The Twins have spent $171 million on three starting pitchers who were not with the organization at the end of the 2013 season. The breakdown goes like this:
Ricky Nolasco received a four-year, $48 million contract that started in 2014. There’s also an option for 2018 that includes a $1 million buyout if it is not picked up. Total guarantee: $49 million.
Phil Hughes received a three-year, $24 million contract that started in 2014. He had the best season for a Twins’ starting pitcher since Johan Santana left town. The Twins, Hughes and his agent responded to that exceptional effort by negotiating a three-year extension worth $42 million.
Actually, Hughes’ will have an increase in salary starting this season, and he will receive $58 million over the next five years. There’s also a $1 million buyout for a 2020 option. Counting the $8 million he made in 2014, Hughes total guarantee is $67 million.
Ervin Santana signed a four-year, $54 million contract this winter. There is a $1 million buyout for a 2019 option. Total guarantee: $55 million.
Nolasco was a monumental disappointment in his first season. That doesn’t have to be the case in his second. If new pitching coach Neil Allen can get him to throw his curveball rather than flip it, and Nolasco can keep his fastball below the thighs, he can be competitive.
Hughes doesn’t have to change a thing, and the Twins would be happy to have the same Santana of the previous two seasons in Kansas City and Atlanta.
One more item: The Twins also spent $10.5 million to bring back Torii Hunter on a one-year contract to play right field.
Reviewing these numbers -- $171 million for veteran starting pitchers, another $10.5 million for an outfielder who will turn 40 in July – should make this clear:
The 2015 season is not about development. You don’t spend $181.5 million on four veterans in a two-year period and then worry whether a younger player is getting enough at-bats.
When you spend that much money, there’s one goal: to get on the right side of .500 in the first couple months of the season, and see what happens.
This is brought up because of a conversation that started after I tweeted out a proposed lineup early Wednesday. That projection was based on the 13 position players I see opening the season with Paul Molitor’s first club, and the way I would bat those fellows:
1-Danny Santana, ss. 2-Hunter, rf. 3-Joe Mauer, 1b. 4-Trevor Plouffe, 3b. 5-Oswaldo Arcia, lf. 6-Kennys Vargas, dh. 7-Brian Dozier, 2b. 8-Kurt Suzuki, c. 9-Jordan Schafer and Aaron Hicks, cf (in a left-right platoon).
The other position players would be catcher Josmil Pinto, infielder Eduardo Escobar and utility player Eduardo Nunez.
Immediately, I received complaints about putting Hunter second and Dozier down the order, and Plouffe cleaning up rather than Vargas.
Sorry. This should be it, to start the season, anyway.
As an older, craftier hitter, I like Hunter’s approach better as a 2 hitter than as a 5 or 6 hitter. I also want to find out if Plouffe, after his productive 2014, can build on that and handle hitting fourth. I also see way too many strikeouts from Vargas to be a 4 hitter.
The lineup discussion continued on the radio Wednesday afternoon and I added this: Against most lefties, Pinto would be the designated hitter (if he wasn’t catching).
Vargas was poor against lefties last season, just as Hicks has been (more) futile against righties.
After spending that much money, I’m not going to worry if Vargas sitting against lefties now would prevent him from ever having a right-handed swing that plays in the bigs. And I’m not going to worry if platooning Hicks means you’re officially putting an end to the idea he can be an every-day player.
If Vargas wants to play against lefties, smoke the ball against them when he gets a swing. If Hicks wants to play against righties, stop standing there hoping for a walk and start hitting line drives.
I’m doubtful that will happen with Vargas, and beyond doubtful it will happen with Hicks, so here are my “A” lineups to start the season (at no charge to the Twins’ new skipper).
Vs. RH starter: Santana, Hunter, Mauer, Plouffe, Arcia, Vargas, Dozier, Suzuki, Schafer.
Vs. LH starter: Santana, Hunter, Mauer, Plouffe, Pinto, Dozier, Arcia, Suzuki, Hicks.