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Are the Twins Missing Out on Starting Pitchers?

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We've seen a lot of rumors. We've seen a lot of quotes. We've been on this road before, right? Show me the proof, we say. Show me a capable starting pitcher standing in front of a press conference who has penned his name to a new, free agent contract with our local squad that is worth more than most of us will earn in a lifetime.

There's been no shortage of skepticism in Twins Daily-land -- and probably rightfully so. Some voices have said, "Keep calm and carry on." But why should we? We want our pudding now!

Well, this article from Fangraphs caught my eye this morning: Timing of Free Agent Contracts. I couldn't help but wonder though, what about starting pitchers? Are the Twins missing out?

I decided to analyze when free agent starting pitchers have signed contracts (greater than $1M) over the last few offseasons. The 4-day moving average lines smooth out the scatterplot with separate lines for dollars and years committed in each date range. Turns out, there were 64 of them from 2010-2012:


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(All raw data is from MLBTR's Transaction Tracker)

Whew, nope. It looks fair to say we're still in good shape.

Also turns out, 10 of them had signed before November 27th. Of those 10, nine of them resigned with their original team. In the previous three offseasons, exactly one starting pitcher had signed a free agent contract with a new team (Jon Garland returned to the Dodgers for 2011 after spending one year in San Diego). We've seen a little change in that trend this year with several pitchers signing already (all of whom seem to have had a reason to sign and/or the Twins weren't rumored to be heavily in on). Whew, again.

One can clearly discern from the chart that the period around the Winter Meetings is primetime. There's another peak in late December before the holidays. Then, steady, but less action in January through mid-February.

Seeing as I have an outstanding bet for a case of beer if the Twins sign a pitcher for more than $7M AAV, my stress levels will go like this until we hear about that press conference:

World Series to Winter Meetings (December 9th, a few days later than normal) -- Great to see so many rumors with the Twins involved. This feels different. That beer will be mine! 0% worried.

Post-Winter Meetings (December 13th) -- Man, that was peak signing time. I sure hope they're getting close with someone. I really want that beer. 50% worried.

Holiday Lull (December 25th) -- Oh, I can't believe they haven't gotten anyone yet! Who is left at this point? I'd better save up some spare change. 80% worried.

Closing in on Spring Training (February 1st) -- Seriously? We fell for it again? I even owe that skeptical jerk a case of beer. 100% worried.

Hopefully, I can send out an invite for you all to join me in enjoying those victory beers. Until then, please, keep context in mind and remember... Terry Ryan loves you.
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  1. howieramone's Avatar
    Good job! The only thing I would add is, how the Tanaka deal plays out complicates this free agency period. No way the top tier starting pitchers will sign until that is resolved.
  2. Willihammer's Avatar
    How does that chart look for guys tied to a draft pick? Those are guys who sign late and the Twins aren't interested in them, reportedly.
  3. jay's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by howieramone
    Good job! The only thing I would add is, how the Tanaka deal plays out complicates this free agency period. No way the top tier starting pitchers will sign until that is resolved.
    Thanks!

    I left out int'l FAs since the posting fee complicates things. I think the closest example to what you're mentioning would be Darvish and the narrative that other top pitchers will wait didn't actually happen. Buerhle and CJ Wilson were the other two big SP contracts that offseason (2011/12). They both signed right around the Winter Meetings while the posting deadline for Darvish was still a week away.

    Tanaka could certainly influence this offseason. I'm just not so certain what kind of influence it will be.
  4. jay's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer
    How does that chart look for guys tied to a draft pick? Those are guys who sign late and the Twins aren't interested in them, reportedly.
    If the Twins aren't interested in them, I think we'd want to exclude those data points so that we can see when pitchers who aren't attached to a qualifying offer actually sign.

    Since last year was the first offseason with the new qualifying offer rules and loss of draft pick (more importantly, bonus pool), it's easy to pick out who that was -- there were only two of them. Lohse is obviously the one data point way out in March. We could just cut off the chart February 8th without him. The other is Kuroda, who re-signed with the Yanks on November 20th. Without him, the chart would be slightly more steep from the left.
  5. howieramone's Avatar
    Jay, thanks for your response. I would have thought differently.:)
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