Minnesota’s addition of shortstop Carlos Correa re-ignites Tigers-Twins rivalry

27-year-old shortstop was on every Tigers fan’s bucket list

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JUNE 24: Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros points to home plate after tagging out Nomar Mazara #15 of the Detroit Tigers on a throw from catcher Martin Maldonado at Comerica Park on June 24, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus, 2021 Getty Images)

DETROIT – There was a lot of hype behind where baseball’s most sought-after free agent would land for the 2022 season and beyond. Many predicted Carlos Correa would end up in the AL Central.

Well, he did -- just not with the Detroit Tigers.

Correa and the Minnesota Twins shocked the baseball world when it was announced that he was signing a three-year, $105.3 million contract. He can opt-out after the 2022 and 2023 seasons to become a free agent again. Correa previously turned down a 10-year, $275 million dollar offer from the Tigers, causing Detroit to opt for Javier Baez instead.

Ever since Major League Baseball’s 99-day lockout came to its (inevitable?) end, the Twins have actively been making moves. Minnesota traded for New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshella, sending Josh Donaldson and the remaining $50 million he was owed to the Yankees. Then, they traded for starting pitcher Sonny Gray.

The Twins were quietly improving their roster, and were doing so with the intention of bringing on Correa -- a signing that never scratched the itch of the free agent rumor-mill.

I thought Correa was going to stay in Houston and give it the old college try, especially with Justin Verlander returning to the rotation. Let’s not forget the AL West drastically improved over the winter, as the Mariners and Rangers paid their way to a shot at contention.

Regardless, this signing frustrates Tigers fans for several reasons.

For starters, everyone thought Correa was going to end up in Detroit. He could’ve signed with any other team and I would’ve been OK with it -- any team other than Minnesota, that is. My personal Tigers-Twins rivalry dates back to 2009, as I’m sure it does for a lot of Tigers fans.

Before coming to Detroit in 2018, Ron Gardenhire had spent 13 seasons managing some of the best players to come through the Twins organization.

Manager Ron Gardenhire #15 of the Detroit Tigers before the game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on August 23, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Teams are wearing special color schemed uniforms with players choosing nicknames to display for Players' Weekend. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

In 2009, It was the combination of the “M&M Boys”, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, that haunted the Tigers’ pitching staff. Mauer would go on to win AL MVP that year, while Morneau had previously won it in 2006 and was an All-Star in 2009. The list goes on: Jason Kubel, Nick Punto, etc, etc.

With the Twins gearing up for a new ballpark in Target Field, the last game ever played in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome ended with a Tigers-Twins Game 163 tiebreaker for the Central, which ended in favor of the Twins.

The glitz and glamour of the AL Central eventually leaned Detroit’s way in the form of a World Series appearance and four-straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014, but the Twins never made things easy.

Over the course of his career, Mauer batted a lifetime .305 with 18 homers against the Tigers in 216 games. In 152 games, Morneau hit .295 with 25 homers against the Tigers.

During their time with the Twins, hitters like Nelson Cruz and Jim Thome made facing the Tigers look like a round of batting practice. Meanwhile, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Carl Pavano and many more arms continued to carve up the Tigers over the years.

What’s funny is while the Tigers were rebuilding, the Twins were having plenty of success, but never lived up to the hype. They last made the postseason in 2019, when they got swept by the Yankees.

Fast forward to today. After a last-place finish in the 2021 AL Central standings, I figured the Twins were going to settle for mediocrity from here on out. Prior to the Twins’ plethora of moves, the White Sox were predicted to win the Central, while second through fifth places were toss-ups. Now that Correa found his home in Minnesota, the Central is completely up in the air, and arguably, is not the worst division in baseball anymore.

But you know what? I’m all for it.

The boos will fill Comerica Park when Correa comes to bat for a long time coming. The future of the Tigers’ infield is bright without Correa, and it was always going to be, with or without him. Not only that, but a potential AL Central pennant or postseason berth over Minnesota makes the victory that much sweeter, given the circumstances.

Let’s party like it’s 2009.

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