Agreed, that rotation is number 1! Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

THE TWINS NEED PITCHING!!

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bedeepbeedepepdpebebepebepepebe…  Breaking News… The Twins need starting pitching…  I repeat…  The Twins need starting pitching…  bedeepbeedepepdpebebepebepepebe…

Help Wanted. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

So, in case you hadn’t heard or seen, the Minnesota Twins are a little light in the starting pitching department.  Here are some of the dudes that started games for the Twins last year:  P.J. Walters, Cole DeVries, Esmerling Vasquez, and of course, Nick Blackburn.  Whatever can be done to avoid allowing these men to wear Twins uniforms in 2013 would be wise.  I am unwilling to do anything physical to stop them, so we’ll leave it up to the organization to deal with.  Those that are already on the roster aren’t really sure things, but some interesting names are present.  Scott Diamond certainly earned the right to be in the rotation next year.  Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson are young and promising and likely will be given some variance of opportunity.  Samuel Deduno seems really nice.  Terry Ryan recently indicated that the Twins would be in the market for some starting pitching, so why not speculate on who might make a good fit?  Since I am an egomaniac, I’ll provide my predictions as well.

The Dollar Store

There is nothing inherently wrong with The Dollar Store.  If you need any of the following items, it is a wonderful place:  party favors, gag gifts, stickers and/or stale candy.  However, I wouldn’t do my grocery shopping there.  These are your Dollar Store players.  Nothing excites me about any of them.  They are either old, bad, or don’t fit.  While the Twins should aim to improve, they are still in rebuilding in a sense.  Most of these players don’t make sense and would just take a potential spot from Hendriks or Gibson.  I don’t think the Twins will sign any of these guys, unless they miss out on better pitchers.  In which case, Aaron Cook is my prediction.  Why not?  Here’s the list, I’ll let you decide who is stale candy and who is a gag gift:

Erik Bedard, Bartolo Colon, Aaron Cook, Kevin Correia, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis, Freddy Garcia, Rich Harden, Roberto Hernandez, Derek Lowe, Jason Marquis, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, Roy Oswalt, Carl Pavano, Jonathan Sanchez, Chien-Ming Wang, Kip Wells, Randy Wolf, Chris Young and Carlos Zambrano.

Old Flames

Ah, old flames.  So burny.  These two players were once Twins and hopefully will only be Twins once.  Nothing is really wrong with either guy, but the other options are more exciting and have less of a gut reaction of dry heaving.  Of course I refer to Francisco Liriano and Kyle Lohse.  Liriano is the old flame that we remember fondly.  2006 is but a distant memory though.  It was time to let go in July and that remains the same.  I wish him the best in his future endeavors.  Kyle Lohse is the old flame we remember angrily.  He was pretty awful when he pitched here and he burned some bridges on his way out.  He has had a bit of a surprise career renaissance, but I’d prefer we let that rebirth continue in another market.  Sorry, Kyle, I can quit you.

Kyle Lohse: Soaked with soda (probably) Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Nada Surf

These players seem to be popular choices amongst Twins fans I talk to.  All three could best be described as inning eating 4th or 5th starters.  I am talking to you, Joe Blanton, Jeremy Guthrie and Joe Saunders!  These three do very little for me.  I can see their appeal as innings eaters, as someone other than P.J. Walters has to pitch for your team.  However, these three fit much better as back end starters on good teams.  On the Twins, they would either take a spot from a younger pitcher or give the organization an excuse for not signing a better, but more expensive player.  If the Twins sign any of these three, I will riot in my street.  Not really, but I might say “darn it!”  However, I do think that the Twins will land one of these three.

Official Prediction #1!!!!! – The Twins will sign either Joe Saunders or Jeremy Guthrie

Welp

Options

Ah, you’re probably thinking, these are the options for the Twins.  Wrong!  These are players with 2013 contract options of some sort.  I believe a few of these will be picked up and those that are not picked up belong to players that I can’t get too excited about.  I’ll let you decide who falls where:

R.A. Dickey – 5 million

Tim Hudson – 9 million

Paul Maholm – 6.5 million

Scott Feldman – 9.25 million

Gavin Floyd – 9.5 million

Ervin Santana – 13 million

Jake Peavy – 16 million

The Top 10!

