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  • Twins' Rotation Is Out of Whack

    The Twins entered this season with a wide assortment of "maybes" in their starting pitching mix, hoping that over the course of 162 games a couple would separate themselves from the pack and become established as sturdy options moving forward. In a transitional year where there was never any realistic expectation of winning, this was truly the overriding goal.

    The Twins talked about wanting to play meaningful games in September, they talked about wanting to play better fundamental baseball, they talked about wanting to see improvement from the coaching staff and the training staff. But in the end, all that paled in comparison to the need for some positive movement within their ruined rotation.

    And it didn't happen.

    Most of the starting pitching suspects unraveled. Really there was only one case where a borderline pitcher exceeded expectations and positioned himself as an enticing option for next year; that's Samuel Deduno, who has been shut down after struggling through shoulder pain in August and undergoing an MRI that revealed "some issues with his labrum and rotator cuff." (Those are some ominous words for a pitcher.)

    With the exception of Deduno, no Twins starter has pitched especially well or given any indication that he can be an asset in next year's rotation. And that's a rather disastrous outcome, which serves to hamper the excitement and giddiness we should all be feeling about the upcoming crop of uber-talented position players.

    Along with the mediocre Kevin Correia -- who, in fairness, has performed slightly better than expected -- the Twins will return an unexciting group of starter candidates next year that includes Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Kyle Gibson, Pedro Hernandez, Andrew Albers, Liam Hendriks and Deduno. Those seven pitchers have combined for a 5.25 ERA in the majors this year, and not one of them has a strikeout rate that is even close to the league average.

    Each player has his strengths, and might have a chance to be a useful piece in the big leagues. But none deserves anything more than an invite to spring training at this point, and unlike last year -- where at least Diamond and Worley were coming off solid seasons, and Gibson was looking sharp on the comeback path from surgery -- there are no real positives to sell fans on right now. These pitchers are all wild cards who, based on recent results, seem more likely to struggle than succeed.

    Trying to inspire hope of a turnaround with this group would be unacceptable and inexcusable. I could maybe see the logic in letting these guys compete for one or two spots, with the rest heading to Rochester or moving on, as their production merits. But that leaves an awful lot of uncertainty remaining in the rotation, and as we've seen, it can quite tough to find impact arms to fill those spots. Last offseason, the Twins traded two valuable position players and signed two veteran free agents, and still ended up without anyone that helped them much this year.

    So what to do now? Well, the front office could take an aggressive approach, ramping up spending to pursue a higher class of free agent while making a few of their coveted assets available in the hopes of luring a near-ready pitching prospect or proven MLB starter. This would actually make a lot of sense, considering they have very few payroll commitments and the system is littered with highly regarded hitting prospects.

    The alternative would be to stay the course, sticking with the kind of low-upside moves that have become this organization's signature and praying that a few members of the aforementioned group can rise from the ashes of a dreadful 2013 campaign. The Twins can always point to hope on the horizon, bright young arms like Kohl Stewart, J.O. Berrios and Stephen Gonsalves looking promising, but selling fans on a future built around Single-A pitchers won't be easy.

    In my mind, this is an immensely important offseason for the Twins, and one where the old "business-as-usual" manner of operating will not fly. The storyline entering this winter will be much the same as last year -- pitching, pitching, pitching -- only the pressure will be far greater following a season that has seen too much movement in the wrong direction.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins' Rotation Is Out of Whack started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 92 Comments
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by deanlambrecht View Post
      Those who are freaked about Pelfrey need to consider that this is his first full post-TJ season, and that he came back from recovery earlier than (I'm reasonably sure) any other pitcher previously.

      I'm not saying we should bet the farm on Pelfrey, but he's being discounted too quickly. If we can re-sign him at a reasonable cost he's as good or better a gamble than any of the others in our wreck of a rotation.
      He's a career 4.42 era at age 29. Pitchers don't improve after TJ. Zero upside over 4 other rotation members, so what if the loser TR brings up from AAA is worse, if the guy has any upside it's better than nothing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Seems to me it's not very surprising that you barely get better when you barely upgrade the clear weak link of your team.

