Don’t call it a comeback! Starting back on May 20th with 6 innings and 3 runs allowed, May 26th with 7 innings and four runs allowed, and yesterday with 6 innings and just one run allowed, Kevin Correia has finally strung together three good starts in a row in 2014. Unfortunately the Minnesota Twins have lost two of those three games, but Correia delivered the kind of starts that keeps his team in the game. After opening the season with a lot of inconsistency from start to start, and almost even coming a bad start away from losing his job, Correia’s recent stretch should bring some hope to Twins fans. Nobody should be naïve enough to believe Correia is a dominant pitcher but when he makes enough good pitches he can effectively limit the damage against him. It’ll never be all that pretty but an out is an out and keeping your team within striking distance is extremely valuable.
Correia’s ERA is ugly and that is a fact. However, he has dropped it by almost one full run in his last three starts (from 6.80 to 5.87). Obviously it is very easy to bring your ERA down by large chunks when it is so high to begin with, but if Correia can keep pitching effectively he’ll continue to eat up innings while the Twins try to score enough runs to support him. If he is able to stick around in the rotation for another month or two he could cause mostly positive ripples through the Twins organization. Pitching well now obviously means a better chance at winning, but it also lets a couple of prospects get more polish in the minors and increases his potential trade value.
The best case scenario for the Twins is that Correia continues to pitch well enough that he starts attracting some attention from potential trade partners. This isn’t a situation where he’ll land the Twins a blue-chip prospect, no matter how well he pitches, but getting any sort of player who might have a little bit of potential would be a win for the Twins. Since Correia is in the final year of his contract and at 33 years old is unlikely to be re-signed, a low ranking prospect would be much more beneficial long-term than two-three more months of solid, not great starts from Correia. He might not be that valuable, but a team on the cusp of a playoff spot could be looking to upgrade a weak fifth spot in the rotation in July. Or maybe a front-running team might suffer a few injuries in their rotations. You never know. Kevin Correia can’t hold up a starting rotation on his own but he could quietly fill in the fifth spot in a good rotation, especially in the National League.
The reason why the Twins should hope they can trade Correia is because it would conveniently open up a spot in the rotation for the next line of Twins starters in Triple A. I talked about Alex Meyer a few weeks ago pitching his way to a promotion but Trevor May is pitching very impressively as well. May, rated the Twins 8th best prospect, hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last four starts and could be a really good middle to back of the rotation fixture for the next few years for the Twins. He walks a fair amount of batters (3.6 BB/9) but if he can maintain anywhere close to his current 8.8 K/9 in the majors, he can surely win a couple of starts in 2014 at the MLB level. May is already on the 40 Man Roster so he might have the inside track on the higher rated Meyer for the time being. Don’t forget about Kris Johnson and Logan Darnell too, also starters on the 40-Man, who have pitched really well in Triple A but don’t have the same pedigree as May or Meyer. Basically if anyone falters with the Twins, there are plenty of reinforcements in waiting.
If those guys continue to pitch well in Triple A there will be increasing clamor for Correia to get kicked out of the starting rotation. But Twins fans should be happy to see him in the rotation because it means that he is earning those starts and is slowly increasing his trade value. He’ll let the young guys fine tune their game in the minors and maybe he can be rewarded for that by getting dealt to a team in the playoff race. Whether the Twins are able to trade Correia or not, he shouldn’t be pitching for them in September so let’s cheer for him now to be as valuable to the team as possible.