Because of the Winter Meetings, the series “Bright Futures” will continue in the coming days. For now, the Winter Meetings take center stage and the speculations surrounding each team are too good to pass up.
The beginning of the most hectic and often important time of the offseason in baseball started yesterday in Nashville, Tennessee. Trade talk, free agent signings, and rumors are abundant for every team looking to receive and early Christmas present this year. Some big names are being tossed around for monster deals, such as free agents Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, and Zack Greinke; while lesser-tiered players like Mike Napoli (Red Sox 3-year deal, $39 million), Dan Haren (Nationals 1-year deal, $13 million), Angel Pagan (Giants 4-year deal, $40 million) and B.J. Upton (Braves 5-year deal, $75.25 million) set the market for the remaining free agents. Rumors of potential trading chips featuring credited veterans like R.A. Dickey, Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Joel Hanrahan, and Curtis Granderson are being tossed around as if at an auction, where the highest price is rewarded with the wanted player’s services.
As for the Twins, the Winter Meetings are quiet… a little too quiet. However, when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked if he knew any information on where the organization was headed, he replied:
— MLB Network PR (@MLBNetworkPR) December 3, 2012
Perhaps Gardenhire was being a bit playful with the MLB Tonight broadcast team, but those words are interesting nevertheless. After the Twins sent Denard Span to the Nationals for prospect Alex Meyer, some believed – as well as myself – more moves are to come.
Acquiring Alex Meyer was an excellent deal – see article on trade – that assured the organization a potential front-line starter in their organization as well as making room in the outfield for some of the young talent approaching Major League-ready, all while freeing up $4.75 million which Span was scheduled to make this season. Meyer has the length, size and weapons in his arsenal to get the job done, now he needs to hone those skills and emerge as the “ace” the Twins see in him.
Despite the Meyer deal, the Twins still have not addressed any of the potential four open roster slots that are said to be available in the starting rotation. Many speculate – myself included – a platoon of #3 and #4 starters are the target for the pitching deprived Twins. Free agents like Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum, Joe Blanton, John Lannen, Brett Myers, and even ex-Twin Francisco Liriano have all been mentioned in the Twins camp as targets during the Winter Meetings. The likelihood of obtaining more than two or three of these names remains to be seen, but the idea is that somehow the Twins can pry these guys away from more successful teams of which are also curious about these free agents.
If I was Terry Ryan, the names I would heavily pursue would be Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, Jair Jurrjens and yes, Francisco Liriano. Before I get attacked by the audacity of referencing Liriano’s name in my short list of targets, let’s break down every player based on how the Twins and the individual help each other.
- Shaun Marcum: A pitcher who has had success in the American League as well as the National League boasts a serviceable record of 57-36 with a 3.76 ERA in 174 games pitched at the Major League level. His K/9 hovers in the low 7s, which makes him seem like Randy Johnson as far as the Twins are concerned. Despite being injured for some time last year, he has pitched over 190 innings twice and, if healthy, can be projected to do the same. He will also bring a veteran presence to the rotation while taking pressure off of Scott Diamond as the only “established” starter the Twins have locked into a rotation spot. By no means is Marcum an “ace”, but he sure can bring consistency to a rotation starving for some.
- Brandon McCarthy: More of risk compared to Marcum, but McCarthy also has had success in the American League as a starter. Beginning his career with the White Sox, Rangers and most recently Athletics, McCarthy is the type of pitcher Twins coaches go for: ground ball pitcher who throws to contact. With his ERA being below 3.40 his last two seasons for the A’s, McCarthy has the consistency to produce at a relatively high level…when he’s healthy. Missing parts of last year with shoulder issues and because of a crazy fluke injury that resulted from getting hit in the head by a line-drive, he has a history of injuries that are some cause for concern. However, other teams know this as well and perhaps the Twins can sneak in and snatch up the right-handed pitcher at a reasonable cost.
- Jair Jurrjens: In my eyes, he’s the guy the Twins should be going for. A few seasons ago he was projected as a lock in the Braves rotation for years to come, but an inflated ERA the past two seasons have raised red flags in the Braves organization. So much concern for the Braves, they actually released him as a free agent to free up space for younger, more talented pitchers coming up through their ranks. The kicker is that he is still young, he’ll be 27 when the season begins this coming season and has an impressive resume of success in a tough NL East division. Pitching in over 200+ innings collectively between the minors and majors multiple times in his career, Jurrjens has the arm strength to become an innings-eater who can perhaps regain his momentum in a new scenery.
- Francisco Liriano: Okay, this may be arguably the most ridiculous notion I’ve ever put forth, but if the price is right… bring Frankie back. He has obviously had success in the AL Central – pre-Tommy John surgery and his resurgence in 2010 – and proved he has the “stuff” to compete. Yes, he walks way too many people and gets behind almost every hitter, but even last season he showed glimpses of old-Frankie. If the Twins can negotiate a dirt cheap 1-year contract to the lefty, then I say go for it. Let’s say he struggles, as we are now accustom to seeing from him, then the Twins can dump him without much lost. However, if he can tap into the Liriano of 2010 then he could just be the guy that can help turn it around for years to come.
None of the above names I would consider to be game changers, but if two or three are on the Twins roster heading into next season I feel as though they could help bolster an above average offense and at the very least look to a winning season.
Regardless of Gardenhire’s playful comments suggesting “the entire team is being traded”, I do believe Ryan and Co. are looking to free agency to solve their pitching problems. Even though the Twins have $25-20 million to throw around at free agents, many fans do not realize that it is a two-way street. Phil Mackey, ESPN1500, puts it in laments terms for those who argue the Twins aren’t trying to spend money:
— Phil Mackey (@PMac21) December 4, 2012
He is not saying the Twins offered Haren a $13 million, 1-year contract, but IF this scenario was offered to Haren, who would you choose? The Twins are notably one of the worst teams in all of baseball the last two seasons and it will be very hard to bring players to a team who hasn’t proven much lately. Maybe “Minnesota-Nice” will pay off this offseason, and we can see some new names chucking the ball for the Twins as the new season sneaks up on us.