      I'd also suggest it will be equally unsurprising if they follow the same pattern again this offseason with similar results next year. Player production ebbs and flows, this season wasn't lost because a few guys took steps back (most of whom were talked about at length as high risk players to do exactly that) - it was lost because we never took getting better seriously.

      If the best you can hope for out of your acquisitions is mediocrity and you see that as a winning strategy, it says a lot for the quality of the product you are augmenting in the first place.
      Amen Brother! 90 losses 3 years in a row should tell you something... It ain't working, try something new!
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sconnie View Post
      He's a career 4.42 era at age 29. Pitchers don't improve after TJ. Zero upside over 4 other rotation members, so what if the loser TR brings up from AAA is worse, if the guy has any upside it's better than nothing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
      Plenty of pitchers have improved after Tommy John surgery, and aside from the guys in AAA, only Gibson has any upside.

      I feel I need to refute those points even though I agree that I don't want Pelfrey back. This team doesn't need any more back-end pitchers like Pelfrey and if they sign one more starter who can't sniff a league average K% Terry Ryan needs to step aside and let a less stubborn and more ingenuitive GM take over.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      There is STILL talk about signing Mike Pelfrey again? This is still occurring?

      Throw money at Ervin Santana. And throw money but 1 year at Lincecum. I would hope to get one of them.

      I am not as pessimistic as so many around here about Gibson. The Twins handled him wrong this year. I, from day one, wrote about how they needed to limit his innings in AAA and give him 100 innings for the Twins. Now they are left with a bad performance and doubts. What? Would people really rather have Mike Pelfrey pitching than Kyle Gibson next year. I would rather have LIAM HENDRIKS pitching than Mike Pelfrey. There is no point in re-signing bad pitchers for millions of bucks.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Here's my take: Probably pretty obvious, but this is a rotation like a lot of others in MLB, but lacking guys at the top. Most teams are searching for guys to fill out their rotations with guys like the Twins have but they have an established couple of arms they know will be there. The Twins need someone to be signed or step up who will be a top of the line starter and if they want to be serious about improving, they need two guys. Sign Hughes, sign another guy (I'd like to see what Pelfrey can do next year) and if it doesn't work, sign two more guys next year. The Twins can be players in free agency and if the position player talent develops like many scouts think it will, they certainly should be players for something more than bargain-basement starters.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If Sanchez gets them to 75 wins, and Sano adds 3 wins over Plouffe, and you sign a legit SP this year, and Gibson isn't awful, you are at 81 wins, with nothing from LF, CF, RF, DH being better. So, ya, getting Sanchez would have gotten this team closer to being good. Waiting for a future that never comes* is not going to work.

      *per Torii and Johan
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I think they will end up with Hughes. I won't be overjoyed, but it will be an improvement. No more Pelfrey. Why would we ever want to see what "he can do" next year when there really are guys much younger who we need to see what they can do so we can get on with our lives . . .
    1. exrugger9's Avatar
      exrugger9 -
      Swarzak deserves a shot next season. I mean, what could it hurt? Provided he stays out of the wrestling ring this winter...
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by exrugger9 View Post
      Swarzak deserves a shot next season. I mean, what could it hurt? Provided he stays out of the wrestling ring this winter...
      Agreed, I'd give him a shot right now, frankly.
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Agreed, I'd give him a shot right now, frankly.
      I would too, but it might be hard for him to move there from long relief unless they are willing to let him come out after 3 innings. It might be better for him to have him come to spring training planning to compete for the rotation.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Asking Doug Pelfrey or KC to round out an already good staff is one thing.
      Signing a washed-up placekicker doesn't seem like a good idea even in football, much less MLB.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Maybe the Twins should just pitch all of those "high-upside" guys from AA and AAA next year?
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