Winter Meetings: Correia deal crowds rotation?

Former San Diego starter set to sign two-year, $8 million contract

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Pirates added another free-agent starting pitcher, agreeing to terms Tuesday with Kevin Correia on a two-year, $8 million contract.

So, between that and the agreement Monday with Scott Olsen, is the starting rotation set?

Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf and James McDonald are locks. And management has stated that Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln and others could compete for spots, too.

"We'll always continue to find a way to upgrade," general manager Neal Huntington said on an otherwise quiet second day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World's Swan and Dolphin Resort. "Maybe it takes one of our established pitchers and makes them available in a trade. If we can add one piece via free agency, maybe we can add another via trade.

Correia's contract will not be formally complete for several days because his wife just had a child, and he still must fly to Pittsburgh to take a physical.

Because of that, Huntington would not comment specifically on Correia or Olsen, saying only this of the pitching: "We feel good about where we're heading. And we obviously hope to have some things to announce, whether it's this week or next."

The specifics of Correia's agreement, reached at 12:13 a.m. Tuesday, are this: $2 million signing bonus, $3 million salary in 2011, $3 million salary in 2012, plus as much as $1 million in performance bonuses over the full term. If Correia is traded, the new team cannot offer him salary arbitration.

Correia, 30, is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander with a career 36-43 record and 4.57 ERA over eight seasons, the past two with San Diego. He went 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA this past season, including a 5.36 ERA at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

But there is more to Correia's story: His brother, Trevor, was killed in a hiking accident May 8, and Kevin Correia acknowledged after the season that his performance was affected, including lapses in concentration.

"Before this happened, baseball was my life, and it was easy to work hard and be motivated and think, 'Baseball is the most important thing in the world,' " Correia said in a November interview with ESPN. "After that, it just didn't seem that important. I didn't have the same emotions toward winning and losing. At this level, unless you're an extreme athlete who is so much more talented than anybody else -- which I'm not -- you're not going to get away with a drop-off like that.''

Correia had a 3.97 ERA in the six starts before his brother's death. He rebounded a bit in midsummer, but, after a 7.20 ERA in August, he was relegated to the bullpen the rest of the way and limited to two appearances.

In 2009, Correia's best season, he was 12-11 with a 3.91 ERA.

With the Pirates, Correia essentially will take the place of recently released Zach Duke, whose career ERA is a strikingly similar 4.54.

One National League scout highly familiar with Correia -- not employed by the Pirates -- called it "a great signing for them" and added that, while Correia does not have dominating stuff, he has four workable pitches and "pitch-ability," a scouting term for pitching savvy.

"He'll be a 1 or 2 there," the scout said, referring to Correia's ranking in the rotation. "On a good team, he'd be a back-end guy."

More relief?

The Pirates continue to seek relievers, too, mostly through free agency, as has been Huntington's method.

In addition to Jeremy Accardo, they have made at least one offer to Kevin Gregg, Toronto's closer this past season. Gregg, a 32-year-old right-hander, had 37 saves in 43 chances for the Blue Jays, as well as a 3.51 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 59 innings. The Pirates also have made an inquiry on another right-hander, Aaron Heilman, 32.

"We're exploring free agency, trades and 4-A free agency," Huntington said, the latter a reference to top minor leaguers. "We have internal options, too. If we add more starters than we need, it might push someone back to the bullpen. Maybe it pushes some of our internal options to come into camp in better shape."

Fox Sports reported that the Pirates also were in talks with free-agent reliever J.J. Putz before he signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

No McCutchen yet

The Pirates have not approached center fielder Andrew McCutchen about a multiyear extension, according to a team source. There is no urgency to do so -- he cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season -- though some teams prefer to lock up young players early in their careers.

Looking for work

Don Long, the Pirates' former hitting coach, interviewed Tuesday with the New York Mets for their hitting coach vacancy. Long said that it was Jason Bay who recommended him to Terry Collins, the Mets' new manager. That is no accident: Bay, Xavier Nady and Nate McLouth all performed at their best under Long.

Former third base coach Tony Beasley and first base coach Carlos Garcia still are looking for jobs, too. The Pirates might be keeping former bullpen coach Luis Dorante as Latin American field coordinator.

Dejan Kovacevic: . Find more on the PBC Blog at . First Published December 8, 2010 5:00 AM


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