The one where I start writing about the Twins here, because I’ve forgotten the password to the blog where I used to write about them
The prominent Twins-related news of this week: they signed Kevin Correia! Or perhaps, if we’re more honest with ourselves and our punctuation: they signed Kevin Correia?* It’s not an altogether surprising development, as the Twins have a number of rotation holes left to fill (somewhere between one and three, depending on how much stock you put in guys like Liam Hendriks, Sam Deduno and Kyle Gibson). The Twins figured to be in on every pitcher with a pulse this offseason. Signing Kevin Correia wasn’t a surprise. Signing Kevin Correia to a two-year contract for eight figures was.
*Is there a better punctuation mark to convey disappointment? Let me know, and I’ll insert it straight away.
Correia comes to Minnesota from Pittsburgh, where he produced decidedly mediocre results. Last season, he posted a 4.21 ERA and 4.43 FIP (his lowest marks since 2009!) in 171 innings as a mostly starter. He struck out about 12% of the hitters he faced, the third-lowest mark among qualified starters in the majors (one below Scott Diamond!). He doesn’t walk a ton of batters, but his control isn’t what you’d call excellent. He gets a lot of ground balls, but negates that advantage by giving up lots of home runs. If he sounds to you like most pitchers who’ve donned Twins uniforms, don’t worry. You aren’t crazy. He is very similar. He’s essentially the NL version of Nick Blackburn.
That type of pitcher isn’t the worst thing in the world. Lots of them (like Nick Blackburn!) have put together solid back-of-the-rotation type years. But, speaking realistically, Kevin Correia isn’t a good pitcher. It’s easy to imagine scenarios where Kevin Correia could be outpitched by Liam Hendriks or Sam Deduno or even B.J. Hermsen for a fraction of the money.
Ultimately though, it doesn’t much matter how Correia pitches next year. The chances the Twins contend in 2013 are slim-to-none. For one, they’re giving Kevin Correia a spot in their starting rotation. Winning teams tend to avoid that kind of thing. For two, besides Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham (who himself is coming off a career year that he’s unlikely to repeat next season at age 34) their lineup is full of zeros and question marks. The Twins appear to be building (to some extent) for 2014 and beyond.
Where this gets to be a bummer is that second year on Correia’s contract. I have trouble believing the Twins really want Correia around for two years. I know there’s some really easy “Twins Hate Strikeouts” jokes out there, but most of the pitching moves they’ve made over the last year would suggest they’ve discovered that this is a silly line of thinking. My guess is that the Twins know Correia is lousy, but they felt they were going to have trouble attracting free agents to such a poor team. They looked at the market for starters this offseason, and decided they needed to overpay, just to get any sort of live body to come pitch for them. I can see some merit to this line of thinking. There’s a lot of money flying around this offseason.
However, another notably crappy team, the Cubs, managed to bring in Scotts Baker and Feldman on one year deals for just a little bit more in AAV than Corriea got. Baker even seemed to want to come back with the Twins. There really is no risk at all to a one year deal. That’s even more true with a team that doesn’t plan to contend. If we concede that the Baker and Feldman deals were anomalies—the product of moving quickly before the market established itself—and assume that the Twins couldn’t bring anybody in on a one-year deal we’re left with two questions. First, why not pony up little more cash, say $4 million, for a guy like Brandon McCarthy who’s actually a good pitcher? Second, why do it at all. Why not roll with league-minimum guys like Hendriks, Deduno, Hermsen, P.J. Walters and the dozens of other guys out there like them?
By giving Correia two years, the Twins FO has guaranteed him a roster spot (or that they’re going to just flush their money down the toilet) when there are probably a number of cheap, in house options that approximate or exceed Correia’s performance. It’s not a deal that’s going to truly handicap the Twins, but the chances it even pays off at all are minimal.
While the Denard Span and Ben Revere trades showed signs of a plan! and brought about some degree of optimism for the future, this signing is a reminder that 2013 is still going to be a very long season indeed.