Designated Columnist Mike Bates reacts to the Twins' signing of free agent right-hander Kevin Correia and find it's not the signing itself...it's that extra year that's really the problem.
It's not Kevin Correia that's the problem. I mean, he's a problem, but not the problem. He's a 32-year-old right hander who doesn't throw very hard (around 90 MPH), doesn't strike anyone out (just 12 percent of batters over the last two years in the National League -- the lowest rate of any righty in baseball during that stretch according to Aaron Gleeman), limits walks at just below the league average rate, while inducing almost as many ground balls as flies, and doing a below average job of keeping those flies in the ballpark. If he sounds similar to virtually every other Twins pitcher you've seen since Brad Radke retired -- from Carlos Silva to Nick Blackburn to Livan Hernandez to Carl Pavano to Jason Marquis -- that’s because he is.
Again, that's not the worst thing in the world. Marquis didn't work out even a little, but the Twins did get solid production out of Silva, Pavano, and even Blackburn for a time. For a team that has given every indication that it will not be competing in 2013, signing Correia, or a pitcher like him, who can soak up innings, rest the bullpen as much as possible, and help the team bridge from a terrible 2011 and 2012 to a more promising 2014 would be totally understandable. Correia may be terrible (and believe me, he is), but he could luck into a solid season, or even half-season. Hell, you might even be able to get something for him at the trade deadline. Terry Ryan would be completely justified in paying $5 million or more for that in 2013.
The commitment to 2014, however, makes this deal a hugely disappointing one from a Twins fan’s perspective. Not only is Ryan essentially condemning us to watch Correia for the next two seasons, but (unless the Twins are willing to just eat the second year of his deal) he’s committing the Twins to using a roster and rotation spot on a player who is likely to be one of the least valuable starters in the American League during a year when they could conceivably be gearing back up to have a run at the AL Central again. Alternatively, the Twins are sending a message that they don’t expect to be able to contend next year either, so they might as well keep Correia around to keep the pressure off of the Minnesota bullpen and to ensure they don’t have to rush either one of the newly acquired Alex Meyer or Trevor May.
It’s conceivable, as ESPN1500’s Phil Mackey suggested last night, that the Twins are so bad right now that they have to overpay and over-commit to someone like Correia to get him to come to Minnesota. According to some reports, the pitcher was getting offers (including multi-year offers) from other clubs (one of which may have been in Japan). If that’s the case, well, so be it, and if Correia can’t be bought out of that second year, that’s tough. Were that the case, Correia should have been allowed to go on his way and pitch elsewhere for the next two seasons, perhaps for someone else’s team who has already given up on 2014, while the Twins could have run Samuel Deduno, Liam Hendriks, PJ Walters, Blackburn, or even Drew Butera out there and gotten only marginally worse results.
Michael Bates is one of SBN's Designated Columnists and one of the minds behind The Platoon Advantage. Follow him @commnman.