Panic isn't quite the right word to describe the reaction of Twins fans Tuesday to the news that Ervin Santana, their best and most dependable starting pitcher in each of the past two seasons, underwent a procedure on his right middle finger that figures to sideline him for roughly the first month of the 2018 season.
Concern, though? Yes, there was concern. This offseason has fueled visions of adding to the rotation, not subtracting. And now here we are, less than a week before pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla., for the start of spring training, and the Twins are down their version of an ace without another one on the way.
If we can link these two things together, this question comes into play: Should Santana's injury create more of a sense of urgency for the Twins to make a move in free agency?
The answer is yes, though maybe not for the reason you think.
Suggesting the free-agent pitching market is moving at a glacial pace would be an insult to the relatively swift speed of glaciers. But that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Twins.
The Twins still can afford to be patient because none of the dominoes is falling in a very strange offseason.
The Twins have signed three relief pitchers as well as Michael Pineda, a starter recovering from Tommy John surgery who projects in the rotation in 2019 "and maybe the bullpen at the end of this year," Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said last week.
To that end, Falvey said he feels "really good certainly about what we've done in the bullpen." The rotation, though, needs work. And here's where Santana comes into play.
Even if Santana is able to duplicate his wonderful 2017 season, missing a handful of starts is probably going to cost the Twins maybe one win in 2018. That's not a reason to panic.
His absence, though, underscores the fragility of the rotation as it currently stands. Any sort of long-term injury to Santana or Jose Berrios would put the Twins in a real bind if they have any hopes of duplicating and hopefully surpassing last year's 85 wins and wild-card berth. The timing of this injury, too, will test the Twins' depth in ways it might not have later in the year.
Falvey said Trevor May, who had worked primarily in the bullpen in recent years before his own Tommy John surgery last March, is being prepared as a starting pitcher this season but that the hope is "maybe by [the month of] May he's pitching for us" because he's still rehabbing to gain strength.
Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero are minor league options, but as Falvey noted, "They're part of a great group for us to bring in and see where they are [in spring training]. … They didn't get much Triple-A time. We don't want to rush those guys."
Long story short: The Twins needed to add starting pitchers even before Santana's short-term injury. Knowing they'll be without him for the first month or so of the season shouldn't impact how they proceed in offering big-money, multiyear contracts to the front-line pitchers still out there, such as Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.
But it should reinforce how shaky their pitching depth already was, and how bad things could be if they don't make at least one move.