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  • My Top 10 Minnesota Twins Starting Pitching Targets

    I've been writing so much about free agency lately, it's sick! Last week, I addressed the position players the Twins should target. This week, I've been counting down my top 30 starting pitching targets for the Twins. If you missed any of this mini-dynasty, I'll provide you some links below. Since I wrote these, things have changed, but most of my ideas aren't super player-specific, more of an overall philosophy.

    Translation: please click the links below so I can feel cool.

    Now that all the shameless self-promotion is clear, we can get back to the starting pitcher countdown. Here are the top ten starting pitching targets for the Twins, in my opinion (which should be obvious because I am writing this):


    10. Scott Feldman

    Nothing sexy about Scott Feldman. This is not an indictment on his looks either, he just doesn't excite me as a pitcher. His walk rates are generally good, his strikeout rates are in the Twins Zone and he's reasonably young. His ground ball rate was great in 2013 and with the Twins' good infield defense, he could be a decent fit. If Feldman is the second or third best starting pitcher the Twins sign, the off-season could be categorized as a success. If he's the crown jewel of the 2013 off-season? Yawn.


    9. Bronson Arroyo

    HOT RUMOR!! If news reports are to be believed, Bronson Arroyo is somewhere in the Twin Cities area, lurking, waiting to sign a contract with our beloved Twins. Be on the lookout for a man in his late 30s with long hair and likely carrying an acoustic guitar and silly-walking like in Monty Python. Do not approach Arroyo, as he could recede back to Cincinnati if spooked.

    I've already started to talk myself into Arroyo on the Twins, so that pretty much means he won't sign here. I was concerned about his age and lack of strikeouts, but overall, he looks like a pretty valuable pitcher. He's thrown over 2000 innings in the past 10 seasons and he's transformed from a control-enthusiast to a control-specialist. He'll be 37 next season and all pitchers are healthy until they aren't healthy any longer. If he does sign here, I'll be interested in the contract he receives. Anything more than two years or more than $10 million per season will elevate my levels. Stay below those thresholds and I'll be chill.

    According to Baseball Reference, his nickname is Saturn Nuts. I'm sensing a love-hate relationship starting here. If he even sings once, I want his contract voided.

    Originally posted at Kevin Slowey was Framed!


    8. Ervin Santana

    Not a huge fan. He throws hard but that doesn't translate to strikeouts, so what's the point? His career strikeout rate is lower than Scott Baker's. It's only slightly higher than Kevin Slowey's. Santana is also prone to wildness and home runs. He's averaged over 200 innings the past four seasons, so he certainly has value. He's a good pitcher, I'll say that. He's reportedly looking for 5 years and over $100 million. That's crazy. Fans can harp on the Twins for being cheap all they want, but signing Santana to a contract that averages over $20 million per year is irresponsible. I'd rather my team be cheap than crazy.

    7. Scott Kazmir

    Kazmir will be only 30 next year. That's insane. I remember being jealous of my friend Brad because he had Kazmir on his fantasy team. That was in 2005. I've been jealous for 9 years now. After completely falling apart in 2010-2011 and then missing all of 2012, Kazmir rebounded really nicely in 2013. He still throws basically as hard as he ever has and he still has great stuff. His 4.04 ERA in 2013 isn't special, but his 3.36 xFIP shows that he may be a huge upside signing. His 2013 could end up looking like a huge fluke, but I'm not sure that it will. He'd be a lot higher up my list if I could just get one more year to look at him. The Twins won't have that luxury, so if they want him, they need to be bold. I like him, I'd go 3-4 years if needed.

    6. Ubaldo Jimenez

    Is Jimenez consistent? Here are his last 5 xFIPs - 3.59, 3.60, 3.71, 4.98, 3.62. I can explain the 4.98! Strikeout rate dipped, walk rate spiked, strand rate dipped, ground ball rate plummeted, home run/fly ball rate spiked. There, it all makes sense now. Why did all of those rates change so dramatically in 2012? I'm not sure. His 2013 looks a lot like his 2009, 2010 and 2011. If his 2012 had matched, he'd be looking at a massive payday. Instead, he'll have to settle for a tremendous payday. It's a subtle difference, I agree. I'm not worried about him as a pitcher, but he's far too rich for the thrifty Twins, so he rates a bit lower than others.

    5. A.J. Burnett

    Burnett would probably be number 1 on my list if there was any chance that he would actually sign here. His combination of high ground ball rate and good strikeout rate is so enticing. He has also really gotten his control under control (ugh) as he has aged. Of course, none of this matters as Burnett is reportedly unwilling to pitch anywhere that isn't within walking distance of his home in Maryland (exaggeration). Now there are reports that he may retire. Regardless of what he chooses to do, he won't pitch for the Twins in 2014.

