Health Permitting, Pelfrey Could Deliver
by, 12-16-2012 at 10:33 PM (817 Views)
Terry Ryan hasn't exactly sugarcoated his approach to repairing the Twins' woeful pitching staff this offseason. It's about quantity, not quality.
"We've got numbers," the general manager said last week. "It's just a matter of who is going to emerge. Some guys will be injured. Some will fall by the wayside. Some won't be ready. But we have to have numbers."
Ryan is apparently poised to increase that number again, with reports arising over the weekend that he's agreed to terms with right-hander Mike Pelfrey on a one-year deal. The 28-year-old has pitched in the Mets organization since being drafted in the first round back in 2005. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May of last year, and became a free agent after New York non-tendered him in November.
Looking past the injury, the Pelfrey signing doesn't seem much different from last week's uninspiring Kevin Correia acquisition on the surface. Both are back-of-rotation hurlers with low strikeout rates and no experience pitching in the American League. But there are a few key differentiators that should make you feel considerably better about this move:
1. Contract. Whereas the Twins mysteriously made a two-year commitment to Correia, Pelfrey gets a one-year pact with only $4 million guaranteed (he can earn another $1.5 million in incentives). It's a low base – especially in the context of this offseason – and the signing has no impact on the club's payroll beyond this year. The "no such thing as a bad one-year contract" mantra rings true here.
2. Durability. This might seem like an odd selling point given that Pelfrey is coming off major elbow surgery, but he totaled 184 innings or more in each of the four seasons prior. That's a mark that Correia has topped only once in his career. Or, as a more relevant example, it's a mark that Scott Baker – who is older and received more guaranteed money from the Cubs – has only reached once. Up until the torn elbow ligament, Pelfrey was a workhorse. It will be interesting to see if any kind of innings limit is instituted next year, but seeing as how he's trying to rebuild his value I have to think he'd be opposed.
3. Upside. Correia is 32 and has basically been mediocre or worse throughout his career. Conversely, Pelfrey is 28, was the ninth overall pick in the draft and was ranked by Baseball America as the game's 20th-best prospect after dominating the minors in his first pro season.
Even coming off major surgery, I like Pelfrey better than Correia. But he's another contact-heavy guy joining a staff that is already full of them. That could be a recipe for trouble considering this team's defensive question marks. With Denard Span and Ben Revere out of the picture, it's entirely possible that the Twins won't have a single starter on the field who is a true asset at his position with the glove.
Pelfrey's addition isn't likely to dramatically boost the overall quality of the rotation, but he's another potentially useful major-league arm to throw in the mix and while his style is doesn't stand out from what the Twins already have, his pedigree and background certainly do.
As we know all too well, the path back from Tommy John surgery tends to include numerous setbacks and tribulations. Who knows, maybe they'll get lucky and Pelfrey will quickly regain his old form, establishing value at the trade deadline or perhaps even prompting the Twins to consider an extension. If he fizzles, their long-term plans will not be affected. Tough to criticize the move from that standpoint.
Yet, while the Pelfrey signing is fine in isolation, combined with last week's Correia signing it's a sign that Ryan and the Twins are resigned to scraping the bargain bin for pitching help, despite the fact that it's December, not Feburary, and there is supposedly plenty of payroll flexibility. That's harder to figure.