The Twins on Tuesday signed free agent swingman Tim Stauffer to a one-year, $2.2 million deal.
Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com says Stauffer's ticketed to fill the set-up role vacated by Jared Burton. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweeted that Stauffer is a fit for the long relief role played by Anthony Swarzak in recent years.
Those are significantly different roles in terms of importance. I don't particularly care for Stauffer in either.
One warning sign right off the bat: Stauffer, 32, has spent his career with the San Diego Padres, who play in an extremely pitcher friendly park in the non-DH league. His career ERA is a fairly pedestrian 3.87, but that splits into 3.07 at Petco Park and 4.64 on the road.
Environment matters. It matters a lot. I sometimes wonder if the Twins front office grasps the difference between the American and National Leagues when evaluating pitchers. The designated hitter rule means an extra half-run a game in ERA for an American League pitcher. But the Twins tend to sign National League pitchers -- Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Ricky Nolasco -- and be surprised when they don't match their NL numbers.
That argues against putting Stauffer in a high-leverage job, such as eighth-inning relief.
Long relief is a low-leverage job, and if that's Stauffer's role and he tanks, it doesn't cost the Twins anything but money -- except for the opportunity cost. I would rather see the Twins use the role to ease a young pitcher with upside into the majors with minimum pressure than spend veteran money on a low-ceiling arm to little purpose.
If there's no room in the rotation for Trevor May or Alex Meyer this spring, better that they pitch long relief than in Rochester. They've graduated Triple A.
Also on Tuesday: Chris Parmelee and Eric Fryer cleared waivers. Parmelee had been designated for assignment for the Ervin Santana signing; Fryer's removal from the 40-man roster created the opening for Stauffer.
Both can opt for free agency rather than accept their assignment to the Rochester roster. I would expect Parmelee to go elsewhere. Fryer might still believe the Twins to be his best opportunity to play in the majors. I don't have a sense of what Paul Molitor will emphasize from the backup catcher. Bat? Josmil Pinto. Defense? Fryer. Flexibility, both as a limited platoon partner and at other positions? Chris Herrmann. With Ron Gardenhire, defense was generally the point of emphasis, which was how Fryer spent much of 2014 in the majors.