    What if the Twins just went insane and offered him 2 years, $36 million? I bet he'd consider that. If things really fall apart and all their targets sign elsewhere, I'm not so sure that wouldn't be a smart offer to make. They have the money, right?

    4. Dan Haren

    We would feel a lot differently about Dan Haren if we called him "Dangerous" Danny Haren like I want us to. That would give him an edge. Instead, he's a fairly boring option. He doesn't throw hard, he's had some recent ups and downs and he isn't really a big name anymore. He is consistent though. His xFIP has been 4 or below since 2005. His ground ball rate has been diminishing and his strikeout rate is dipping (as a trend, it was up a bit last season), but his walk rate is strikingly consistent, and low. His 2012 and 2013 seasons were disappointing, likely as he learned to deal with that diminishing ground ball rate. He seemed to figure it out in the second half of 2013, posting an 3.40 xFIP as his strand rate and BABIPs stabilized. He averaged well over 200 innings from 2005-2011 and he's still just 33. He never really relied on power stuff, so his age is less of a factor. He signed a one year, $13 million dollar deal for last season and a similar deal would be very reasonable for the Twins.

    3. Ricky Nolasco

    You know how some pitchers outperform their peripheral stats? Nolasco consistently underperforms relative to his peripherals. His walk rates have always been excellent and his strikeout rates were consistently good until they weren't any more. His career 3.52 K/BB ratio is just fantastic! His career 4.37 ERA is not. His career xFIP of 3.75 is good! His dipping K rate is bad. He's a yoyo. He's averaged nearly 200 innings in his last three seasons and he is coming off his best season ever in 2013. He'll be 31 next year and should be looking to cash in. For a reasonable contract, I'd be interested. I worry his contract offers will exceed "reasonable." Oh, he's a slider enthusiast, and I'm not so sure we like that 'round these parts.

    2. Josh Johnson

    OH HOT DAMN A LOCAL BOY! Johnson was atrocious last season, his first with Toronto. Perhaps he didn't get used to drinking maple syrup every day? If you look closely, there are easy ways to explain away his poor performance. First, his strand rate was extremely low - 63.3% compared to his career rate of 74.2%. Second, his BABIP was .356, an astronomical number even if you don't believe in BABIP. Third, his home run to fly ball rate was 18.5%, over twice has high as his 8.2% career value. Add all those misfortunes together and you get a 6.20 ERA but a 3.58 xFIP. He'll be just 30 next season and won an ERA title only four short seasons ago.

    "BUY LOW," shouted the man. The Twins should offer one year and $whateverittakes million to get Johnson. If it takes two years, go for it. Three years? Yeah, maybe. 18 years? Don't be stupid.

    1. Matt Garza

    I've written this before, but Garza's debut is one of my fondest memories of recent Twins past. He was just such a delightful spaz that evening. I enjoyed his competitive personality and while he may legitimately have a screw loose, he is a solid pitcher. His 2013 was rocky, but he was coming off of a couple legit injuries.

    In 2011 and 2012, he looked like a budding ace. He had great strikeout rates, improved control and a suddenly solid ground ball rate. His ground ball rate plummeted last season, but his line drive rate jumped far beyond his career norm. I imagine those rates will even out. With a relatively stable strikeout rate, and ever-improving walk rate and no real noticeable loss of velocity, Garza would be an excellent target for his age 30-34 seasons. A five-year deal seems more than reasonable and I'd pay him big money.

    Would the Twins do it? Would they bring back someone they once jettisoned for Delmon Young? I have no idea. I Googled "Matt Garza Twins hate" and found nothing. It seems the waters are clear. Garza isn't an "ace" but he's a very good pitcher and would anchor this rotation. Projections seem to fall in the 4 years, $60 million range for Garza. The Twins might need to exceed that. Personally, I'd go 5 and 80 and hope he wants to come back. That's a lot of money. Deep breath.

    Special Note: Masahiro Tanaka. I learned long ago to stick to what I know and I know nothing of Japanese baseball. If he's as good as advertised, he'd be number 3 on this list. Since I can't speak of him with any authority or come up with any "jokes" about him, I'll just leave him here.

