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  • Naming Names: Three Starting Pitchers The Twins Should Target

    It is not a secret: the Minnesota Twins biggest problem the last few woeful seasons has been the lack of a reliable rotation. While a lot of fans are looking at 2015 or 2016, when Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton "come of age", as the potential contending point for the Twins, the dirty secret is that there are not, other than Alex Meyer and potentially Kyle Gibson, any sure bets for top of the rotation pitchers in the system above A-level, which almost certainly would guarantee mediocrity at best through the middle of this decade.

    This offseason, the Twins have an opportunity to remedy this via free agency and be competitive in 2014. In order to do so, the Twins need to sign at least three pitchers better than Kevin Correia, who is in his last contract year and who can be a place holder for Alex Meyer and Kyle Gibson.

    Who should those three new pitchers be? What would it take to sign them? Remember, we are looking not only for 2014, but we are looking beyond. And we are looking for numbers one, two and three in the Twins' rotation, allowing Gibson to be number four and Correia number five. This would result in a competitive rotation. Potentially one of these positions could come internally: Alex Meyer might be one out of spring training; I have not given up on Vance Worley because of an awful injury-, out-of-shapeness and (BABIP-induced) bad luck, age 25 season. And nobody knows whether Samuel Deduno will take the next step.

    Originally posted at The Tenth Inning Stretch

    What characteristics should those free agents should have?

    If you look at the measurable characteristics the top pitchers have, two jump out right away, and these 2 happen to be the exact ones the Twins' rotation has been lacking:

    a. Hard throwing. The average Fastball velocity in MLB is 92 mph, including relievers.
    b. Missing bats. Average K/9 is around 7 in the majors, so we are looking for top of the rotation players with K/9 above 8.

    Since PitchF/X was introduced allowing the measurement of pitch velocities, only two Minnesota Twins starting pitchers,, both left-handed, satisfied both these criteria: Johan Santana (2004, 2005, 2006) and Fransisco Liriano (2005, 2006, 2010).

    And because of the long-term vision (we are looking for players who can get 3+1 or 4+1 contacts and would be with the team for the biggest part of the decade after Sano and Buxton come of age) the Twins need to look at pitchers who would at most be 31 years old in 2014, so they do not pay for a pitcher's declining seasons. One can argue that an older pitcher could be signed to a one or two-year contract as a place holder for someone like Kohl Stewart. This is a valid argument but at this point it does not guarantee competitiveness, since Stewart is not a sure bet now.

    Here are the 3 criteria (all measurable) the Twins should look for in a free agent:

    a. Average FB velocity >= 92 mph
    b. K/9 >= 8
    c. Age in 2014 season =< 31

    Here is a list of all 2014 free agent starting pitchers, from MLB trade rumors, alphabetically and with 2014 season ages in parenthesis:

    Alfredo Aceves (31)
    Bronson Arroyo (37)
    Scott Baker (32)
    Erik Bedard (35)
    Travis Blackley (31)
    A.J. Burnett (37)
    Chris Capuano (35)
    Chris Carpenter (39)
    Bruce Chen (37)
    Bartolo Colon (41)
    Scott Feldman (30)
    Gavin Floyd (31)
    Jeff Francis (33)
    Freddy Garcia (37)
    Jon Garland (34)
    Matt Garza (30)
    Chad Gaudin (31)
    Roy Halladay (37)
    Jason Hammel (31)
    Aaron Harang (36)
    Dan Haren (33)
    Roberto Hernandez (33)
    Tim Hudson (38)
    Phil Hughes (28)
    Ubaldo Jimenez (30)
    Josh Johnson (30)
    Jair Jurrjens (28)
    Jeff Karstens (31)
    Scott Kazmir (30)
    Hiroki Kuroda (39)
    John Lannan (29)
    Wade LeBlanc (29)
    Jon Lester (30)
    Colby Lewis (34)
    Ted Lilly (38)
    Paul Maholm (32)
    Shaun Marcum (32)
    Jason Marquis (35)
    Daisuke Matsuzaka (33)
    James McDonald (29)
    Randy Messenger (32)
    Ricky Nolasco (31)
    Sean O'Sullivan (26)
    Roy Oswalt (35)
    Mike Pelfrey (30)
    Greg Reynolds (28)
    Clayton Richard (30)
    Ervin Santana (31)
    Johan Santana (34)
    Joe Saunders (33)
    Kevin Slowey (30)
    Masahiro Tanaka (25)
    Jason Vargas (31)
    Ryan Vogelsong (36)

