Friday, December 21, 2012

Quality vs.quantity

Mike Pelfrey in a spring training game with the Mets.
It's safe to say he'll wear a different number with the Twins.
The Twins on Thursday made the Mike Pelfrey signing official. I don't dislike this one as much as the Kevin Correia signing, but it still seems rather irrelevant. Neither pitcher is likely to help make the 2013 team good, and Pelfrey is unlikely to stick around beyond 2013.

Pelfrey refills the 40-man roster. The Twins had hacked it down to 36 going into the winter meetings earlier this month, but then added one in Rule 5 draft (Ryan Pressly); another by trade (Ben Revere off,Vance Worley and Trevor May on); and two via free agent signings (Correia and Pelfrey).

Terry Ryan has talked often this offseason about needing starting pitching in numbers. He's apparently going for the old Branch Rickey alchemy of "quality out of quantity." Rickey's idea was that if you needed five good pitchers, you didn't sign the five best you could; you signed 50, 100, 150 pitchers and let them sort themselves out.

That was a different era. Rickey had fewer competitors and many more minor league teams to which he could farm out all those pitchers. He was also doing this at a much lower cost per arm and with prospects, not veterans with rostering restrictions attached.

When the 2012 season ended and Ryan surveyed the wreckage that was the Twins rotation, yeah, he needed numbers. Today he has, by my count, at least 16 starting candidates coming to camp, and he's apparently wants more.

Sort through the categories:

Quasi-established starters (2): Scott Diamond, Worley

Veterans with low strikeout rates (3): Nick Blackburn, Correia, Pelfrey (Blackburn is not on the 40-man roster)

Rotation or bullpen (2): Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak

Rotation or minors (6): Cole De Vries, Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, B.J. Hermsen, Pedro Hernandez, May

Non-roster invitees (3): Sam Deduno, Esmerling Vasquez, P.J. Walters

Assuming everybody's healthy -- which is, admittedly, a big assumption -- that's enough to fill the rotations in Minnesota, Rochester and New Britain, with one left over.

Of course, those numbers can dwindle quickly.  Pelfrey and Gibson are both rehab projects whose workloads will be restricted. Hermsen and May have yet to pitch above Double A, and Hernandez has had limited exposed above Double A; I doubt any of the three are legitimate candidates for the April rotation in Minnesota. Duensing and Swarzak seem more likely to be in the bullpen than in the rotation.

Ryan still has payroll space to play with. I'd rather see it be used on quality than quantity, but that's easier said than done.

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