December 11, 2012

Twins sign Kevin Correia to two-year, $10 million contract

Last month in breaking down all of this offseason's available free agent pitching options I grouped Kevin Correia in the back-of-the-rotation starter category, writing that his "once-decent strikeout rate plummeted to 4.6 per nine innings [since 2011] for the lowest rate in baseball among right-handed starters" and "he doesn't miss bats, doesn't induce a ton of ground balls, and doesn't have great control."

Last night the Twins signed Correia to a two-year, $10 million contract.

Correia is a reasonable enough fifth starter and for 2013 at least the Twins basically just need a few guys to soak up some mediocre innings, but a two-year commitment at $5 million per season seems awfully silly. Correia is 32 years old and has spent his entire career in the National League, posting a 4.60 ERA in 169 starts. That includes a 4.82 ERA in 80 starts over the past three years, during which time the average NL starter had a 4.01 ERA.

Of the 91 pitchers to throw at least 400 innings as starters since 2010 he ranks 88th in ERA, 76th in xFIP, 81st in strikeout rate, and 80th in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Twice this year he was demoted to the bullpen by the Pirates, whose rotation ranked 11th among NL teams in ERA. And he isn't even durable. Correia has topped 175 innings once in his career, back in 2009, and in the three seasons since then he threw 145, 154, and 171 innings.

Free agent pitching is always expensive and this offseason is certainly no exception, but that's no excuse to pay a premium for a 32-year-old fifth starter coming off back-to-back seasons with a strikeout rate below 5.0 per nine innings. Better pitchers than Correia have already signed one-year deals, with more to come as the winter moves along, and if the Twins were handing out bloated two-year deals some semblance of upside should've been a prerequisite.

Ultimately it probably won't matter much for 2013, because the Twins likely weren't going to contend anyway, but it might matter in 2014 when Correia is still around making $5 million. And most of all it suggests that the Twins haven't learned as much from their mistakes as hoped and haven't kicked their addiction to low-velocity, low-strikeout, low-upside pitchers. Correia is a prototypical Twins pitcher and that ceased being a compliment years ago.

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31 Comments »

  1. It’s simply a baseball abomination. There is not much more that can be said.

    Comment by Shane — December 10, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  2. Two years? Does management know there will be free agents available to sign in 2014?

    Comment by Ben H. — December 10, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

  3. Great choice of photograph. Correia on the mound and an empty set of stands.

    Comment by Paul — December 10, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

  4. Jason Marquis’s revenge!

    Comment by chris — December 11, 2012 @ 2:05 am

  5. He’s like a crappier version of Pavano. Shakier control and not as durable.

    Comment by Caleb Loge — December 11, 2012 @ 2:18 am

  6. I’m the kind of jerk who likes this move. 51% groundball rate, 7th in the NL.

    Comment by twinsfaninsaudi — December 11, 2012 @ 4:29 am

  7. Not a terrible signing. $5M will prove to be a reasonable price for backend starters in this market.

    It’s only a bad deal if they’re contending in 2014 and Correia hasn’t improved or been traded.

    Comment by Dave — December 11, 2012 @ 5:31 am

  8. I am good at trades but dont quite understand the free agent market. Now where is Lannan’s number I wanna offer him 3 years?

    Comment by Terry Ryan — December 11, 2012 @ 6:39 am

  9. i guess Marquis was too expensive this time

    Comment by by jiminy — December 11, 2012 @ 6:42 am

  10. I blame the fat man and his little henchman, Andy.

    Comment by Bradley — December 11, 2012 @ 7:09 am

  11. I’m with Dave. Not a guy I’d have targeted, but $5M/yr for 2 years is chump change in this higher TV revenue FA market. I’d rather have seen them lay out a few more bucks for McCarthy, but they could still land a guy like Marcum, or some other higher upside arm (Villanueva?).

    How many other SPs have signed a one year deal so far? Haren, for a lot more. The Yankee returnees, also for more. Others?

    Comment by BR — December 11, 2012 @ 7:12 am

  12. with avg MLB salary 3.2 mil you have to figure even a 5th starter will get 5 mil per yr. Not a horrible signing but yawn.

    Comment by Large Canine — December 11, 2012 @ 7:41 am

  13. “Overpaying” (by means of adding a second year in this case as I don’t think the AAV for Correia is too high) is the price of having so many holes in the rotation to fill. It’s not prudent for the Twins to wait to fill every hole assuming they will be able to sign 2-3 starters of their choosing once the mediocre FA’s lower their demands. They really needed to just get somebody – anybody – signed to start filling holes, even if they had to jump the gun a bit and overpay. That’s how I read this signing, i.e. I don’t think it sends a strong signal about player valuation. Hopefully locking in one starter, albeit a very low end one, allows them to be more disciplined and get better value with their remaining signings.

