Looking at historical timelines for recovery from the notorious procedure, Pelfrey's initial struggles were to be expected. But his improvement since the start of June has been stark. Don't take my word for it; check out the numbers side-by-side:
|April and May||June and July|
The contrast is remarkable. In April and May, Pelfrey was a hittable mess, almost incapable of getting through six innings. Since then, however, he's been extremely solid, completing six or more innings in all but one start (in which he went 5 2/3) and consistently giving his team a good chance to win. It seems safe to say that he's gotten over the hump.
Unfortunately, the turnaround may have come too late to help the Twins. My expectation from the beginning was that Pelfrey would start slow and improve in the latter part of the season, but as a player on a one-year contract with a non-competitive team (in other words, a trade candidate), that's a problem because potential trade partners will assess his value based on his performance in the first half.
Pelfrey is almost certainly among the commodities Terry Ryan is shopping with the deadline rapidly approaching, but will other teams focus on his steady performance these past couple months or his numbers for the season as a whole, like an ERA that ranks as the sixth-worst in the majors, or a strikeout rate that is fourth-worst?
Because he missed time with an injury in late June, Pelfrey hasn't had quite enough time to rebuild his value and now he'll have just one more start before next Wednesday's trade deadline. It would seem that the market for him might not be especially hot, and for his part, Pelf says he would be "crushed" if he were to be dealt.
So what's the alternative? Let him continue taking the mound every fifth day in August and September and then use his improved second half as grounds to score a healthy contract in free agency?
Or should the Twins take a proactive approach and look to lock the veteran up with a contract extension before season's end?
Back in May, that notion would have been laughable, but Pelfrey has undeniably been a high-quality fixture over the past two months and, in light of his circumstances, it's not hard to believe his transformation has been legitimate. He's still only 29 years old, and while he was by no means a dominant pitcher in New York prior to the elbow injury, he was a workhorse who occasionally produced stellar seasons.
The Twins are trying to rebuild around youth, but the disheartening developments this year for Scott Diamond and Vance Worley have cast serious doubt on Minnesota's ability to piece together a workable rotation configured with internal parts. We all know the likelihood of Ryan fishing for impact arms in free agency.
Of course, Pelfrey might be eager to play out the rest of the year and test the market, since he's never really had a chance to do so (last year was his first foray into free agency and obviously he had much going against him). Then again, if his numerous quotes about enjoying his time in Minnesota and really wanting to stay are to be believed, the righty might be open to agreeable terms.
With the way the free agent pitching market has spiraled out of control in recent years, and with the uncertainty surrounding young hurlers that the Twins hoped might figure into their 2013 rotation (Diamond, Worley, Alex Meyer, Trevor May), if Pelfrey can be signed for anything resembling a discount, Ryan would probably be crazy not to do it.