    We trim the list by age and list K/9 and average FB velocity for both 2012 and 2013. Then we disqualify pitchers who (because we are looking mostly for "sure bets") are projects and bargains and who might be a fit for one of these positions, but are out of the scope of this exercise. These pitchers:

    a. pitched less than 50 innings due to injury in 2013
    b. pitched mostly in the pen in 2013
    c. pitched mostly in minor or foreign leagues in 2013

    We have this list, with K/9 and FB velocity fitting the criteria indicated in green, in yellow if it fitting when rounded up):


    The "A" list (at least two pitchers should be from this list) :

    Matt Garza, RHP, 30. Difficult to see a Garza reunion with Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson still on the Twins' staff. Documented personality conflicts when with the Twins

    Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 30. Received a qualifying offer, which means the Twins would have to surrender their second round pick to sign him. Price will be high because of monster second half.

    Josh Johnson, RHP, 30. No qualifying offers. Health and performance consideration (if one looks at W-L and ERA, but solid xFIP and peripherals) will drop the price

    Scott Kazmir, LHP, 30. The only lefty in the list. No qualifying offer. Great year suggests that recovered from injury nicely

    Edinson Volquez, RHP, 30 . No qualifying offer. Very quietly made it to the list. A sleeper, potentially low cost signing

    The "B" list (potentially one pitcher should be from this list, but there are questions) :

    Phil Hughes (28) He is intriguing; close with the K/9. Still in early prime. Can be the one from this group to target

    Jon Lester (30) Will likely stay with the Red Sox. Expensive. Lots of people think of him as an "A list" pitcher but is not.

    Mike Pelfrey (30) Interesting to see him in the list, but his K/9 is not in the ball park. Can he get his K/9 up? Great fit in the Twins' club house. Should the Twins take another flier with Pelfrey another year away from TJ surgery?

    Ervin Santana (31) Expensive. Lots of people think of him as an "A list" pitcher but is not. Received a qualifying offer. Stay away for the money. More expensive that all the pitchers in the A list, other than Jimenez.

    The rest:

    Gaudin was a reliever in 2012 when he met the criteria. Nolasco and Vargas are thought to belong in the "A list" potentially. They do not.

    Who are the three starting pitchers the Minnesota Twins should target in 2013 in order to be competitive in 2014 and beyond? They are:

    Josh Johnson
    Scott Kazmir
    Edinson Volquez

    Can they sign all three? The short answer is "yes", but I will examine the Twins' budget in another post...
    This article was originally published in blog: Naming names: The three starting pitchers the Twins should sign in free agency started by Thrylos
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Now I realize why Volquez was so sneaky--it's because he's bad. Fantastic in 2008. Declining ever since.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      I agree that the Twins need to take a chance on not just one, but perhaps two pitchers who will be on the team for 4-5 seasons (again, you can always trade them). Come the 2015 or 2016 season, you can then get that 1-2 year stop gapper. You don't need the 1-2 year stop gapper now, unless you go totally into the trade after a season mode...which is also a gamble (didn't happen with Pavano or Pelfrey). You also need to see if you can get value up for the likes of Worley, Diamond, Deduno and now in 2014 Correia. Frankly, none of those names I pictures being around in 2016.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      I agree that the Twins need to take a chance on not just one, but perhaps two pitchers who will be on the team for 4-5 seasons (again, you can always trade them). Come the 2015 or 2016 season, you can then get that 1-2 year stop gapper. You don't need the 1-2 year stop gapper now, unless you go totally into the trade after a season mode...which is also a gamble (didn't happen with Pavano or Pelfrey). You also need to see if you can get value up for the likes of Worley, Diamond, Deduno and now in 2014 Correia. Frankly, none of those names I pictures being around in 2016.
      I think it's safe to say, the Twins will not be adding 2 starting pitchers with 4-5 year contracts, and even safer to say you can not always trade them. As is, I believe our farm system will take care of our starting pitching needs no later than 2017. I look for us to add several mid-range free agents with 2-3 year contracts. If Ryan pulls a rabbit out of his hat, it will be a trade involving some of our prospects in the 5-15 range.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Now I realize why Volquez was so sneaky--it's because he's bad. Fantastic in 2008. Declining ever since.
      Define "bad". I bet he would had been the Ace for the Twins in 2013.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
      I like the three that you ended up with. I'm not sure about all the love for Phil Hughes at TD. He basically has been Kevin Correia over the last three years only not as durable. If he gets 3 / 33 like some are suggesting is reasonable, then we need to put up a Terry Ryan statue for signing Correia for 2/12.
      We're bullish on Hughes because he is a pretty good pitcher when he's not in Yankee Stadium. That stadium punishes guys like Hughes. Looking at his overall stat line doesn't tell the entire story. Get him out of that park and he could easily be the second coming of Scott Baker.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Define "bad". I bet he would had been the Ace for the Twins in 2013.
      He had a 5.71 ERA and the worst of it was in San Diego! He has been *bad* for three years and only had one great season to begin with. A career 83 ERA+ is not a good sign. Maybe for much younger pitchers, but not here. No way.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      He had a 5.71 ERA and the worst of it was in San Diego! He has been *bad* for three years and only had one great season to begin with. A career 83 ERA+ is not a good sign. Maybe for much younger pitchers, but not here. No way.