    So there we are. Tons of free agents rated and reviewed for your reading pleasure. Who will the Twins actually sign? I have no clue. I hope they are shockingly active. I'd love to see Garza, Johnson and Arroyo on this team next year. How wild would that be? Terry Ryan shows up at Spring Training with an earring. He starts calling everyone "playa." Constant Finger Guns. It would be amazing. Make it happen, TR.
    This article was originally published in blog: My Top 10 Minnesota Twins Starting Pitching Targets started by Brad Swanson
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      I'd be pretty happy with any of these guys and hope the Twins add two of them. I'd add Phil Hughes to this list and mention that I'm a lot more wary of Kazmir than most people seem to be. Yes, he has a nice krate but his bWAR, IP, ERA+ were all lower than Correia's last year. I'm not sure I trust FIP and fangraphs WAR over b-r right now.

      It'd be interesting to see if the Twins would add two bigger names - say Garza and Jimenez to grow with Gibson, Meyer, May and Worley.
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      Delightful!
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      I had Hughes 11th on my list, as I have major concerns with the fact that he hasn't ever had a good season as a starter. I really hope the Twins do add two guys from this list. I think that act would energize the team and the fans, while obviously improving the team in the short and hopefully long-term.
    1. Smcginnity's Avatar
      Smcginnity -
      Brad - your writing cracks me up. I'm assuming you are referencing Heideman in your fantasy statement.

      There seems to be a lot of 'decent/cheap/better than what we currently have' type pitchers available on the market this year. And, really, we only have Correia and maybe Gibson as for sure starters next year. So, personally, I think you go and get at least three, maybe four starters and hope they do well enough to flip them at the trade deadline. Arroyo, Josh Johnson, Johan, and Hammel would be my preference. In all, that would probably cost the team 30 millionish. Then you have backup options in Deduno, Albers, Diamond, Hermson, May, Worley, Meyer, etc.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Nice article. You really sold me on some of these guys especially Ubaldo

      My 2014 preferred rotation

      Ubaldo Jiminez - You sold me on him
      Josh Johnson/Kazmir -
      Homer Bailey - trade anyone but Buxton/Meyer/Sano to get him and extend
      Kyle Gibson
      Correia

      This is a rotation could vault us back into the conversation. With our prospects coming up on the offensive side and Meyer we could be set up to contend for a wild card (best case scenario) and definitely be setting ourselves up for a nice 2015 team.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I like this list. I'd prioritize in reverse order. Realistically, if we can sign Arroyo and Kazmir, I'd be ecstatic.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      I'm a Hughes fan. His extreme fly-ball tendencies will play much better at Target Field than NYC and I feel like we'd be buying low on him. He misses enough bats to be a plus starter. I like him better than Arroyo (whose age, lack of Ks, and National League pedigree scare me) or Jimenez (whose peripherals and velocity keep sliding and has a bumpy track record. plus, what if he's actually even older than we think he is? Again?!?).
    1. markos's Avatar
      markos -
      Good list. I'm lower than you on Haren and Kazmir, but other than that I think it is a good list. And I agree with the everyone else that I hope the Twins sign two from this list. That would be a successful offseason.
    1. Smcginnity's Avatar
      Smcginnity -
      Actually, I revise my prior list. I say we get at least Johan, Arroyo and Kazmir. If possible, add another flyer guy like Josh Johnson, Hammel, Feldman, or Bruce Chen.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Good list, I am higher on Kazmir and lower on Jimmenez and Haren(do not want) and also Hughes.
    1. bphat1's Avatar
      bphat1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I like this list. I'd prioritize in reverse order. Realistically, if we can sign Arroyo and Kazmir, I'd be ecstatic.

      I could not agree more! These are the two guys that I not only want, but think is most realistic for our Twin. Why are people not including Deduno in their "rotation I'd like to see for next year?" I love Deduno as a #5 starter. Personally, I'd love to see the following:

      Arroyo
      Kazmir
      Gibson
      Correia
      Deduno

      With Meyer coming up maybe late in the year to take the place of whoever is doing the worst of Gibson/Correia. I'm not sold on Gibson after watching him last year but am hoping the "2nd year after TJ surgery" success some guys have had applies to him. What I'm worried about seeing from the Twins is the following.

      Arroyo
      Pelfrey
      Gibson
      Correia
      Diamond/Deduno

      This would make me cry. Literally. And I'm seriously concerned about this being a real possibility.
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      Good list, great writing!

      I'm warming to the idea of Arroyo so long as he is the #2 signing to compliment a #1 SO king/ flame-throwa/young gun w/upside. Sounds like Kazmir- I'll have to look into hi in more detail.

      Arroyo could be a good influence on guys like Albers, otherwise flag down Jamie Moyer's RV and park him at Target Field for the summer to mentor our soft-throwers and show 'em how it's done. NL pedigree is not a red flag, but a plus- advantage P when switching leagues. Agree that Deduno has upside if he can control it/find a mentor. Albers has upside, too, with the right coaching.

