Sometimes I think that the Minnesota Twins front office is intentionally playing tricks on me. I think I must have done something to annoy them somehow (not a surprising concept; I’m sure most of my readers find me annoying). Yesterday, I posted a diatribe urging them not to sign Jon Garland, Joel Piniero, or Jeff Francis. I imagine Terry Ryan reading that piece and chuckling to himself: “Sure, Nate. No Problem. We won’t sign Garland, Piniero, or Francis.
“But you didn’t say anything about Jason Marquis!” Maniacal laughter ensues: “Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”
Yes, Jason Marquis. Like Garland, Piniero, and Francis, Marquis is allergic to strikeouts and velocity. He tosses an 89.3 mph fastball, which is good news for Tiger fans. I can already picture Miguel Cabrera patiently waiting at the plate for a Marquis “fast”ball. It’s not a pretty thought. In my vision, Cabrera has plenty of time to think about his grocery list and his offseason vacation plans before he even bothers to think about crushing the pitch over the left field wall.
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. At first I withheld judgement on this move until I found out what the dollar amount is. If Marquis had signed for a bargain-basement $1 to $1.5 million contract, fine. I wouldn’t blame the Twins for taking a chance on Marquis at that price, even if he is a high risk, low-reward type of player. If they want to waste a million bucks to have someone compete with Anthony Swarzak and Nick Blackburn for the #5 hole in the rotation, be my guest. I even thought there was a chance the Twins talked Marquis into a minor league deal. Marquis would certainly have been a good soldier in the battle to keep Rochester from losing 90 games again.
But that wasn’t the case. A team that swears it’s low on money spent $3 million for Marquis, a player who really doesn’t deserve more than the MLB minimum.
In 2010 with Washington, Marquis went 2-9 with a 6.60 ERA and an astounding 1.70 WHIP. It was the second time in five seasons that Marquis exceeded 6.00 in the ERA column – in 2006, he had a 6.02 mark in 33 starts for St. Louis. I have no idea how a pitcher with an ERA over 6.00 stays in the rotation long enough to make 33 starts, but the Cards won the World Series that year, so I guess I can’t argue with their choices. Unfortunately, the Twins don’t have Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen in the lineup to make up for their starting pitchers’ mistakes, so Marquis is going to have to do a lot better for the Twins.
For his career, Marquis is 104-98 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and just 5.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He gives up a lot of hits: 1,758 in 1,675 innings. Usually pitchers like Marquis that give up a lot of hits and don’t strike out a lot of hitters can at least be relied upon to limit the walks, but that’s not the case with Marquis. He has walked 3.5 batters per nine innings over his career. That’s not an astounding number, but it is more than average. For comparison, Carl Pavano’s career BB/9 is 2.2, and Scott Baker’s is 2.1.
The scary thing is that Marquis has spent his whole career in the National League. It’s well documented that pitchers who jump from the NL to the AL often see their ERAs rise. The AL has better hitters, and pitchers cannot rely on the reprieve that they get from facing the opposing pitcher in the #9 slot. On average, a jump to the AL jolts a pitcher’s ERA by almost a half run. Thus, a 4.55 career ERA can easily become a 5.00+ ERA, which means we’re getting into Sidney Ponson territory.
Okay, maybe the dismal pitching record isn’t enough for you to condemn Marquis. In that case, I invite you to consider his injury history. Marquis hasn’t pitched a full season since 2009. In 2010, right after the Nats signed Marquis to a $15 million contract (there’s a reason Washington has spent so much time in last place lately), Marquis missed about two thirds of the season with elbow injuries. Last year, after Washington traded him to Arizona, Marquis broke his fibula and missed the last month of the year. Given Marquis’ recent pitching stats, you could argue that the Nats and D-Backs were better off with Marquis on the DL, but I don’t think the Twins would benefit from having another injured player on their roster after last year’s debacle.
To sum up, I do not like this move, unless it’s for such a low price as to be inconsequential. Marquis is a fifth starter at best, and even in that role there is little evidence that he could be any better than Blackburn or Brian Duensing.