TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.
In their first turn through the rotation this past season, the Twins sent out Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Liam Hendriks and Pedro Hernandez.
Opening the year with multiple backup plans already plugged into the starting five set the stage for a tumultuous campaign that exposed the organization's miserable starting pitching depth at the high levels.
Overly lengthy auditions for guys like Worley, Hernandez and Scott Diamond, along with painful redux performances from non-MLB talents like P.J. Walters and Cole De Vries, were all contributors in a season that saw Twins starters finish at the bottom of the majors in ERA, xFIP, WHIP and basically any other important category you could imagine.
With two signings in the books already, and with at least one more expected to come, the Twins are now actually building something resembling depth in their starting corps, so that if someone gets hurt or struggles they might actually have multiple palatable options waiting on deck to step in, rather than uninspiring emergency plugs. It's been quite a while since that has been the case.
With Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes already added to the mix to join Kevin Correia, and with many seeming to believe that one more veteran pitcher -- possibly Mike Pelfrey -- will still be enlisted, there may be only one opening available in the 2014 season-opening rotation. Terry Ryan has hinted that Samuel Deduno earned himself another chance, if healthy, with his strong performance in 2013.
That would round out the rotation, meaning that a group including Worley, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, Andrew Albers, Hendriks and Alex Meyer could be left on the outside looking in.
That's undeniably an intriguing group. Not all are certain to remain within the organization if they don't latch onto the 25-man roster (some, like Hendriks, will be out of options), but having a handful of pitchers with some history of MLB success -- or with legit prospect luster -- available in Triple-A would put the Twins in a very different position than they have been over the past three years.
Worley was the Opening Day starter in 2013. Diamond was the team's best starter in 2012. Albers impressed during his debut, Meyer is the organization's top pitching prospect and Gibson offers sizable potential despite a rocky start. Any one of those guys has the potential to bounce back or emerge as a legitimate quality option, giving the Twins a much comfier margin for error with the guys currently slotted to comprise the rotation.
Everyone wants to talk about the importance of adding an ace at the top, and that would certainly be nice, but having decent arms available to plug in at the back end if someone gets hurt or isn't performing can be almost just as important over the course of a 162-game season.
Aaron and John talk about the Twins signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes for a combined $73 million, a possible A.J. Pierzynski reunion, what the rotation might look like in 2016, how to have a successful first date, rooting against Mike Pelfrey's return, recapping Thanksgiving, secondary stats versus ERA, ranking the best brunch options, mailbag questions from listeners, wearing cardigan sweaters, and crying at Stella's. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
Despite the acknowledgement of Twins officials that the club has plenty of financial flexibility this offseason, many fans have understandably been reluctant to believe that truly aggressive measures are in the offing. A lack of early activity has only served to magnify that skepticism, but as we've often noted, this isn't at all unusual in the weeks prior to the Winter Meetings, especially in a shifting marketplace.
While we haven't seen any bold moves yet, there have been plenty of signs that the Twins are quite serious about taking uncharacteristically splashy steps in order to improve the club.
Through the rumor mill, we have seen the team connected to numerous starting pitchers that rank noticeably higher than the usual low-end targets. In a column for 1500 ESPN this week, Darren Wolfson suggested that based on what he's hearing, Ricky Nolasco is currently atop Terry Ryan's wish list, with Bronson Arroyo right behind him.
Neither Nolasco nor Arroyo could be considered one of the true top-tier free agents in this class, but they're both legitimate proven pitchers and they're both coming off very good seasons. Last year the Twins landed Kevin Correia, who was coming off a season in which he got booted from the Pirates rotation, and Mike Pelfrey, who was coming off Tommy John surgery. Needless to say, landing a pitcher or two whose stock is actually up would represent a stark change, and would leave much less room for criticism.
That the Twins are seemingly far more interested in wading into the deeper end of the free agent pitcher pool than they have been in the past isn't really surprising considering their continually horrendous results on the mound, but the rumors that continue to linger on the catching front are a bit more noteworthy.
