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  • State of the Starting Corps

    Through free agent signings and trades, the Twins have added three names to their 2013 starting pitching mix, along with a couple prospects who can help down the line.

    As we assess the progress of this rebuilding unit, can we say with assurance that the three MLB pitchers they've added Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are significantly better than the three that just exited as free agents Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Scott Baker? I don't know that we can, and that is troubling.

    Here's a look at how the best-case starting five would shake out if everything stayed the same:

    1. Scott Diamond
    2. Vance Worley
    3. Kevin Correia
    4. Mike Pelfrey
    5. Kyle Gibson

    It's got the makings of a below-average rotation, with a chance to be respectable but a greater chance to blow up, especially with flimsy defensive support. Keep in mind that the last two on the list won't necessarily be ready to pitch in the majors right off the bat.

    Behind these five names, the depth chart is an assortment of major question marks, including Liam Hendriks, Nick Blackburn, Sam Deduno, Cole De Vries and Brian Duensing. It was quite clear last year that none of those players had what it took to start in the majors, so it'd be somewhat surprising if any (save for perhaps Hendriks) suddenly turned a corner and became an adequate piece.

    Long story short, the Twins' immediate starting pitching outlook remains dreary. At this point, the addition of even one established quality starter would go a long way toward improving the unit's overall chances at staying afloat next season, but it's unclear Terry Ryan intends to do that.

    As things stand, it's impossible for me to believe he could look at his current group and feel confident that they're likely to perform a whole lot better than last year's.
    This article was originally published in blog: State of the Starting Corps started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 202 Comments
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      On paper, last year's rotation at this time was far superior. We didn't know Baker and Pavano would have arm issues and we liked to think that Liriano was going to perform well as he usually did in even numbered years. Last year we were complaining because the Twins wasted money on Jason Marquis as the FIFTH starter. This year we are complaining because the Twins signed Kevin Correia, an equally poor pitcher, to be the THIRD starter.

      It wasn't until April that it became clear that the rotation was a mess. There is still plenty of time for Worley to go under the knife and for Diamond to drastically regress.
      Agree. The Twins rotation looked a lot better last winter than it does today.

      It seems a bit, uh, optimistic to be pointing out the injuries to last years rotation while simultaneously saying one pitcher 11 months removed from TJS and another coming off late season elbow surgery are locks to improve this years team.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      I don't think the Pohlads are cheap anymore. I think Ryan is just trying to prove to everyone that he can get the most out of a $. I like the trades, but not the FA pitching adds. I just want to see TR sign at least one decent FA pitcher. Why throw $4 or $5 mil at bottom of the rotation guys when we have a ton of guys that are already under team control to fill that 5 spot? Instead sign one or two quality guys (between $10-$15 mil per year).
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      On paper, last year's rotation at this time was far superior. We didn't know Baker and Pavano would have arm issues and we liked to think that Liriano was going to perform well as he usually did in even numbered years. Last year we were complaining because the Twins wasted money on Jason Marquis as the FIFTH starter. This year we are complaining because the Twins signed Kevin Correia, an equally poor pitcher, to be the THIRD starter.

      It wasn't until April that it became clear that the rotation was a mess. There is still plenty of time for Worley to go under the knife and for Diamond to drastically regress.
      Are you kidding? Who thought our rotation was anything but junk going into the 2012 season? We had the 26th ranked rotation in the majors in 2011 and added Marquis. It was a disaster way before April
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zodiac View Post
      Nice write up Nick.

      Smoke and Mirrors. I have been a Twins fan for a quarter of a century. We got our stadium. We were told revenue would increase to stay in the fold of the upper echelon of baseball teams. Except for the opening season at Target Field, I have not seen much of anything.
      What you heard was not what was said. The team representatives pushed hard for a stadium with the message that they couldn't currently afford to retain their best players and they didn't project to be able to stay competitive in the future. The future is here. The Target Field revenue afforded them the ability to retain Mauer and Morneau on a contracts that wouldn't have happened if they were still in the 'Dome and it gave them the ability to replace Kubel and Cuddyer with comparable free agents. Pavano got signed for more than he was worth. Cuddyer's $10.5million option was picked up for 2011. The team was able to be proactive by signing Span and Blackburn to longer contracts than they might have with 'Dome money. You can make great arguments about the wisdom of their spending, but they have spent when they thought it was advantageous.