      ERA? Really?
    1. TopGunn#22's Avatar
      TopGunn#22 -
      Thrylos...Great article. This is why we go to Twins Daily, to read a well thought out, well written piece about our favorite baseball team and how they could become fun to watch again (someday). We can all quibble on the specifics...that's what makes this fun, entertaining and educational. I'm intrigued by the premise that the Twins need to bring in 3 guys, and I agree, that whoever they bring in needs to be viewed as our #1, #2 and possibly #3. Meyer, Deduno, Worley, Gibson etc...give us a lot of options but a lot of unknowns. What we do need to do is improve this sorry SP rotation. The best guy to bring in is Tanaka. He fits all the criteria to a "T" but if the Yanks, Dodgers, Red Sox etc...are going all in on him, we will be out bid. It disappoints me to have to accept that, but that's reality. I agree with those who are bullish on Kazmir. Good grief, the Twins couldn't hit him a lick last year. I agree with those who are high on Hughes. Get him out of Yankee Stadium, we could very well get lucky with that. If we start with Kazmir and Hughes we are already 200% better than last year. Who would be #3. Ubaldo would be a terrific signing but our #2 will be pretty high, that's a negative. If you can get a Josh Johnson or Volquez fairly cheaply and leave yourself a little $$$ to add a bat I would give Terry Ryan an "A" for his off season. Since I'm much more accustomed to giving him D's and F's I'll remain skeptical. The Twins FO and the Pohlad's have to know the Twins have lost 50% of their TV audience in the last 3 years. I'm sure the radio audience is even worse. When that starts happening, attendance is set to tank in the not too distant future. If they don't get their #*#@! together this off season even when they young talent comes up, they might not see the interest in their ballclub come back right away. The clock is ticking...
    1. pierre75275's Avatar
      pierre75275 -
      I think the Twins almost HAVE to sign Kazmir. He won't be expensive...per se...and they need a lefthander in the rotation. Im not sold on either Canadian being able to cut it in a lefthander starting role as much as I hope they do. I also would sign Tanaka. Period.He will be expensive. But he wont cost a draft pick and would still be pitching for the next wave. And we could always flip him for prospects down the road unless he really tanked. I would not sign any other pitchers.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      I didn't claim that strikeouts guarantee positive results but the previous poster discounted them completely. They are however one of the best indicators if only using basic stats. Did any strikeout heavy free agents have a poor year last season?
      If you are referring to the free agents signed after the 2012 season, Jackson, Haren, and many others. If you are referring to the upcoming free agents, Hughes, Volques and others.

      Strikeout rates are fine to look at. But if you are going to spend a lot of money on someone as free agent, I would think you would look at the total picture. ERA, innings pitched, innings per start, BB rate, and probably several other things as well.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      If you are referring to the free agents signed after the 2012 season, Jackson, Haren, and many others. If you are referring to the upcoming free agents, Hughes, Volques and others.

      Strikeout rates are fine to look at. But if you are going to spend a lot of money on someone as free agent, I would think you would look at the total picture. ERA, innings pitched, innings per start, BB rate, and probably several other things as well.
      By saying this you imply that I ask for pitchers who get strikeouts only and could care less about any other factors. I've got a pretty one track mind about the kinds of pitchers this team needs, but I'm not blind to other factors. I want quality pitchers, i just want them to also be able to strike batters out, and this year there are plenty of them.

      Volquez was bad last year, he didn't cross my mind (or most people's). Looking at the other free agents with (reasonably) high strikeout rates, Haren was also uninspiring this past year but I was surprised that he actually finished with an 8.0 K/9, I wouldn't qualify his 7.2 rate from 2012 as a high K rate though. Hughes isn't exactly a strikeout pitcher. He had a 7.5 K/9 last year, that's about league average. Jackson cranked up the strikeouts in 2012 but that seemed to be a mirage as his career K/9 is 6.9. Nearly every other free agent pitcher who could throw it past batters last year was pretty darn good.
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