    Comment by thegeneral13 — December 11, 2012 @ 8:12 am

  14. Wouldnt Anthony Swarzak provide a similar skill set at 1/10th the cost? Or Cole DeVries for that matter….. I dont think either one of those guys add much of anything, but I don’t see the point in bringing in a guy like Correia.

    This is a terrible baseball decision. His contract already feels like a sunken cost. Would a smart baseball front office like Tampa Bay sign guy like this for 2 years? I would not pay to go to Target Field to watch this bum.

    Comment by Spoof Bonser — December 11, 2012 @ 8:40 am

  15. According to Fangraphs, over the last three years among starting pitchers, the lowest WAR total was Nick Blackburn’s 0.5. Second worst was Correia at 0.8. Third worst is Jason Marquis, 0.9.

    Congratulations, Twins. You’ve officially Overpaid all three of baseball’s worst pitchers!

    Comment by Legend of the Arctic — December 11, 2012 @ 9:08 am

  16. Kevin Correia is not a thrilling pitcher, to say the least, but durability isn’t a concern. He has only had two stints on the disabled list in his career (in 2008 and 2011, both for oblique strains). His low innings totals are explained more by his getting demoted or outrighted. With the Twins, he’s unlikely to suffer either of those fates, given the state of the competition within.

    So, if Correia’s primary job will be to eat innings — an underrated skill — then he’s as likely to serve that role well as any other pitcher in his price range. If he’s good enough now and then to throw six innings and hand off a lead to our bullpen, that’s icing on the cake. It’s a predictably anticlimactic signing befitting of a predictably anticlimactic 2013 for the Twins.

    Comment by RTG — December 11, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  17. I believe people are underestimating how terrible it is to throw 2 years and $10 million at a replacement-level or below pitcher. It is a contract that is 10 times the value it will actually bring back. That is egregious. And there is little doubt that this is the kind of pitcher who is going to be annihilated in the AL.

    Comment by Shane — December 11, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  18. I don’t understand what TR is hoping for here. Why not keep the $10 million and see what of Blackburn, Deduno, Devries, Hendricks, etc. floats to the top?

    Comment by morts — December 11, 2012 @ 11:52 am

  19. Is it really any worse than Joe Blanton 2/$15M, Jeremy Guthrie 3/$25M, or even the 1 year deals for Feldman 1/$6M or Baker 1/$5.5M? If the contract was 2/$7M, would that have been a good deal for a back of the rotation 4th or 5th starter? I think that would be a bargain in this market, so I’m not going to lose sleep over the signing. Nothing sexy, but has the potential to be as good or better than many of the other signings that have occurred so far.

    Comment by RJ — December 11, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  20. To JR: No, it doesn’t have the potential to be a good deal, because he’s never been good. He has no upside. The only way to get a good free agent pitcher for below market rate is if there’s a high injury risk or something, like Baker. And yes, Correia is a lot worse than Blanton; he is definitely worth $5M more (though $25M for Guthrie does have the potential to blow up even worse). But the point is they would have been better off pitching an inhouse mediocrity and spending that money elsewhere.

    Has anyone ever bought a ticket to a game saying, don’t want to miss this, there’s a real innings-eater pitching tonight? I’d rather watch Deduno kick ass every third game and flame out the other two than some mediocrity with no upside.

    Comment by by jiminy — December 11, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  21. This signing was terrible in that it pretty much signals punting the next 2 years. Signing starting pitching may be hard, but the stadium was built to allow the team to have payroll flexibility. That means we should be able to field a 90-100 million payroll and we are currently in the low 70′s with 2 5 million contract dead weight for next year and 5 million the following year. When looking at starters sign crap at 1-3 million 1 year make good deal or go get someone with talent.

    I wonder how much the season ticket sales will drop with this signing as everyone seems mad about it.

    Comment by Brandon — December 11, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

  22. 1 more thought.

    If the Twins sign one morepitcher this winter couldn’t we just sign sanchez to a 5 year 80 million rather then spend money on crap and have Devries or Dedunno start for league minimum

    Comment by Brandon — December 11, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

  23. This may be a very bad signing, but at least we didn’t trade our top prospects for James Shields.

    Comment by Tony P — December 11, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  24. They are punting on the next 2 years. That should be obvious by now. And they should be, because there is not enough talent between the major leagues and high minors to contend until 2015 regardless of what free agents are signed. And unless you think ownership will stash away the $9 mm savings of Deduno over Correia and spend it in 2015+ when it will benefit a contending club, or you care about reaching 71 wins instead of 70, or you believe it signals poor player valuation by the front office, or you have an equity stake in the Twins, then the $10 mm doesn’t matter. With a bad team and this many holes to fill in the rotation, the Twins just need 1-2 rag arms to soak up innings and not torch the bullpen every 5th day, because then they will run into major roster management problems. Whether Correia can even accomplish that is definitely in question, but I think he’s a better bet than non-entities like Deduno.