      Some fans seem to forget that much of the new stadium money ($264 million of it) was committed to Mauer and Morneau before the stadium arrived. That is the level of commitment that was promised. If you want to imagine they planned to spend in the "Upper echelon," feel free to imagine that and continue to be disappointed.

      At this point, the team needs to make smart moves, not spend for the sake of spending. The Corriea signing looks to me like spending for the sake spending. Right now, no one is getting a starting pitcher for a bargain on the free agent market. Wasting money will compound the problem and you can't just spend your way out of a bad spot in this market.

      My hope as a fan is to see some young players take steps forward. A good year from Hendriks and a good 1/2 year from Gibson could have a very positive impact. If Diamond can avoid a dramatic regression and a couple of the AAAA names are able to contribute again, I'll have more faith in them. Deduno strikes me as a legitimate x-factor. His knuckleball-of-a-fastball is an exciting pitch. I'm not saying there's a good chance he has RA Dickey success in his future, but I'm saying I still want to watch the game when he's pitching. Which name that isn't on our radar will surprise us? Nobody thought Scott Diamond had any chance of emerging like he did last year.

      The arms in the minors will be interesting too. The team hasn't had many high-quality arms on the way in recent years to keep an eye on. Maybe Wimmers-in-2013 will look a little like Gibson-in-2012. Maybe Meyer and May and Berrios will dominate and climb the ladder fast. Maybe no one will undergo Tommy John! Maybe I'm dreaming. Probably.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Due respect Jim, but Pavano wasn't "the big FA signing" at this point a year ago.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Does not look pretty right now. You tend to get what you pay for.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      You're correct, Chief. I stand corrected... it was a year earlier that the Twins re-signed Pavano. I guess there were NO rotation FAs signed at this point last year.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I would rather Hendriks was in the majors all year, to see what he is or is not.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Are you kidding? Who thought our rotation was anything but junk going into the 2012 season? We had the 26th ranked rotation in the majors in 2011 and added Marquis. It was a disaster way before April
      Nobody thought the Twins rotation in Dec 2011 was very good.

      That is not the same thing as saying the potential Twins rotation in Dec 2011 looked better than the potential Twins rotation in Dec 2012.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Going into last season the rotation looked ok, but when your two best starters don't pitch the whole year its going to be a tough year. Add in the ineffectiveness of Blackburn and Liriano and its not surprising the team struggled. The rotation to start the year is clearly better, even with Correia. Correia, despite his inadequacies, is a known commodity. He will be below average. The other options the Twins have (which pitched way too many of the innings last season) are terrible. This team will be better than last year and wont lose 90 games again. I see them being a little under 500. The pessimism on this site right now is alarming.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      You're correct, Chief. I stand corrected... it was a year earlier that the Twins re-signed Pavano. I guess there were NO rotation FAs signed at this point last year.
      They perused Buerhle for 2012. What other free agent that was obtainable (ie no Cliff Lee) would have you gone for and what was their 2012 result?
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Nobody thought the Twins rotation in Dec 2011 was very good.

      That is not the same thing as saying the potential Twins rotation in Dec 2011 looked better than the potential Twins rotation in Dec 2012.
      His words were 'far superior', not 'looked better'.
    1. SgtSchmidt11's Avatar
      SgtSchmidt11 -
      @ Top Gun. Even if Joe Benson is a total flop offensively, the guy has a great glove. Hicks will take over CF at some point (hopefully succeed) and Arcia will be in RF by the time we trade either Morneau or Willingham (remember the Beltran trade? I think the Twins could get that for either come deadline if they are hot). Defensively the outfield will look better by the trade deadline. Honestly I want to see Benson starting in CF as a do or die type test. He's become irrelevant quickly but should be given a chance in the six weeks it will take to bring up Hicks (for the extra year of TC).
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Are you kidding? Who thought our rotation was anything but junk going into the 2012 season? We had the 26th ranked rotation in the majors in 2011 and added Marquis. It was a disaster way before April
      No one liked the rotation heading into last year, never did I say the 2012 rotation at this point was a quality one. I simply said it was superior to the one we see now.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Why is the "on paper" discussion even happening? Last year occurred and we can predict how this rotation compares to what actually happened last year. Even if Diamond regresses some (hard to imagine a "dramatic" regression), a full season of him is going to be better than last year. Some people are really under-valuing Worley, who is similar to Scott Baker. Hendriks is bound to be significantly improved as well. After that, it is pretty cloudy yes, but I think they actually have 5th starters now. That was not true for two months last year.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      His words were 'far superior', not 'looked better'.
      Right, which part of that is incorrect? Chris Herrmann is far superior of Drew Buetera, it still doesn't mean he's any good.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      What I see are a number of posters trying to convince us (and possibly themselves) that this rotation won't be "that bad". Well, guess what? Before the Baker need for TJ surgery last year, many people thought that rotation wouldn't be "that bad" -- there were even some who predicted that the improvements to the Twins hitting might be good enough to put them in the playoffs (MLB Predictions 2012: Why the Minnesota Twins Can Make the Playoffs | Bleacher Report)