The remaining 10 names shall be unveiled in reverse order, leading to the guy I like for the Twins the most.  This isn’t necessarily the order of how good they are.  I am factoring in things like age, estimated contract length and value, talent and swag [just kidding (or am I?)].  Some of these guys have options as well, so they may not even be available.  One can dream.  Try to contain yourself, we’ll be at one before you know it.

10.  Hiroki Kuroda

So very old.  So very effective.  He was paid 10 million dollars to throw a baseball last year.  The Yankees are going to need him next year and if he wants to hang out with men his own age, he’d be wise to stay there.  I think he is a great pitcher, but his price tag will be pretty high.  If the Twins gave him a 1 year, 10 million dollar contract, he would probably earn it.  There might be better deals out there though.

9.  Ryan Dempster

More like Ryan Dumpster, right?  Ah, just kidding.  Dempster is a jokester, he can appreciate what I did there.  Dempster isn’t bad, but isn’t young either.  He has been a horse of sorts.  He is more of a figurative horse, as opposed to an actual horse, just so we are all clear.  He has thrown almost 1000 innings in his last 5 seasons.  He can contribute to a team, obviously.  I’m not sure an older pitcher fits this team that well though.  At best, he’d be a stopgap.  He’d be an effective stopgap, but again, better options are out there.

8.  Brandon McCarthy

McCarthy is a lot younger.  He doesn’t have much of a track record and he can’t stay healthy.  That combination scares me.  My guess is that a team will get him relatively cheap.  He might even pay off.  The problem is you can’t give a multi-year deal to a player like this.  He doesn’t stay healthy and needs to prove that he can.  A one year deal wouldn’t be the worst thing the Twins could do.  People seem to like him on Twitter.

7.  Shaun Marcum

Marcum was outstanding in 2010.  Since then, he has mostly been the same pitcher, with one major difference.  His walk rate is rising.  5.4% in 2010, 6.9% in 2011 and 7.8% in 2012.  That is concerning.  All of his other peripheral stats are pretty well in line over the last 3 years.  If he can cut the walks down, he can be really, really good.  Even with the extra walks, he has still been effective.  He’ll be 31 next year and it is a strong market for starting pitching, so…

We use shaving cream for shaving in Minnesota, Shaun. You’ll learn. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

Official Prediction #2!!!!! – The Twins will sign Shaun Marcum

The Twins could certainly do a lot worse (see Lohse, Kyle or Cook, Aaron or Blackburn, Nick).  I think Marcum is the right balance of being a lesser name, a more affordable player and enough of a strike-thrower to fit the plans.  He will be young enough to sign to a 3 year deal and he would make a great number 3 starter, with some number 2 upside.  I think he might be the best starter the Twins can afford and actually get under contract.

6.  Edwin Jackson

In the Twins favor is the fact that Edwin Jackson needs to play for every MLB team.  Jackson is better than Marcum in just about every way.  He seems to have a reputation for being inconsistent, but here are his xFIPs the last 3 years:  2010 – 3.71, 2011 – 3.73, 2012 – 3.79.  I’m not sure it’s possible to be more consistent.  I think that his only inconsistency is the team that he plays for.  I’d be very excited if the Twins signed Jackson, but something tells me he’ll end up elsewhere.

5.  Scott Baker

Baker is clearly not the 5th best free agent starter.  However, if the Twins can parlay his injury and team-history into a contract under 5 million next year, he could be a huge bargain.  In fact…

Official Prediction #3!!!!! – The Twins will re-sign Scott Baker

This isn’t really unique analysis, but it just seems like this is going to happen.  Baker can make this rotation, try to stay healthy and prove that he is worth a long-term deal in Minnesota or elsewhere.  He’d likely be the best starter already on the roster, and depending on how free agency shakes out, he might be the best starter on Opening Day.  An incentive-laden contract benefits both sides and Baker will still just be 32 in 2014.  Good gravy, go look at his 2011 stats once more.  He was blossoming before his injury.  Seeing how well Kyle Gibson is coming back from his injury has to make the Twins want to see what they can get from Baker in 2013.  He may not be the 5th best starter on the market this off-season, but it is entirely possible that he is in the conversation next off-season.