    Comment by thegeneral13 — December 11, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

  25. i’m a contrarian. most of the comments above are thumbs-down on this guy. time to buy correia stock. it’s all a crap shoot anyway. who’s to say that he won’t have a better season than greinke, at one-fifth the cost? if he contributes 175 innings with an era between 4.00 and 4.50, it’s a good value move in today’s inflated market.

    Comment by jfs — December 11, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

  26. The Terry Ryan collection of expensive once-or-never-was pitchers, aka the “innings eaters”:

    Livan Hernandez
    Sidney Ponson
    Ramon Ortiz
    Jason Marquis
    Jim Deshaies
    Bob Tewksbury
    Mike Morgan
    Sean Bergman
    Kenny Rogers
    Terry Mulholland
    Carl Pavano

    Most of these guys didn’t last through one year with the club. Only Pavano, with the possible exception of Rogers, produced statistics better than what would be expected for a fifth starter, and only Pavano, Rogers, Deshaies and Tewksbury (fewer than half) produced the results desired of a fifth starter. To spend another $10M over two years and to expect a better result than the average results of this historical cohort is the triumph of hope over experience, particularly if you recognize that the best pitchers of this group – Pavano, Deshaies and Rogers – all had historical peaks significantly higher than Kevin Correia’s. Frankly, Ortiz, Hernandez, Ponson, Tewksbury, Marquis and possibly Morgan all had historical peaks that were better than Correia’s, so to expect Correia to perform better than they did is wishful thinking at best. Who knows – Correia could have the best year of his career, but based on his history and the team’s history with retreads on the downward slopes of their careers, it’s an expensive, long-shot bet that ties up financial resources just a couple of days after Ryan talked about being constrained because of the contracts for the team’s most expensive players.

    Comment by Deduno Abides — December 11, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

  27. Again, and I would like to see the “pro” side of this ridiculous signing actually respond to this, Correia is no better than the 5th starters that the Twins ALREADY HAVE, but they cost 1/10 of the amount that he does. So, yes, this is an atrocious acquisition.

    Comment by Shane — December 12, 2012 @ 10:38 am

  28. Aaron, how is it the twins owned the AL central for nearly a decade and now fans are stuck to pay 3x a ticket to watch James shields pitch…for the other team, and Trevor Bauer pitch…for the other team, and josh Johnson pitch…for the other team. TR can interview all he wants about cant give away his money but I refuse to believe the twins couldn’t get the number pitcher they desperately need and trot out a winning ball club. How many teams in history have lost 300 games in 3 yrs…there’s a better chance of that occurring than signing Edwin Jackson and he wouldn’t save the season! Absolutely ridiculous! I loved watching the twins play meaningful ball in September but my god have I found a new respect for an owner committee to producing a winning ball club and winning a World Series…go tigers?

    Comment by Brandon — December 12, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  29. Shane, I don’t know how a reasonable person could be pro-Correia, but I’d love to know which guys in the organization you think can be legitimately called major league starting pitchers. I don’t think the Twins have 5 of them even after signing Correia.

    Comment by thegeneral13 — December 12, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

  30. This is getting old! At least after we go get Punto nothing will get through the infield!

    Comment by TiredTwin — December 13, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  31. “…he doesn’t miss bats, doesn’t induce a ton of ground balls, and doesn’t have great control.”

    Note that his 51.2% groundball rate this year ranked 17th in the majors, while his BB/9 rates the last two seasons dropped to 2.28 and 2.48. I suppose that’s how his xFIP in Pittsburgh (4.38 in ’11, 4.34 in ’12) remained slightly lower than his career 4.44 xFIP, despite the decline in his K/9.

    I’m not thrilled with the signing, either, but I think there’s a good chance that he’ll give the Twins a 4.50 ERA, maybe a bit lower (particularly if Target Field, AL Central competition, and the Twins infield defense really help him out), in 170-175 IP this year. That wouldn’t be so terrible, for $5M. And if you had the choice between signing Correia for $10M/2yrs or Jeremy Guthrie for $25M/3yrs, and you couldn’t say “neither,” which would you prefer? I’d take the Correia deal.

    Comment by frightwig — December 13, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

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