The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

March 17, 2013

Thoma: Why the Twins’ signing of Correia was a mistake

— From the email inbox:

Don’t you get tired of ripping the Twins signing of Kevin Correia? I am. Give the man a chance instead of writing how bad he is and will be before he has even thrown a single pitch in a Twins uniform. Pelfry hasn’t exactly been setting the world afire this spring either but I don’t see you ripping him.

Answer: No, I don’t get tired of it, and here’s why.

The signing of Kevin Correia was the most obviously flawed move of the Twins offseason, and admittedly it’s been a rare week since the signing that I haven’t griped about it on the blog.

Comparing the signings of Correia and Mike Pelfrey ... It’s not about spring training results, which I’ve never mentioned in regards to either. It’s about established levels of ability.

Pelfrey, coming off a season lost to Tommy John surgery, is on a one-year contract for $4 million. Correia’s contract is two years, $10 million — twice as long and more than twice the money.

Pelfrey is 29. He has four full seasons in a major league rotation (all with the Mets), two of them with good results.

In those four seasons (2008-11) he was 45-45, 4.27 ERA, averaging 3.0 walks and 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings and averaging just under 200 innings a season. His ERA+ — a formula that accounts for park effects and league context — was 93, meaning he was seven percent below league average.

Pelfrey’s peripheral numbers aren’t great, and he is coming off significant surgery. I’d give the chances of his signing being a success for the Twins — by which I mean 30 starts and near 200 innings with an ERA around league average — as about 30 percent.

Correia is 32. He too has four full seasons in a major league rotation (two with San Diego, two with Pittsburgh), none of them as good as Pelfrey’s two good years and perhaps none as poor as Pelfrey’s worst.

In those four seasons (2009-12) Correia was 46-43, 4.51, with 2.9 BB/9 and 5.7 K/9 and averaging 167 innings. His ERA+ was 83 — 17 percent below league average.

I give the Correia signing about a 10 percent chance of being a success, and that’s erring on the generous side. He’s never had a 200-inning season, never had an ERA+ of 100 or better.

He’s not going to give the Twins anything they couldn’t get from Cole De Vries, Samuel Deduno or Liam Hendriks — and they’d cost one-tenth of Correia’s salary.

Flip the two contracts — Correia the one-year deal for $4 million, Pelfrey the two-year deal for $10 — and I’d be silent. For this year, Correia’s not in the way of anything really significant. For two, he might be. For one year, Pelfrey is likely just a rehab project with no payoff at the end.

The odds are so strongly against Correia that giving him a two-year contract is simply baffling to an astute outsider.

Terry Ryan’s public justification for the signing has made three points:

1) Correia’s a good teammate.

2) Correia works deep into games.

3) “Our scouts tell us his stuff is better than his stats.”

As for point one, I won’t argue, other than to suggest that the best teammates are the ones who do the most to win games.

On point two, I don’t think it’s true. Correia had just four starts longer than six innings last season and none longer than seven innings. He averaged 5.7 innings per start. That’s not an innings eater.

(Correia’s explanation is that he was pinch-hit for often and he’ll work deeper in the DH league. But when do National League pitchers get hit for in the fifth or sixth inning? When they’re behind and/or not pitching well enough to justify another inning.)

The third point is perhaps the biggest tell of the faulty logic behind the signing. It suggests that the Twins based the signing on scouting techniques better used to evaluate amateur and low minors players to judge a major league veteran.

Correia is 32. He has more than 150 major league starts under his belt.

He is what he is, and the hitters are telling us all we need to know about the quality of his stuff and how well he applies it.

Edward Thoma (344-6377; ethoma@mankatofreepress.com) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog at fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
  • Thoma column: Twins are scoring lot of runs; can this continue? The Minnesota Twins entered Sunday's play with the American League's second-highest number of runs scored. And, they haven't had the advantage of hitting off their own pitching staff. OK, it's dreadfully early in the season, far too early to draw co

    April 14, 2014

  • Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered Don't know if anybody noticed but it's been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing. If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months. Minnesota State had

    April 10, 2014

  • Thoma column: We all know the Ryan Braun saga: Winner of the National League MVP award, flunked a drug test, convinced the arbitrator to toss his suspension on the basis that his sample was mishandled, was snagged anyway in the Biogenesis investigation, suspended

    April 7, 2014

  • Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall. The b

    April 4, 2014

  • Thoma column: For the remade Twins, 2014 looks like more losing The start of the baseball season is supposed to be about fresh beginnings, wide open promises and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. I'm here to quash that kind of optimism among the followers of the Minnesota Twins. (I strive to be a

    April 1, 2014

  • Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball A few weeks back, the state's basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in the

    March 28, 2014

  • Thoma column: Projected lineup is Mauer, Arcia and a bunch of outs The Minnesota Twins begin play in earnest in less than a week -- weather permitting -- and wow, do they have lineup issues. They scored 614 runs last season, 13th in the 15-team American League and almost 100 under the league average (702). Justin Mo

    March 26, 2014

  • Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams. Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins' new deal with the Twins. The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed

    March 17, 2014

  • Courrier: No. 1 seed has brought no guarantees for MSU Since the Minnesota State men's basketball team started this nearly annual tradition of playing in the NCAA II tournament, the home team has almost been unbeatable in the regional. The Mavericks have played in nine of the last 10 national tournaments

    March 14, 2014

  • Thoma column: The many purposes of spring training

    March 9, 2014