Twins' biggest needs to address: pitching, pitching and pitching

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 31, 2012 - 11:41 AM

Minnesota has other weaknesses, but they pale in comparison to their primary one.

hide

Twins' pitching coach Rick Anderson (second from right).

Photo: John Smierciak, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

After finishing with the American League's worst record two consecutive years, the Twins face an enormous challenge, trying to defy the odds and make the postseason again next year.

Last fall, they believed things would turn around if they could keep Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span healthy after losing all three players for large portions of the 2011 season. All three avoided major injuries in 2012, yet the improvement was marginal, from 63-99 to 66-96.

"It's going to take everything that we've got to turn this around quickly," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "We're going to have to hit better, field better, pitch better, close games better. You don't get in the spot we are by doing too many things right."

The primary need, of course, is starting pitching. As San Francisco gets ready for another World Series parade Wednesday, these are the biggest offseason questions facing the Twins:

1. Will they re-sign Scott Baker?

The only sure thing for next year's rotation is Scott Diamond, so re-signing Baker (above) is a priority, even though he missed last season after having Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery April 17.

The Twins declined Baker's $9.25 million option Monday, making him a free agent, but the righthander said the sides have made progress toward a new, incentive-laced deal.

Baker, 31, went 8-6 with a 2.86 ERA in his first 19 starts of 2011 before having arm trouble. If he rediscovers his old form, he'll be well worth the risk.

2. Is Kyle Gibson the real deal?

Gibson went 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his first three starts in the Arizona Fall League, rekindling hope that he can be a frontline pitcher in the majors.

A 2009 first-round draft pick, Gibson seemed poised to reach the majors in 2011, when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Now, reports have his sinking fastball humming even faster than it did pre-surgery, at 93 miles per hour.

The Twins might limit Gibson to 140 innings next year, but even if he opens the season in their bullpen or in Class AAA, he could give the major league rotation a nice boost by May or June.

3. Will Ryan become trader Terry?

The two most logical trade chips for GM Terry Ryan are Morneau and Span. Chris Parmelee can take over for Morneau at first or move to right field if Ben Revere replaces Span in center.

Morneau, 31, will make $14 million next season in the final year of his six-year, $80 million deal. His concussion history and continued wrist problems are red flags for potential suitors, but the free-agent market is thin on first baseman, with Adam LaRoche considered the best option.

Span, 28, has two years and $11.25 million remaining on his deal, with an option for 2015. The Twins also could try to sell high with Josh Willingham, who had a career season at age 33, but Ryan has talked about how hard it would be to replace Willingham's powerful righthanded bat.

4. Is there free-agent pitching help?

Baker and Gibson can't be counted on as 200-inning workhorses next year, so unless the Twins can fill their other rotation vacancies through trades -- highly unlikely --they'll need to tap the free-agent market.

This is not one of Ryan's favorite pastimes. He hates to overpay, and every year there are stories of starting pitching contracts gone bad.

This year's free agent class includes one potential ace, in Zack Greinke, and a host of second-tier options including Dan Haren, Brandon McCarthy, Shawn Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson and old friend Kyle Lohse.

It'll be a seller's market, with the Twins just one of several teams desperate for starting pitching. The Royals and Indians have similar needs, for example, and that's just looking inside the AL Central.

Lohse is 34, but he might get another $40 million deal. At 28, Sanchez could cash in for even more than that, even with a 48-31 career record. The Twins want bargains, but if they want proven quality, they'll have to pay.

5. And after starting pitching?

Asked to name the second biggest priority after starting pitching, Ryan doesn't hesitate to say relief pitching.

That doesn't mean Ryan is content with his lineup's offense or defense, but it speaks to how badly the entire pitching staff needs upgrading.

The starters ranked last in the AL with a 5.40 ERA, and the relievers ranked ninth with a 3.77 ERA. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton formed a nice late-game duo, but Ryan is determined to add reinforcements.

"If you've got a deep bullpen, you might get away with not having to overexpose maybe some of the guys in the latter part of the rotation," he said.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 85
Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 129 FINAL
Sacramento 135
Minnesota 97 FINAL
Golden State 110
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 45 FINAL
Illinois 93
Colorado State 58 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
Portland 61 FINAL
San Diego 58
Wayland Baptist 63 FINAL
Utah State 75
Bristol University 59 FINAL
Weber State 109
Sacramento St 74 FINAL
Utah Valley U 49
Southern Utah 45 FINAL
UNLV 79
SD Christian 50 FINAL
San Diego St 72
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Twins' offseason moves so far?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close