The Minnesota Twins enter the 2013-2014 off-season with glaring holes in their starting rotation, holes that will hopefully be addressed via free agent signings or trades. The Twins also need to make a decision on several players who are due arbitration this year. The ball club and the players have until the arbitration deadline, January 14th, 2014 to work out a deal. If the two sides cannot come to a deal, an eligible player will file for arbitration and an arbitrator will be brought in to help settle the salary dispute. Both sides (the player and the team) will submit a salary number to the arbiter. The arbiter will then hear the case from both sides and decide upon a winner, setting the salary for the player for the following season. The arbiter’s decision is final. There are a few rules to decide who is eligible for arbitration but in lawyer speak it gets a little confusing, so I’m going to break it down as simply as I can.1. All players with three to six years of MLB service time are eligible to file for arbitration if the following are true: player does not have a contract for next season, was tendered a contract before the non-tender deadline, and the player and team cannot agree on a new contract.
2. Additionally, all players who have been granted “Super Two” status are also eligible for arbitration. To be a “Super Two” a player must have more than two but less than three years of MLB service, must have earned at least 86 days of service during the previous season, and be in the top 22% of all two-year player contracts in regards to service time.
Are you still with me after all of that? To save you some time and considerable energy figuring out who is or is not eligible for arbitration here is a list of arbitration eligible Twins: Trevor Plouffe (Super Two), Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak.
It’s likely that the Twins try to work out deals with both Trevor Plouffe and Anthony Swarzak either before or through arbitration. Plouffe has been the Twins everyday third basemen for the better part of the last two seasons and Anthony Swarzak led all MLB relievers in innings pitched (96) and did so while posting an impressive 2.91 ERA. Brian Duensing, however, may be on the bubble.
At $1.9million for Duensing, essentially a lefty specialist, the Twins may look to save a few shekels as lefties Glen Perkins and Caleb Thielbar are already in the pen and recently, fellow left Edgar Ibarra was added to the Twins 40-man roster after an impressive season split between AA and AAA. Ibarra is a strong candidate to make the club with the Twins out of spring training, especially if the Twins choose to cut ties with Duensing. Personally, I think Duensing is worth the estimated arbitration value, he finished 2013 with a 3.98 ERA in his first full-season out of the pen and was very impressive against lefties* over his 61 innings of relief. He was worth about half to three quarters of a win this past season, and posted the highest strikeout rate of his career in 2013. Duensing may not be a great pitcher, but he was better than league average this season even with his inflated baBIP. He has an an above above average fastball and slider, and the Twins should hold onto him for at least one more season.*Duensing faced 132 left handed batters in 2013, striking out 36 and walking only 7, but he saw some unfortunate bounces as his baBIP (batting average on balls in play) was over .400 against same-handed batters. Duensing was also servicable against opposite handed batters, facing 136 batters but only striking out 30 to go with 20 walks. In both cases he allowed an OBP (on base percentage over .330).