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.
The latest casino project in Las Vegas is going to cost seven billion dollars. That is an incredible gamble (*1), but there are reasons that investors make it. The first is that in the long run, the house always win. But the second is equally important: in the short run, anyone can win. If that wasn’t true, nobody would go to the casino, and there would be no reason to invest.
Mike Pelfrey, who the Twins will be signing for $11 million over two years, is an investment too. In the long run, he’s averaged out to a 4.48 ERA return, but that's like saying a roulette spin will come up blackish-red. He’s thrown about five-and-a-half seasons in the majors, and only once (4.74 ERA in 2011) has he ever come anywhere near that career ERA. Instead, he’s crushed it twice (3.72 in 2008 and 3.66 in 2010) and been crushed three times (5.57 in 2007, 5.03 in 2009, 5.19 last year). It doesn’t take a lot of advanced analysis to tell you that the Twins are betting against the house.
But the advanced stats tell us the same thing. Pelfrey’s success or failure each year has been almost entirely based on how many home runs he has given up. Home runs are highly dependent on whether or not a pitcher tends to be a ground ball pitcher or a fly ball pitcher, and Pelfrey is the latter. It’s hard for any pitcher to control what percentage of those fly balls turn to home runs, but there is some long-term trend to it, and Pelfrey has been very good at keeping fly balls from turning to home runs. Every year he has pitched in the majors, Pelfrey has been in the top half of pitchers in home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB).
But the two years he was really good, he was elite in HR/FB, ranking 4th among qualified pitcher in 2008 and 9th in 2010. The other years, he wasn’t bad, but merely slightly above average. When Pelfrey has been successful, he’s been elite at doing something in which pitchers have very limited control. I don’t like to call that “luck,” but I also don’t like to call a good run at a blackjack table “luck.” I go with “secret sauce.” But whatever I call it, I don’t rely on it.
If this was a one-year deal, I could say that the Twins won’t need to rely on it either. But a multi-year deal changes how teams react. If Pelfrey isn’t effective, whether it’s luck or skill or the wind blowing out in Target Field (*2) this spring, it’s going to be hard to push him out of the rotation. Nobody is going to be anxious to give up on a player with that contract, especially given that Pelfrey is by all accounts a good guy and hard worker.
So the Twins are making a bigger bet than they should have against the house. They might have been emboldened to do so by their success with Kevin Correia, who paid off handsomely in his first year. The Twins have responded by doubling down instead of walking away with their winnings.
That’s a natural, human reaction. It’s also why they still keep building casinos.
If you're wondering about those footnotes, clicking on them will take you to the same story on TwinsDaily with a couple of bonus pieces of information. There are also lot of other bonuses there, like lots of Mike Pelfrey reaction, Jason Kubel reaction and a fun December Mailbag.
Monday's Rumor Mill Round-Up included an update on Bronson Arroyo, who was set to meet with multiple teams -- including the Twins -- at this week's Winter Meetings.
I judged the probability of a match being rather low, largely because I guessed the local club would cease to be aggressive bidders for a free agent of Arroyo's caliber after committing nearly $75 million Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, but Ken Rosenthal tweeted later in the day that the Twins were indeed making a push and that talks were "gaining momentum."
I'm still far from convinced that a deal will go down, but there's no denying the appearance of legitimate interest here. So what do the Twins see in Arroyo that would keep them involved even after adding two significant free agents to the mix?
For precedence, I look to another veteran pitcher who was mentioned in Monday's round-up: Carl Pavano.
It's no secret that the Twins loved having Pavano around. After acquiring him from the Indians during the 2009 season, they kept him aboard in 2010 with a $7 million arbitration agreement, and then re-signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract in the ensuing offseason. At the time, that was a massive free agent deal by their standards, and it pushed the 2011 payroll to a record $112 million.
Pavano had earned the commitment with an outstanding 2010 campaign in which he went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA over 221 innings, delivering seven complete games and two shutouts while helping lead a staff that dominated the AL Central. Clearly the Twins valued that effective durability very highly, and they probably value it even more in hindsight given what's transpired over the past couple years.
Let's compare Pavano's 2010 to Arroyo's average output with the Reds over the past two seasons:
Pavano, 2010: 221 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9
Arroyo, 2012/13 (avg): 202 IP, 3.76 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9
Those are very, very similar numbers. Much like Pavano, Arroyo is a veteran strike-thrower who has been reliable for 200-plus innings and has posted above-average core numbers. When the Twins re-signed Pavano in 2011, he was a 35-year-old with a fastball in the high 80s; Arroyo is presently a 36-year-old with a fastball in the high 80s.
In a clear attempt to overhaul their shoddy rotation, the Twins have already added two established hurlers with a chance to make a real impact, but it appears that they're still seeking a veteran anchor for a group in which, even with Nolasco added in, youth still rules the day.
Arroyo is a risk for the many of the same reasons that Pavano was a risk -- he's aging, his velocity is declining and he doesn't miss too many bats. But Arroyo also has a much more consistent history of durability and success.
In many ways, he could be viewed as a rich man's Pavano, which might explain why the Twins are once again ready to step beyond their normal means to pursue.
Late on Monday night, rumors began circulating that the Minnesota Twins are interested in outfield Rajai Davis, maybe even willing to go to two years with him.