      Well, I'm not going to drink the Kool-Aid again. Sure, there's a possibility that this rotation will be better than last year (and heaven knows, given how many minor leaguers the Twins had to bring up to start last season, it SHOULD be better) but even if it is better, how MUCH better?

      Enough to account for the losses of Span and Revere? I have no problem with those trades -- I'm in favor of a complete rebuild -- but HOW does ANYTHING that Ryan did this off-season with a fair amount of money available to him significantly improve this team for 2013 OR for the future.

      His purchases in the free agent market aren't likely to be anything that can be turned into something better in the future nor do they do much for this year. AND he has seemingly left a pool of money on the table (at least thus far) that might have allowed him to purchase something better (even if it was a position player or two rather than a pitcher).

      Terry Ryan did okay with the trades but his penurious ways in the free agent market continue to be frustrating. This team may talk about the 50+% rule when they are using it as a "cap" -- but c'mon Mr. St. Peter, let's hear you talking about it now that Mr. Ryan seems to be ignoring it when putting in a floor. He still has several weeks to redeem himself but as of right now, Mr. Ryan gets a great big D or F when it comes to free agent acquisitions.
    1. Big City's Avatar
      Big City -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      The pessimism on this site right now is alarming.
      Agreed, and it's articles like this that unnecessarily spurn negativity. The writer failed to mention that TR was quoted to still be looking to add starting pitching and the writer also tried to compare the current rotation to last year’s opening day rotation as if currently we're worse off. Oh wait, he listed Scott Baker but Bake was destined for Tommy John surgery before opening day. This article could have more easily been written looking at things glass half-full and would have been closer to the truth. TR will sign another starting pitcher, he's already added 3 new starting pitchers to the current rotation, and he's added 2 top of the rotation prospects without trading away the middle of our lineup. I'd say the state of the pitching rotation looks pretty darn good considering it's only December 19th.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      You hope your rotation (top four pitchers) can get you 50 wins at least. Ideal would be 65-70 from all five! That means they pitch into at least the 6th holding a lead.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Baker & Liriano are more talented than any of the new 4 pitchers, save Gibson perhaps. But injuries and inconsistency made them bad options last season. As correctly noted, Baker didn't throw a single regular season pitch last year. Marquis was abysmal. Pavano was declining, injured, and terrible. Liriano was inconsistent and overall bad.

      If Worley, Correia, and Pelfrey are all healthy throughout the season the performance of the pitching staff will probably improve. Correia's my least favorite signing of the off-season, and even he should put up better numbers than the combination of Nick Blackburn/Carl Pavano did last season in 30 starts. Worley should give the team better numbers than the combo platter of Liriano/Walters over 33 starts. Pelfrey could do better than the 27 starts we got from Hedriks/Duensing and shouldn't do worse.

      The problem is, we're talking about marginal improvements. I actually have pretty high hopes for Gibson, but I also expect his innings to be limited and lessen his impact this season. But getting the starting pitching from abysmal to competent could have a pretty big impact. If the new starters can get through the early innings without putting the team in a big hole, maybe that's a big enough step up to show improvement. The bullpen should still be very solid, especially with Duensing there and not messing around with him as a starter.

      The other advantage I see is we're not counting on Walters, Hendriks, Blackburn, Deduno, and De Vries to fill 2-3 spots in the rotation. We'll be looking at that group to fill maybe 1 slot and/or be ready to go if someone else falters/gets injured. (I want Gibson in the 5th slot even at the start of the season, that way he can get skipped a few times over the course of the season to monitor his innings yet still be stretched out over a full season)
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