Having spoken to Kevin Correia quite a few times this season, I knew that even in May, Correia wanted to be on the West Coast.
He has always felt out of place in Pittsburgh, and the fans have never really shown their support, frustrated by Correia’s home and road splits from a season ago. So, when I saw yesterday that he wanted to be traded, it did not come as a surprise at all to me.
Correia as fans will remember made the All-Star game in 2011, largely because of how well he performed on the road, before fading in the second half of the season.
Correia had another slow start to this season before riling off win after win to boost his record to 8-6. Still it was apparent that he was the low man on the totem pole all the way.
Assessing the starters, the Pirates are certainly not going to put James McDonald or A.J. Burnett in the bullpen. They had great first halves to their seasons and regarding McDonald, the Pirates cannot afford to demote him despite his struggles thus far in the half. Jeff Karstens still is able to place the ball well and has pitched better than expectations since coming off the disabled list. Erik Bedard was the only other person in consideration, but the Pirates gave him a start off and are giving him time off to make adjustments so that he can improve. While he has not been the same pitcher since he removed himself from a start, he can be counted on to give his team a chance to win. The Pirates have invested too much to essentially give up on Bedard now.
That returns us to Correia and yes, the decision essentially was a slam dunk, despite his ability to win, he had to go to the bullpen.
Correia is in fact quite familiar with the bullpen and in fact had two of his most complete seasons while there.
In 2006, Correia was with the San Francisco Giants and made 48 appearances going 2-0 on the season with a 3.49 ERA. Further, he had 10 holds and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) was 1.1.
In 2007, Correia made 59 appearances, 8 of which were starts, but again the vast body of his work was in the bullpen. While he went 4-7 on the season, he had 12 holds and a 3.45 ERA. He also pitched his most innings in the majors at that point at 101.2. His WAR was also 2.2 which is the most it has ever been in his career. This was Correia at his best.
The next season would be Correia’s last with the Giants. The Giants started to trust him and 19 of his 25 appearances that season were starts. He would go 3-8 with a 6.05 ERA and a WAR of -1.1.
This season despite Correia’s ability to win, his WAR is still -0.3. Let’s compare that to the current rotation:
Erik Bedard: 0.3
James McDonald: 1.6
A.J. Burnett: 1.4
Jeff Karstens: 0.3
Wandy Rodriguez: 0.9
This shows that even Correia’s closest competition for the demotion even are contributing to the team while Correia is actually a hinderance despite his winning decisions.
Because of his ability to win, Correia is understandably upset at his demotion. Thinking ahead, Correia is a free agent at the end of the season so obviously having been a starter it likely will hurt his salary and how teams will view him.
This causes two problems for Correia. His timing is terrible, his asking to be traded means that General Manager Neal Huntington is put in an awkward situation. He obviously wants to improve the team and the team would only trade Correia to improve. I do not see any way that the Pirates can improve the team with Correia.
Correia again wants to be on the West Coast, but if he goes, he is a rental so he is essentially trapped. He could go back to the Padres in an effort to land Chase Headley, but it does not appear that Headley is the number one target, and considering the direction the Padres are going in right now, it appears very unlikely that Correia fits that mold.
Correia needs to realize that a move to the bullpen is actually the best thing to happen to him. According to Joe Starkey, Correia’s ERA is 51st in the National League right now, which by no means is earth shattering. A chance to go back to his roots is needed for him. If he excels like he did in 2006 and 2007 with the Giants, then perhaps a bigger pay day awaits, but more likely it seems that the bullpen is his niche. He can be a long reliever and have the ability to spot start, which the Pirates will need as arms tire at the end of the season and the rest days are few and far between.
By no means is Correia going to be a clubhouse cancer, but you could see by the look on his face both before and after his relief appearance yesterday, that he feels lost and alone.
Last year Correia was the Pirates Opening Day starter, but now in the bullpen, Correia is once again going to have to find himself.
In the end, Correia is right about one thing. if he wants to regularly start, Pittsburgh is no longer the spot for him. What a difference a year makes.