Immediately I had some thoughts on the idea of Davis with the Twins and what he might be able to do for the organization. My first thought is always, what does it mean for the Twins depth in the outfield?
So, I thought I'd take a look at the Twins outfield situation.
But first, let's take a look at Rajai Davis. He is a player that I have always liked because of his speed. His yearly stolen base totals in the big leagues going back to 2008 are: 29, 41, 50, 34, 46, 45. He has spent the last three seasons with the Blue Jays and has hit .252/.299/.369 with 61 doubles, 11 triples and 15 home runs. He was their regular centerfielder in 2011, but the last two years, he has played in the two corner outfield spots since Colby Rasmus came to the Jays. With the Twins, he could potentially start in center or in left field. Before Toronto, Davis played for Oakland, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
He will be 33 years old throughout the 2014 season, and his game is about speed. I like him as a fourth outfielder, and a guy who can compete with Alex Presley and Aaron Hicks for the starting centerfield job. Ideally, he is a fourth outfielder on a good team, but he can also be a place holder for Byron Buxton.
With that, here is a brief look at the Twins outfield situation:
Josh Willingham - He is likely to begin the season as the team's left fielder. Though his best defensive position is Designated Hitter, he has more trade value if he proves healthy and can play defense. It makes him a possible trade target for National League teams. He had a down year last year, likely largely due to injuries, but we know he's got the ability to hit the ball out of the park.
Alex Presley - Acquired last August in the Justin Morneau deal, Presley played adequately over the final month. He will compete for the starting centerfield job in spring training, and if he isn't starting, he is a solid fourth or fifth outfield option.
Aaron Hicks - Handed the starting centerfield job out of spring training a year ago, he had a very difficult transition in his jump from AA to the big leagues. But the potential is still there, and he likely learned a ton from 2013. Hopefully he can make some adjustments and at some point in 2014, he could come up for good.
Oswaldo Arcia - Having played center field and right field in the minors, the Twins called up Arcia and had him play a lot of left field. His defense was in Willingham's category out there. My belief is that he can be an adequate, maybe average, defensive right fielder. The man can flat-out hit and has a ton of power. I wouldn't trade him, but he could bring back something big!
Chris Parmelee - Started a lot of games in right field a year ago and impressed with his glove and a generally accurate arm. The bat didn't come around with any consistency in 2013, but he does still have potential. He is also out of options. With Joe Mauer moving to first base, left of right field will become important to Parmelee's playing time.
Chris Colabello - See Chris Parmelee. Colabello dominated AAA a year ago, but he struggled with the Twins. He had played very little outfield in his life before playing some right field with the Twins.
Darin Mastroianni - He was hurt throughout the 2013 season. Even when he came back, he struggled and clearly was not at 100% Speed is his game. He can play all three outfield spots. He is a candidate to be DFAd if the Twins were to sign Davis.
Byron Buxton - Baseball's #1 prospect will likely be invited to big league spring training. It is possible that he surfaces with the Twins in the season's second half and never looks back.
Eddie Rosario - He has played second base most of the last two years, but with the emergence of Brian Dozier at second base, it appears that the Twins are looking to move Rosario back to the outfield. Honestly, that's where he should be. He is a natural, gifted outfielder with a very strong arm. His bat may not have huge home run power, but he can hit, uses the whole field and hits a lot of doubles. That potential/rumored 50 game suspension certainly hurts his chances of debuting in 2014.
I would not be against the signing of Rajai Davis by the Twins. Of course, that depends on the years and the money. A one year, $2-3 million deal makes sense. A two year, $4-5 million deal makes sense. Anything beyond that doesn't make sense. It's all part of the picture.
The beauty of the week of Winter Meetings are that rumors are abundant. How many are true? Some. but, with each rumor, it's nice to be able to go through an exercise like this, looking at the others at those positions on the roster and in the near future plans, to see what makes sense. To me, an 2015 outfielder of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks, with Oswaldo Arcia as the DH and Rajai Davis or Alex Presley as the fourth outfielder looks and sounds pretty good to me.
So, what are your thoughts? Should the Twins be interested in or sign Rajai Davis? What does it mean for the future?
Continue to follow all of the Winter Meetings rumors at Twins Daily:
Aaron and John talk about missing out on A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joe Nathan going to Detroit, a Twins Daily event during TwinsFest that you won't want to miss, Liam Hendriks being dropped from the roster, podcasting from Hammerheart Brewing next week, Justin Morneau going to Colorado, what to make of Robinson Cano's contract, saying "I love you" to Amber, mailbag questions from listeners, podcast reviews from beautiful women, eating giant ice cream cakes at a bar, and being the bad boy of Minnesota Twins baseball bloggers. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
Over at TwinsDaily, we have a few exciting events. First, TwinsDaily is having an after-party on Saturday January 25th as TwinsFest winds down: The TwinsDaily Winter Meltdown. It's going to be a fantastic get-together, with lots of community and speakers from the Twins. We hope you can join us, but you'll want to be prepared for when tickets go on sale on Friday at 8 AM, because we're pretty sure it will sell out.
Second, every this week, Seth and Jeremy will be doing a live "hangout" where they talk about the latest rumors and news from this week's Winter Meetings. You can find Sunday's, which includes ESPN1500's Darren Wolfson, here.
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.
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