|Scott Diamond is the only certain|
piece of the 2013 rotation right now.
The Twins insist that's not the case. With the winter meetings -- three-plus days of the baseball industry gathered in Nashville -- getting started today, we may be about to find out how serious the Twins are about trying to rise up in the coming season.
Terry Ryan and Co. appear to have some $30 million in payroll available. They also have four openings in the starting rotation and a reputed focus on the free agent crop rather than trades to fill those gaps.
My yardstick for whatever veteran starting pitchers the Twins acquire is fairly simple: Scott Diamond. Diamond's career numbers to date -- 34 starts, 212 innings, 3.82 ERA -- is roughly one full season in the rotation in terms of workload and a decent third starter in terms of results.
The Twins have plenty of options to slot in behind that. They have, on their 40-man roster, five pitchers who figure to start if they make the 25-man roster -- alphabetically, Cole De Vries, Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, B.J. Hermsen and Pedro Hernandez -- and a sixth, Brian Duensing, who may start but probably fits better in the bullpen. They will have in camp as non-roster invitees another wave of candidates, most of whom we're familiar with: Nick Blackburn (and his $5.5 million contract), Sam Deduno, Esmerling Vasquez and P.J. Walters.
That's at least 10 candidates, none of whom can reasonably be said right now to project to the Diamond Standard in 2013. Gibson does in further seasons, but we know he's not going to be allowed to throw 200 innings next year.
The Twins goal in Nashville this week -- if they are serious about trying to return to contention in 2013 -- has to be on finding two pitchers who can reasonably match or surpass the Diamond Standard next season: 30-plus starts, 200-plus innings, ERA under 4.00.
That won't be easy, or inexpensive. But that's the need. The Twins don't need to spend on bulk starters to fill out the rotation; they have that already. They need quality at the head of the rotation.