4.  Dan Haren

Haren basically has a 12 million dollar option with the Angels.  He is owed 15.5 if they bring him back, but there is a 3.5 million dollar buyout.  15.5 – 3.5 = 12.  Math!  Before 2012, it would have been borderline crazy to think that the Angels would have declined that option.  His walk rate jumped a bit in 2012, but only really in comparison to his remarkable 2011.  Otherwise, his walk rate is pretty in line with who he has always been.  His home run rate almost doubled last year, which sucked.  He is also giving up more fly balls compared with earlier in his career.  He probably isn’t going to be as good as he was in 2011 but he also probably won’t be as bad as he was in 2012.  Somewhere in between could be worth 12 million.  If he isn’t retained by the Angels, I’d bet he’ll get a decent contract.  If I were the Twins, I’d probably look for a better deal.  I still think Haren is great though.

3.  Anibal Sanchez

Sanchez might be a bit of a hidden gem.  When the Tigers traded for him, I remember being unimpressed.  Looking at Sanchez more closely, I see a consistently good pitcher, with inconsistent reasons why.  In 2010, he was pretty lucky with home runs.  In 2011, he was a dominant pitcher, striking out almost a quarter of the batters he faced.  In 2012, he cut his walk rate down under 6%.  If he could put all three of those things together, he’d be outstanding.  I’m not sure he gets lumped into the class of the top rated free agents, but he might end up being the best value.  I’d be very excited if the Twins signed him, and I’d be down for a multi-year deal.

2.  Zack Greinke

Greinke is obviously great.  His strikeout rate fluctuates more than you would think but his walk rate is extremely consistent, right around 6%.  His strikeout rates were high in 2009 and 2011 and his FIPs were under 3.00.  His strikeout rates weren’t as high in 2010 and 2012 and his FIPs were just about 3.00.  Any way you look at it, he is the best overall pitcher on the market.  He has the most upside and therefore will command the most money.  The Twins simply do not have the track record that would indicate a signing like this.  It would be a nice surprise though.

1.  James Shields

Shields is excellent too.  He won’t be as expensive as Greinke, if he even hits the market.  The Rays have basically a 7.5 million dollar option on him, which is more than reasonable and probably less than he is worth.  However, the Rays are ballin’ on a budget and have a decent supply of younger pitchers available.  If they do decide to save some money by letting Shields walk, he would be the 2nd most talented pitcher on the market.  He would likely cash in, but maybe not as much as Greinke.  Shields might not be an “ace,” but he is consistently great.  He strikes out a bunch of guys, doesn’t walk many and has a “big game” reputation (whatever that means).  He’d look good in a Twins uniform and not just because of his handsome hairstyle.

So, with my OFFICIAL PREDICTIONS!!!!!, this is what the rotation would likely look like next year:

  • Shaun Marcum
  • Scott Baker
  • Scott Diamond
  • Jeremy Guthrie or Joe Saunders
  • Kyle Gibson or Liam Hendriks

Honestly, that doesn’t look too bad.  I’m not sure the rotation would be improved enough to win a division, but it certainly would help field a more competitive team than the Twins had in 2012.  None of those guys would destroy a budget and a few would likely be on one-year deals.  Next year’s free agent class isn’t going to be any better though.  There are some interesting names, but it is very hard to say if any of them would even hit free agency.  Why not get while the gettin’s good?  Knowwudimean?  Doesn’t this rotation look nice:

  • James Shields
  • Anibal Sanchez
  • Scott Baker
  • Scott Diamond
  • Kyle Gibson

OH YEAH!  OH YEAH!!  It would be pricey, but competitive.  The Twins can try to trade for young pitching that may never pan out, or just sign it right now.  The future of the lineup looks bright.  So maybe pairing that lineup with a well-constructed, relatively young rotation would lead the team back to glory.  They could still trade position players for young pitching, it’s not as though these things are mutually exclusive.

If only it were this simple.  They aren’t bidding against no one.  Other teams need pitching too.  The Twins can spend, but so can other teams.  There is a way to get this team back on the right track, and it is hard to argue that some of these pitchers shouldn’t be a part of that plan.  Hopefully those other jerks in the league don’t get in the way.  If they do, the Twins might be looking at another 90 loss season.

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