at least six more seasons.
Twenty minutes into our conversation, Buxton revealed his own secret: he helped bring Correa back.
On January 5, Buxton decided to re-engage. He had previously been involved just before Correa agreed to a 13-year, $350 million contract with San Francisco, but had since stayed away. Their conversations were mostly about making sure Correa, whom Buxton had known since they were selected with the first two picks in the 2012 amateur draft, was okay.
But then it became apparent to Buxton that the Twins might have a chance to re-sign Correa. It had been 15 days since Correa agreed to a 12-year, $315 million deal with New York and the process had little momentum.
As they discussed the situation, Buxton not only determined that Correa wasn’t going to be a Met anytime soon, but he also realized how badly the two-time All-Star wanted to join 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 his fantasy football teammate Morse was close to the situation and could bring him up to speed.
“Byron called and said, ‘So how serious are we? “, Morse said. “I said to him, ‘We are serious.'”
Morse informed Buxton how his call with Correa coincided with a text message from agent Scott Boras earlier in the day to the Twins’ president of baseball operations, Derek Falvey, which gave an indication that the talks could have some traction.
Until then, sources said Boras had mainly focused on the Twins’ initial offer of 10 years and $285 million. He didn’t give in. But last Thursday, Boras changed his mind and showed openness to a shorter tenure with a high average annual value.
Authorized by the front office to provide this information to Buxton, Morse spilled the wick.
“I think Byron really wanted Carlos back,” Falvey said. “He wanted to make sure that if he talked to (Correa) about it and tried to get him back, we were actually going to make an offer.
“It’s never specific information, it’s more like we want to keep the momentum of a conversation going. It probably happens in more negotiations 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 keep in touch during the process. Morse’s friendship with Nelson Cruz proved pivotal in the team’s efforts to re-sign the slugger ahead of the 2021 season.
Although Boras, Falvey and general manager Thad Levine negotiate and do the heavy lifting, any current information a friend can provide could be helpful.
Although they have obviously grown closer over the past season playing together, Buxton and Correa go back a long way. In addition to their draft connection, Correa and Buxton each spent the 2013 season playing in the Midwest League, Correa at High-A Quad Cities and Buxton at Cedar Rapids.
Each time they played, their competitive spirit took over and created a “fun” base. Both liked to push each other to perform in one-on-one matches. Their friendship grew further that summer when each were named Midwest League All-Stars, spending the event together as kickoff partners.
Buxton also recalled a conversation the two had later at second base once they arrived at the majors, when Correa asked about the center fielder’s experience at Minnesota and Buxton provided a solid scouting report.
The pair quickly bonded last 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 any toes. Buxton was impressed that Correa wasn’t fake and by being himself, his teammates gravitated to the shortstop.
“He came up to me, looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Don’t hide anything from me and I’m not hiding anything from you,'” Buxton said. “It’s like that.”
Despite a close friendship, Buxton avoided pressuring Correa, who on Wednesday called their relationship “beautiful.” Buxton wanted Correa back, but didn’t think it was right to sway Correa’s decision.
Well, at least not at first.
“I don’t feel like (Correa) needed to be pushed,” Buxton said. “’You do what you think is good for you and your family.’ It was just to be there to encourage him in everything he did. Once he went back to limbo, that’s when I kind of got a bit more up to speed. I was like, ‘Okay, what’s going on?’ They gave me a little insight. I was like, ‘All right, hang up the phone, I’m about to call (Correa).’
“I immediately called him. We talked for a bit and he said to me, ‘Don’t say anything, but it’s possible we’ll be brothers again in the same team.’ I was like, ‘We’re already brothers, but the same team is what I’m referring to.’ He was like, ‘But don’t tell anyone.’ I hung up the phone and called Dustin and said, “Stop the sugar coating and give it to me straight.” He was like, ‘That’s a good possibility.’
Unofficially authorized by what a source described as a front office “rogue faction” to give Correa a boost, Buxton reiterated what Falvey and Boras had discussed earlier: The Twins wanted Correa back, but he would have to be on a shorter chord with a higher AAV.
“I hung up 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, talk to me. I’m here,'” he said. replied by SMS: “I love you my brother.
Three or four days later, Buxton heard from Correa again. Although they always suspected the other shoe might drop and Mets owner Steve Cohen would step in at the last minute to finalize their deal, the Twins felt better about their chances knowing Correa was motivated to join.
For some reason, Buxton always suspected Correa would return. He saw how Correa invested in the Twins, studying the farming system, trying to improve individual players and being aware of the team’s next moves out of season.
When he saw Correa calling on Monday, he got the idea that was good news. Still, that didn’t stop Buxton from screaming loud 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 (Correa’s) wife texted my wife and said and she said, “Now I see why you’re screaming.” I don’t even know if I can describe it. It’s something you can’t invent.
(Photo by Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)