Friday, January 17, 2014

Eye on 2014: The rotation

Kevin Correia was
the best of a bad
rotation in 2013.
He has one year
left on his contract.
Pitchers and catchers report to begin workouts at the Twins spring training camp a week month from today. (Does that make you feel any warmer today? Me neither. It's still cold.)

The Twins caravan rolled through Mankato last night with 2014 bullpenners Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly in tow. There's been chatter of shifting one or both (Anthony Swarzak as well) to a starting role, but I don't take the idea very seriously. For one thing, all have track records of being better in relief. For another, there isn't a lot of room in the rotation after the signings earlier this offseason.

While the Twins still have roughly $15 million in payroll space for the coming season, and while some of the bigger names in the winter's free-agent field remain unsigned, I figure Terry Ryan and Co. have made their moves. It's possible Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo might settle for what the Twins are offering, but a more likely outcome is that those two will land with teams that don't get the biggest fish in the pitching pool, Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka. And I definitely doubt the Twins would surrender a second-round draft pick to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Edwin Santana to the kind of deals those guys are seeking.

Which means the 2014 rotation shapes up thusly, pitchers ordered by salary commitment:

  • Ricky Nolasco
  • Phil Hughes
  • Kevin Correia
  • Mike Pelfrey
  • Another 2013 holdover (Sam Deduno, Scott Diamond, Vince Worley, Andrew Albers, Kyle Gibson)

Nolasco and Hughes represent a significant investment in free agent arms: a pair of four year deals, with Nolasco's being the most expensive signing of a free agent in Twins history (Joe Mauer was a year away from free agency when he signed his big contract) and Hughes the second biggest.

The interesting thing, really, about the signings is that the money is being paid out not on the basis of past accomplishment but on the basis of projection. Nolasco and Hughes have been around long enough to qualify for free agency, but both have considerable "upside" in this sense: Their peripheral stats have always been better than the raw results. Pelfrey's upside comes from being another year removed from his Tommy John surgery.

It's not a playoff-caliber rotation. That comes, if it does, when prospect Alex Meyer and Gibson — or eventually one or more of the younger guns, Kohl Stewart or J.O. Berrios or Lewis Thorpe — emerge as top-of-the-rotation arms and push Nolasco and Hughes down the list (and Correia off completely).

It should be better than 2013's rotation, but that's an excessively low hurdle to clear.

1 comment:

  1. Pitchers and catchers report on February 16, 2014 as per the official website of the Minnesota Twins.