For as unlikely as the signing was, Carlos Correa is precisely who the Twins need at this point, both as a player and person. Coming off an extremely disappointing and last-place season, fans were rightly frustrated about the club's direction. It’s not like losing teams are ever *that* fun, but the 2021 Twins were downright dull. They played with complacency that was evident to the naked eye. Reporters had little access for much of the year due to Covid, but the sense of a discouraged and disjointed clubhouse was real.
Nelson Cruz led the Twins to back-to-back division titles in 2019 and 2020, hitting .308/.394/.626 with 57 homers in 173 games. He was an incredible contributor to the offense, but his guidance off the field sent his value through the roof. Leadership styles and vibes vary, even among the winningest clubhouses. Cruz’s loose, fun, and calm personality perfectly fits Rocco Baldelli’s mantra. I can't say the same for Josh Donaldson, who assumed a leadership role after signing a four-year, $92 million deal before the 2020 season.
At the time of the signing, I felt Donaldson was a perfect key to help the Twins break out of their postseason losing streak. Now, I can’t help but think his clubhouse fit never made sense. It rarely looked like he was an actual part of the team, and Correa’s immediate impact only amplifies this feeling. Donaldson certainly contributed when healthy, posting a 128 OPS+ in 163 games, and I’m not suggesting teammates disliked him. It just didn’t work for both sides, and that’s fine!
It’s impossible to know the impact Donaldson had on the clubhouse, but it’s fair to say his hardened style paled in comparison to Cruz and Baldelli. Donaldson's bulldog-vibe could be a double-edged sword. A winning team may appreciate his bravado, but a last-place team could wear down over the 162-game grind. The Yankees, Donaldson’s new team, have won 18 of their first 25 games. It’s about fit, and I’m not sure Donaldson ever did in Minnesota.
With Correa, who values the day-to-day focus and trusts the process, the Twins have the co-leader they need. Byron Buxton is the face of the Twins, and even Correa admits this is “Byron’s team,” but Correa’s presence is undoubtedly impactful. Of course, this is easier to conclude as the team is in first place. Buxton did admit this spring, though, that it's a "night and day" feeling in the clubhouse.
It goes behind Correa. Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic wrote about the "immediate bond" felt among the Twins' rotation members. The 2022 Twins look (so far) like a tough, entertaining, and tightly-knit group.
I have no idea if the Twins' change in vibe is sustainable, or if it will wear down with a losing stretch. I do know that even if it’s a one-year deal, Correa feels like a Twin. Donaldson hoped he would leave a legacy in Minnesota, but for one reason or another, it didn’t happen. Correa is off to a great start in that regard, and the sky is the limit for how far he can take the 2022 Twins.
Please leave your thoughts, questions, and COMMENTS below.