      Johan should not be a part of this conversation- 2 (!) capsule ops? Ok, if it's a short, all-incentives, prove-it deal, fine. Reunion-wise, Garza gets the nod.

      The point (halfchest) about hanging on to our prospects is right on target. For once, Twins have cash & an owner willing to spend (+ the $25m TV money), so use it. Let's get ready for Sano & Buxton now. Overpaying is likely to be the norm this off-season, but we can afford "reasonable overpay" if the deal is right (a la #2 Johnson).

      CBS has a story confirming Twins are looking for 2 vets; seeing the name Zito on this list scares the willies out of me. Makes the prospect of the Singing Saturn Nut seem tame by comparison.

      If anyone can explain the addiction to pitch-to-contact Ps when we have a pitcher-friendly park + a glut of good-D OFs (and gaping holes at SS & 3B) then I would be most enlightened.

      http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-...-for-the-twins
    1. strumdatjag's Avatar
      strumdatjag -
      Mike Pelfrey says he wants to be here, and his numbers were not that great last season to worry about a lot of bidders (any second year after Tommy John optimism will be muted). Boros is only a big problem if he has other bidders. My prediction: Mike will end out back here on a two year deal and put up mediocre numbers (an improvement from last year's uneven performance).
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Yes, bring back Garza. With Bartlett at short, it would be just like we never traded them. Add in free-agent Johan Santana, and we can really be the Twins of old...especially if we also bring back A.J. New slogan "The Twins You Missed Are Back!"

      Another interesting body would also be Scott Baker, who by spring should be in much better shape than ANYTIME LAST YEAR.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Smcginnity View Post
      Brad - your writing cracks me up. I'm assuming you are referencing Heideman in your fantasy statement.

      There seems to be a lot of 'decent/cheap/better than what we currently have' type pitchers available on the market this year. And, really, we only have Correia and maybe Gibson as for sure starters next year. So, personally, I think you go and get at least three, maybe four starters and hope they do well enough to flip them at the trade deadline. Arroyo, Josh Johnson, Johan, and Hammel would be my preference. In all, that would probably cost the team 30 millionish. Then you have backup options in Deduno, Albers, Diamond, Hermson, May, Worley, Meyer, etc.
      Thanks! You got it; Brad is always hoarding players in fantasy sports.

      I completely agree too. The names are fairly interchangeable, but more is better, especially if they don't break the bank on a big name like Garza or Jimenez.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Yeah I'd add Baker to this too. I still think he can turn things around.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      I had Baker 16, but he was below guys like Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda who have a 0% chance of actually signing here. I like Baker; huge rump.
    1. Let It Sano's Avatar
      Let It Sano -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      Yes, bring back Garza. With Bartlett at short, it would be just like we never traded them. Add in free-agent Johan Santana, and we can really be the Twins of old...especially if we also bring back A.J. New slogan "The Twins You Missed Are Back!"
      Too bad they missed out on Punto.
    1. Wille's Avatar
      Wille -
      My #1 priority would be to sign Josh Johnson to a 1-year deal ($14-16 million?). Twins will probably have to go above market to sign anyone that's modestly desirable. I think he's the only one that has delivered exceptional results in the past, has the ability to anchor a rotation for a winning team, isn't too old, and won't require a multiple year commitment. If things work out well, extend a qualifying offer and/or try to extend him (he might be intrigued by the talent coming up toward the end of 2014). If he fails, at least we tried to materially improve and we can move on in 2015.

      Next, I'd target Scott Kazmir (2-years for $25 million or even 3-years and $36 million). We really need a lefty in that rotation, he's relatively young, his stuff looks good, and he's reasonably affordable.

      If unsuccessful with either of them, I'd focus on short-term deals with either Dan Haren or Scott Baker, or a mid-length deal for Phil Hughes.

      By no later than July, I think our rotation would be:
      - Johnson
      - Meyer (I actually think he should be in the rotation out of spring training)
      - Kazmir
      - 2 of Gibson/Correia/Deduno/May/Diamond/Worley

      I'd love to add AJ's grit, durability, leadership and performance, and I'd be happy to give him 1-year and $10 million, if that'd get him back to Minny.

      Finally, I'd shoot to add Boone Logan to the pen for 3 years and $12 million, and then dump Duensing (net cost of roster upgrade ~$2 million?). Might be hard to get him for that, but I can't see paying him more than Perkins makes.

      Something like $40-42 million for 2014, but not much committed beyond that. Would be rather refreshing to see the Twins at least attempt to field a winning team. They certainly have room to spend that much or more.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      +1,213 for "Contant Finger Guns"
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