Monday, November 11, 2013

Eye on 2014: Naming names

Johan Santana returned from a major shoulder surgery
to throw a no-hitter in 2012, but missed all of 2013
after a second try at repairing his shoulder.
On Friday I described a "rough draft" for a 2014 Twins starting rotation that featured two vacancies for pitchers to be acquired.

On Saturday I discussed the Twins' lack of pitchers strikeouts and explained the problems of relying on free agency to fix that.

Today I'm going to put forth my thoughts on which free agent starters the Twins should pursue.

I do so mindful that the three free agent starters I wanted the Twins to chase last year didn't fare well. I wanted Terry Ryan and Co. to go after Brandon McCarthy, John Lannan and Shaun Marcum. Those three combined to go 9-27, and through injury and ineffectiveness, none made it through the season in the rotation. So my track record is less than perfect.

I'm ruling out most of the best free agents because there's no good reason for them to come to Minnesota. Tim Hudson, for example; he's in his upper 30s and is going to look for a team ready to win NOW. Ditto A.J. Burnett, if he doesn't retire. Hideki Kuroda is either going to stick with the Yankees or return to his native Japan. Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are notoriously inconsistent and would cost a draft pick. Matt Garza? He and the Twins have a history.

My 2014 wish list is divided into two parts:

High ceiling, high risk: Injury cases, by and large, who are not good bets to provide 30 starts and 200 innings but who, if they can take the mound, should be effective.

Inning eaters: They won't help the team's strikeout rate much, but they have better health records.

My idea is to target one from each group.

From the first group: Johan Santana, Josh Johnson, Colby Lewis, Scott Kazmir, Scott Baker

I''m actually at lot more interested in the first two than the second three.

Emotionally, I'd love to see Santana back; I don't know that he's sound enough to help.

(There were reports last week that the Twins had requested Santana's medicals, which would indicate an interest in bringing him back. If they do pursue their former ace, one thing they have in their favor is that Santana knows that Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson will protect him; there won't be any of the foolish public challenges that helped wreck his season with the Mets before it got started.)
Mike Pelfrey has
said he wants to
return to the Twins.

I have no illusions on Santana or Johnson. Even if they're ready to pitch Opening Day, they can't be expected to make it through the entire season. As with Mike Pelfrey last year, 150 innings would be an accomplishment. Sign either, and you're going to use one of your Plan B guys at some point, early or late or both.

From the second group: Scott Feldman, Phil Hughes, Pelfrey, Ricky Nolasco, Paul Maholm .

What I'd basically be looking for here is what Kevin Correia gave the Twins this year: Thirty or more starts, something approaching 200 innings. Pelfrey was short of that for the Twins, but 2014 will be another full year removed from his elbow reconstruction.

So my wish list: Maybe one of Santana and Johnson, one or two of Feldman, Hughes and Pelfrey.

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