The Twins have historically been far more apt to utilize free agency to acquire stopgaps and short-term plugs than impact players and long-term solutions, and in the case of the catcher position, that would really be perfectly understandable this time around. Joe Mauer's position swap does open up a hole at the position, but Josmil Pinto provides a not-too-distant potential internal replacement and Ryan Doumit is still presently in the mix.
Nevertheless, the whispers concerning Minnesota's interest in Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- who stands out as the top remaining catcher on the market after Brian McCann signed with the Yankees -- just won't die. Coming off a season in which he posted a career-high .804 OPS at age 28, Salty has the looks of a difference-maker, not a placeholder. The Twins have also been linked to Dioner Navarro, who won't be quite as pricey but is similarly coming off a career year and under the age of 30.
There are plenty of serviceable veterans available in free agency, and I fully expected Ryan to focus on acquiring one such player as a temporary fix behind the plate while keeping his attention largely trained on pitching, but the idea that he's actually motivated to bring in a catcher who can upgrade the lineup is both surprising and encouraging.
Of course, in the past we have often seen the Twins rumored to have interest in high-profile players early in the free agency period, only to scoff at high price tags and end up with uninspiring acquisitions. Heck, we saw it last year.
This has a different feel, though. Never before have the available funds been this copious, and never before has the owner been so vocal in his desire to see money spent on making meaningful improvements. In a recent interview with Adam Platt of Twin Cities Business Magazine, Jim Pohlad made the following comments, which echo some other things we've heard from him over the past few months:
"We have a lot of prospects, but most aren’t quite ready. We don’t have a lot of trading inventory. We have to go into the marketplace. Terry knows that. I’m not encouraging him to wait."
Empty rhetoric? Perhaps. It wouldn't be the first time. But there are numerous signals indicating that this organization is feeling a far greater sense of urgency than is typical, and that provides some real reason for hope. Around this time of year, that's something for which to be thankful.
Aaron and John talk about what the early free agent pitching signings mean for the Minnesota Twins, protecting prospects from the Rule 5 draft, puking in cabs, weird Duke Welker moves, finding the Jewish guy anywhere, the Tigers trading away Prince Fielder, getting married for $100,000, the best minor league organization in baseball, bachelor parties, Kris Johnson's upside, and the beauty of constructive criticism. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
We had a busy weekend at TwinsDaily.com, dissecting the rumors about the Twins chasing a top catcher, searching for the 15 longest tenured Twins, and hanging out.
In the heat of the chase, it's easy to lose your head. Auctioneers know that the trick is to just get people in the door. Once that happens, the investment, the competition, the excitement and above all the urgency, take care of the price all by themselves.
And free agency is an auction. And Twins fans are feeling the urgency. And so, apparently, are the Twins.
In his latest story on the Twins offseason, Mike Berardino reports that the Twins have showed a willingness to at least consider offering a 3-year contract to 36-year-old right-hander Bronson Arroyo. If you’re an American League snob like me, you might remember Arroyo from his tumultuous years with the Red Sox through 2005 (or possibly from Bill Simmons description of the “Bronson Arroyo face”). He left for the National League, specifically Cincinnati, and has averaged 210 innings with a 4.05 ERA in the eight years since.
It ain’t because of his stuff. For the last five years, his averaged just 5.3 K/9, which (cheap shot alert) undoubtedly is what makes him irresistible to the Twins. He succeeds by keeping the ball on the ground and indeed his ERA has been closely linked to how many home runs he gives up each year. That bodes well for playing in Target Field, which is far friendlier to pitchers than the Reds’ Great American Ballpark. It doesn’t bode as well for a return to the American League.
Arroyo and his agent are fishing for a 3-year deal, and the team that offers it is likely to win his services, provided you define “win” as guaranteeing 36+ million dollars to a 37-year-old pitch-to-contact starter. Is that wise?
Of course not – but free agency rarely is. That’s the thing that can be so repulsive about signing a free agent: by definition the winning team is overpaying. When 29 teams won’t pay the price that the winning team is willing to pay, the odds are stacked against them from the start. So let’s ask another question – is Arroyo likely to be productive through his 39th season?
