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Updated: December 15th, 2012 11:04am
Mackey: Twins' newest starter, Kevin Correia, brings little upside

Mackey: Twins' newest starter, Kevin Correia, brings little upside

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Twins officially announced the signing of right-hander Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10 million deal in which the veteran will make $4.5 million this season and $5.5 million in 2014.

The deal makes sense for this reason -- the Twins, in search of four starting pitchers this offseason, need bodies. Literally. They need pitchers with pulses, which Correia presumably has, considering he passed a physical.

Correia, 32, also does a fantastic job holding baserunners close to the bag, which has been a chronic problem for Twins pitchers lately. He has allowed only 13 stolen bases the last two years -- compared to Carl Pavano, for instance, who allowed 24 in 2011 alone.

And it's fair to say Correia, with good downward movement on his fastball and off-speed stuff, induces a good amount of groundballs.

The rest, however, is bad news.

Correia doesn't miss bats, he doesn't eat innings and he allows a lot of runs.

Over the past three seasons, Correia's 4.82 ERA ranks 142nd out of 164 starters who have pitched at least 200 innings.

Over the past two seasons, only six starting pitchers had lower strikeout rates than Correia (4.65 strikeouts per nine) -- three of them pitched for the Twins (Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Diamond).

Also, over the past two seasons, only three starting pitchers have allowed more contact than Correia (88%) -- Bartolo Colon (89%), Blackburn (89%) and Henderson Alvarez (88%).

Want innings? Correia won't give you those -- 171 is his highest total since 2009, and he went beyond six innings only five times last year. Only twice last season -- twice! -- did Correia throw more than 100 pitches in a start.

And all of these negatives are likely to be magnified as Correia moves to the American League from the National League, where he has pitched his entire 10-year career.

Not to mention, we've spent the last few weeks talking about how the Twins are in the midst of a change in pitching philosophy -- drafting and trading for hard-throwing strikeout pitchers who miss bats -- yet they just signed one of the most contract-prone, strikeout-averse pitchers in baseball.

The Twins are in a difficult spot, yes. By trading away Denard Span and Ben Revere for young pitchers, the team is clearly aiming for a sustained run beginning in 2014. The Twins simply aren't in a position to compete for a division title in 2013.

The plan was never to splurge on mid-rotation starters like Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson, whose early-winter price tags are high. Sanchez just signed a five-year, $80 million deal to return as Detroit's No. 4 starter.

The always-mediocre Joe Blanton signed for $15 million over two years. The often-injured Brandon McCarthy signed for $15.5 million over two years. The often-shelled Jeremy Guthrie signed for $25 million over three years.

Pitching has never been more expensive. And even if the Twins -- who had multiple offers on the table at the end of last week's winter meetings -- did have the desire to go after better free agent pitchers, there's a pretty good chance they'd have to vastly overpay when competing against playoff-caliber teams.

But whatever the Twins' goal -- whether they're trying to make a half-hearted effort to compete in 2013 or whether they are aiming for 2014 and beyond -- was it really necessary to guarantee two years and $10 million to a pitcher who is almost certain to get rocked in the American League?

If a veteran presence is what the Twins were looking for, they already have a 31-year-old sinker-balling right-hander who makes $5 million in Blackburn. Plus, Diamond and Vance Worley, despite being only 26 and 25 years old, are already known to be two of the hardest-working pitchers in baseball. Let them set good examples and establish a culture.

Could the Twins have spent some of that $10 million on Scott Baker, who signed with the Cubs for $5.5 million guaranteed? Could they have given some of it to lefty John Lannan, who signed with the Phillies for $2.5 million guaranteed?

Who knows...

Correia's deal certainly isn't crippling, nor will it alter the franchise's ultimate direction.

But he's probably going to get rocked.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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