The Twins’ starting rotation was one of the weaknesses of the team in 2009. For the five spots in the 2010 rotation, they currently have these players available:
- … and maybe some crappy fill-in guys from AAA
That last bit was supposed to be kind of funny … except that it followed “Perkins, Liriano, Bonser, and Swarzak,” who just so happen to also be crappy fill-in guys from AAA. I think it’s fair to say that the Twins could use another starter (or two).
Given that the top pitchers on the market invariably get huge deals from desperate teams with lots of money who mistakenly think that pitchers will get better if you pay them more money, I’m going to go ahead and count the Twins out of the Lackey sweepstakes. And I don’t view that as a big problem.
I think we should take a look at some of the free agent possibilities this year. I’ve decided to break the potential candidates down into a few different categories; my opinion on the value of each category differs from the Twins’ organizational opinions … don’t worry, I’ll try to explain.
High upside injury risks
- Ben Sheets
- Rich Harden
- Erik Bedard
- Justin Duchscherer
- Carl Pavano
League average “innings eaters”
- Jon Garland
- Jason Marquis
- Joel Pineiro
Pieces of shit
- Daniel Cabrera
- Brett Myers
- Brad Penny
- Jarrod Washburn
First, I’d like to address the “pieces of shit” part of the market. For one thing, there are a lot of them; I’ve only included a few of the “more interesting” ones here. I’m going to file guys like Sidney Ponson and Adam Eaton in the “I sure hope the Twins know better” file,* and just move on.
* Yes, I know they don’t know better. Just leave it alone. Know this, though: if they do sign somebody idiotic, I’m going to fly off the handle, and it’ll probably be a spectacle. So if you come here hoping to read one of my angry screeds, the Twins just might do something such that you’ll stop being disappointed. I’m just warning you.
Daniel Cabrera used to be a highly touted prospect, and still has a big arm and great stuff. He’s just spent the last 7 years totally collapsing; his ERA+ “peaked” at 96 in 2005-2006, and has been on a fairly steady decline since then. But he still throws a fastball in the mid-90’s with good movement, and should be available for a song. The Twins might even be able to stash him in the minors to start the season. I think it might be worth a shot, to see if anybody in the Twins organization can fix this guy. But since it’s not likely, it’s worth pointing out that he should absolutely not be counted on for anything (except an ERA north of 5).
I’m calling Myers and Penny “pieces of shit” here, when in reality they’re not terrible pitchers. The thing is … Myers beats his wife and gets in bar fights and gets arrested and throws his (superior) teammates under the bus and is generally regarded as a big douchebag. And he’s not that great. The whole package? Kind of a piece of shit … and really not the kind of guy I’d expect the Twins to go after. Penny throws hard and has talent, but at the same time he got shelled in his brief stint in the AL in 2009, and when he was released he basically had the option to go to any team; most players say stuff like “I want a chance to win,” or some other such lip service to what old men like to hear player say. Instead, he said “I don’t want to be in a pennant race because of the pressure, and I don’t want to be in the AL because the hitters are better.” So, in response, I say this to Brad Penny: Fuck off. A contender in the AL, like the Twins, shouldn’t touch this guy with a twelve foot clown pole.
