"The Twins have signed a free agent to a 3-year contract with two opt-outs."
Sound familiar? It might.
Image courtesy of the Star Tribune
The seeds of today's Carlos Correa contract were planted on Feb. 5, 1991, with the Twins signing of Jack Morris. Technically the opt-outs were called "player options" at the time, but they were functionally the same: they empowered the player, alone, to turn a shorter-term contract into a longer-term one.
According to a 2016 NY Daily News article, the Morris contract is considered the birth of the modern opt-out clause:
Andy MacPhail had been working all winter before the 1991 season to sign free agent Jack Morris, but the then-Twins GM couldn't come to a deal with the ace righty. In a moment of inspiration — "desperation, really," MacPhail says now — he offered Morris the chance to get out of his contract after the first season and re-enter the free agency sweepstakes.
And thus the modern opt-out clause, all the rage this winter among most top-tier free agents, was born. Although MacPhail, now president of the Phillies, simply referred to it back then as a "player option."
Around the league, opt-outs have since become a staple of contracts, both short and long. But until now, those clauses had largely passed the Twins by, and top free agents had mostly eluded the Twins.
Does the Correa contract signal a change? Is there a new willingness and ability of the Twins to utilize the opt-out? Or have the stars simply aligned for another once-in-a-generation event?
Either way, it has Twins fans of March 2022 already dreaming of October 1991.