Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
After making offseason attempts to solidify the starting rotation, the Twins’ cast of starting five have been just as awful as they were last year. As of August 31, 2013, the starting pitchers of the Minnesota Twins rank dead last in the MLB in ERA, Most Losses, Innings Pitched, Hits Allowed, and WHIP. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With 391 strikeouts by starters, the Twins have 122 LESS strikeouts than the next closest team (Colorado Rockies, 513). The starters have also managed to collect 16 LESS strikeouts than the Twins relievers, even though the bullpen has pitched 270 fewer innings. Lastly, opposing teams look like a collective group of fringe all-stars against the Twins starters, with a .301 batting average and a .818 OPS against (both of which rank worst in the MLB).
To be fair, the Twins offense hasn’t done all that much to support the pitching staff by putting up runs. But for all intents and purposes, to use a worn out phrase, the Twins starters are simply not keeping us in the game. This season was lost a long time ago so it’s time to look forward to 2014. It’s obvious that the Twins will once again go into this offseason with lots of questions about the rotation. But do they have any space to fix it?
Kevin Correia is a near (and unfortunate) lock next year because he is owed $5.5 million. Samuel Deduno has pitched well enough to deserve an entire offseason knowing he’s in the top five and hopefully the organizational support that comes with that. Despite a really bad start to his career, hot prospect Kyle Gibson would have to do something seriously wrong not to start out of Spring Training. Scott Diamond is posting great numbers during his time in Triple-A, Andrew Albers could stick in the bigs as a crafty, dependable 5th starter. Once thought to be a huge part of the Twins future, Vance Worley will likely be given another chance to prove he can contribute. Cole de Vries, Pedro Hernandez, and Liam Hendriks will all be in the mix again too during Spring Training. Finally, smoke-throwing prospect Alex Meyer could make a Gibson-like arrival in June.
Make all of the arguments you want about the quality of these options, but the fact remains that there is a serious logjam at the starting pitcher role for the Twins, with 9-10 names you could conceivably see on opening day for just 5 spots. Sometimes to a fault, the Twins simply don’t cut ties quickly with players. It’s just not how they operate. All of these guys will have a chance to make the team out of Spring Training, whether they truly deserve the chance or not.
Usually teams solve logjam problems by making trades, but do any teams actually want any of our pitchers? Plus it’s pretty rare for a trade involving one starting pitcher for another, but a big league starting pitcher for another big league starting pitcher is almost nonexistent. General Managers would laugh at the thought of trading one of their quality starters for two or three of our less than quality starters. If the Twins were going to make a trade for a MLB ace pitcher they would have to go all in, Kansas City Royals style, and give up a Sano, Buxton, Rosario type. The Twins are desperate for quality pitching but I hope they aren’t that desperate, especially with next season being far from a lock to be in contention.
Basically, for better or for worse, it appears that the 2014 rotation will have lots of the same faces as the 2013 version. I don’t know anything about the Free Agent starting pitcher market this winter but the Twins might be well served to bring in new outsiders (though it’s already crowded) to send a strong message to their current mediocre cast that nothing will be handed to them. They either need to perform better or they are out.