The Twins were condemned to 90-plus losses for the four previous seasons when the starting pitching and the team collapsed in the final two months of the schedule. The 2015 Twins are trying to slide into the second wild-card spot with two weeks remaining on the schedule and facing another rotation crisis.
No matter what happens, the Twins will arrive in spring training with a rotation once again in flux — based mostly on what they can expect to get in 2016 from three veteran starters who still will be owed $115.3 million by the club.
Ricky Nolasco will turn 33 on Dec. 13. He pitched poorly in 2014 and has pitched 32 ⅔ innings this season because of an ankle injury. Nolasco has given no indication he can be an asset, yet with two years and $25 million guaranteed left, the Twins must give him another chance.
Ervin Santana will turn 33 on Dec. 12. He missed half of his first Minnesota season with a steroid-use suspension, and has been mediocre (at best) in the second half of the schedule. He has three years and $41.5 million guaranteed left on his deal, and the Twins must hope this so-far erratic display is not what they should count on.
Phil Hughes will turn 30 on June 24. The Twins were rightfully impressed with his 2014 debut in Minnesota, and tore up his original contract for a five-year deal. He lost velocity and became a home run-yielding machine in 2015. He has another $48.8 million guaranteed over the next four years.
I thought there was hope for Nolasco the way he was throwing the ball in exhibitions. Then, the regular season started and it was the same nonsense, until he injured an ankle.
Santana could use a handful of starts in Dominican winter ball to help him show up with some consistency in Fort Myers. Hughes has to solve his back problem and then regain his fastball with better conditioning.
Right now, the Twins have a lot of money on the table — $34.7 million for 2016, $115.3 million total — with marginal confidence in what can be expected from three veteran starters.
Plus Three from Patrick
Starters who will debut for Twins in 2016:
• Jose Berrios won’t start the season in the rotation but should move in before his 22nd birthday on May 27.
• Taylor Rogers has good stuff and will be the best lefthanded option. Tommy Milone’s soft-tossing isn’t worth another arbitration offer.
• Stephen Gonsalves. He’s lefthanded, will impress this spring and Paul Molitor will lobby to sneak him in for a spot start around Stephen’s 22nd birthday on July 8.