There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about Washburn coming to the Twins; after all, he’s left handed, he’s from Wisconsin, he’d love to play for the Twins, so it’s fucking perfect. Well, here’s the deal, folks:
- He started last season in Seattle, where they had a historically great outfield defense
- He’s a flyball pitcher, and that defense turned a huge percentage of those fly balls into outs
- He got lucky, and gave up the fewest HR/9 in his career (0.7) in that half-season in Seattle
- Because of those three things, he put up a mirage 2.64 ERA in the first half of the year
- He then moved to the Tigers
- He faced better hitters, and there was the pressure of a playoff race (for those of you who care about such things)
- His outfield defense was merely good, as opposed to one of the best ever assembled
- He got less lucky (2.5 HR/9)
- He put up a 7.33 ERA
Now, look. I do think he got unlucky in Detroit, and according to him, he was injured the whole time. (See, he is just like Perkins!) On the other hand, we don’t know how Target Field is going to play — it could be a pitcher’s park, or it could be a band box, we just don’t know. But it wouldn’t be wise to bring in a guy who can only succeed in a cavernous stadium. On the other, larger hand, the Twins’ outfield defense this year doesn’t figure to be very good. Wait, I don’t need to sugar-coat this … the Twins’ outfield defense in 2010 stands to be one of the worst in the league, again. Frankly, Denard Span is not a good defensive CF. Michael Cuddyer is not a good defensive RF. (I think his defensive numbers paint a too-gloomy picture, but that doesn’t mean I’m high on his defense.) Delmon Young is absolutely atrocious out there, one of the worst in the league, capable of turning outs into singles, singles into triples, doubles into home runs … wins into losses. That is not the outfield you want if you’re going to bring in a flyball pitcher. His 7.33 ERA in Detroit … well, with the Twins, he might be lucky to repeat numbers that low. For the Twins, Washburn would be a piece of shit. And an expensive one, at that.
I don’t really want to talk too much about those innings eaters — they’re boring, they’ll fit in fine in the 3/4 spots in the rotation, and they’ll probably get contracts just out of the Twins’ budget, because most teams fill out their rotation with $12M/year veterans rather than $0.4M/year pre-arbitration guys like the Twins do. If they sign one of those guys, good for them, nobody gets fired for bringing in an innings eater to help out the youngsters — it’s just not going to put anyone over the top or anything.
And now that I’ve wasted all my breath talking about what the Twins should not do, we get to the interesting and fun part: the high upside guys!
Sheets and Harden figure to be the most fascinating starters on the market: both of them are more than capable of putting up a +4 win season and being a viable 1/2 starter in a rotation … if they’re healthy. Bedard could do the same, except he’s even less likely to stay healthy, which is saying a lot.
Since Sheets missed all of 2009 and Harden broke down badly towards the end of the season, it’s likely that neither of them will be able to demand big contracts this year, even in a thin free agent market. If the Twins can get their hands on either one of them for a 1-2 year contract in the $8M/year range, it’s a deal they simply have to jump on. More than that, though, and the risk is probably too great. It’s possible that some foolish team lavishes riches on these guys, so you can’t necessarily consider it a failure if the Twins don’t bring them into the fold; but Bill Smith had better be using some rollover minutes talking to their agents.
I put Pavano on the injury risk list, largely because nobody really trusts him to stay healthy on any sort of long contract. That lack of trust may or may not be warranted — but the Twins benefited greatly from Pavano’s work in the second half of 2009, and he apparently really enjoyed pitching for the Twins and would like to come back. That’d be a good idea for the Twins, who don’t have much of a rotation without him. If he’d accept a 2 year deal for $10-15M to stick around, it’d almost certainly be worth it. I don’t know if he would, though: in the three seasons he’s been healthy enough to play, he’s been a 3.4-4.4 win starter, which would be worth over $15M a season. (The risk, of course, is that in the 5 seasons he’s been too injured to play, he’s been a 0.0-0.8 win pitcher, and that’s not someone the Twins can afford to be paying big dollars.)
Pavano doesn’t have the upside of Sheets, Harden, or even Bedard. But he’s probably less of a health concern and the Twins have the inside track to signing him (which is probably not true of the other guys).
I’d say the Twins need one of the high upside guys on this list, and it barely matters which one. I’d stay away from the rest of the market, unless one of the innings eaters comes really, really cheap. And as for the pieces of shit? Well, Terry Ryan is still Smith’s senior advisor, and I’m sure he’s pushing hard for guys like Braden Looper, Vicente Padilla, Eric Milton, and Livan Hernandez. The real test is whether Bill Smith can resist.9 comments