Historically, no. First, there is the type: low strikeout pitchers far too often end up like Carlos Silva, Joe Mays or more recently, Scott Diamond. When their stuff dips just a bit, or their control slips a little, or the ground balls turn to fly balls, or the fly balls turn to home runs, things can go south in a hurry. Strikeouts are a safety net that they don't have.
Second, there is just the issue of health. Pitchers get hurt, especially when they've been used a lot. 36-year-olds get hurt too. And 36-year-old pitchers who have been used a lot? You know the answer to that, don’t you Joe Nathan?
Finally, looking at Arroyo's closest comparable pitchers from baseball-reference.com, you find a lot of guys whose careers ended right about now. His top 5 are John Burkett, Todd Stottlemyre, Tim Belcher, Esteban Loaiza and John Lieber. None of them has success past his age.
Twins fans know numbers six and seven on that list: Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson. Tap had a 4.49 ERA when he was 37 and then his career was over. Erickson only pitched 66 more innings over two years after he turned 37, and had a 6.35 ERA. But to be fair, all of these guys showed serious signs of decline well before this point, unlike Arroyo.
Regardless, Arroyo is not a good bet to age well - but he hasn’t been a good bet to age well for five years running. And the Twins can certainly afford to overpay right now – but they might wish they had that money for a more reliable starter in 2016.
Ultimately, I can’t believe Arroyo is so much of an outlier from historical precedence. I wouldn’t totally rule out the third year. Perhaps, like Berardino says of the Twins, I might give “indications they might be willing to go that far.” But I think we're getting caught up in the heat of the auction, and there are still lots of items on which to bid. I’d look long and hard at the other pitchers first, opting to pay that 2016 money up front to someone who is a little safer bet.
There's a lot of offseason talk in the TwinsDaily forums this week. My favorite? Would you have traded Joe Mauer for Prince Fielder, now that Mauer is moving to first base?
The early weeks of the offseason have not been particularly eventful for the Twins. We've seen them connected to a few different pitchers and catchers in free agency, but like many other teams, they have been slow to act here in November. That's not unexpected; with the market going through a significant shift, both agents and team execs are still feeling things out.
Once a few major contracts are signed, we will likely begin to see the dominoes fall at a fairly rapid pace. I just wouldn't anticipate the Twins being one of the teams to set the standard.
We did see a few notable developments take place within the system on Tuesday, however.
The first was a report coming from Puerto Rico that prospect Eddie Rosario has tested positive for a banned substance and could face a 50-game suspension. Apparently the positive test resulted from some pills that the second baseman was taking to treat an arm injury.
If true, this is obviously horrible news. Rosario is one of the organization's brightest prospects (he ranked No. 7 on Twins Daily's list in the spring) and being forced to sit out 50 games is extremely rough for a young kid who was rising quickly through the system and still adapting to a new position.
The bright side is that Brian Dozier has firmly established himself at second base and was going to be locked in for at least the first half of the 2014 season regardless, so there was never any rush to get Rosario into the majors. If anything, this gives the club more time to see what they have in Dozier while Rosario serves his suspension and acclimates in the latter part of the season.
What makes this hurt is that, from my perspective, Rosario was the best trade chip in the organization -- a standout talent at a valuable position coming off a fantastic minor-league season in which he advanced to the high levels. I'm not fully sold on Dozier but I believe in him enough to think that moving his potential successor in the right deal would be worth the risk.
I'm also personally a bit lower than some on Rosario as a prospect, because although his production has been undeniably impressive I don't see his all-around skill set making him a real safe bet to succeed in the majors. He struck me as a sell-high guy who might have been flipped for maximum value this offseason, or else moved around the deadline next year if he managed to do some damage in Triple-A. Now that's all out the window, assuming the report is true.
Terry Ryan stated that the impetus for the move was a desire to swap a potential reliever for a potential starter, which makes sense for depth reasons, but Johnson seems like an even greater long shot than Welker to make an impact in the majors. Perhaps the Twins were emboldened by the Andrew Albers surprise, since Johnson is similarly a late-20s journeyman who found his way back into affiliated baseball after spending time in an independent league a couple years ago, but it's tough to find much to like here. He looks like Triple-A filler.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. But fans are already getting antsy to see some meaningful activity on the starting pitching front. And for now, they're still waiting.
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