Monday, March 12, 2012

The 2012 bullpen and future rotations

Scott Baker has a
career high of
200 innings (2009).
John Bonnes made a good point Sunday: The Twins are approaching a massive turnover in their starting rotation.

Francisco Liriano, Jason Marquis and Carl Pavano are all eligible for free agency after the season. Scott Baker has a team option for 2013 at $9.25 million; I don't think that's a cinch to be picked up. Only Nick Blackburn, who I regard as the least of the bunch, is under team control after 2012.

Bonnes couples this potential for a huge rotation change with the organization's relative lack of nearly-major-league ready starters as a reason for their aggressive acquisition of low-price upper minor league arms. Certainly the Twins have this offseason picked up -- through waivers, Rule V and minor league free agency -- a lot of unestablished pitchers.

Some of them are strictly bullpen candidates. But a couple of them seem more likely to be effective starters than effective relievers. The problem, as I see it, is that Matt Maloney is out of options, and Terry Doyle is a Rule V guy; the Twins would have to risk losing either to farm out either. The same is true of Anthony Swarzak, who also appears to be better suited to the rotation than to relief work.

The Twins certainly will have one of those three on the roster as a long reliever/swingman; barring injury, that figures to be Swarzak, who handled that role quite well in 2011. They could, perhaps, fit two of them in their bullpen, although Ron Gardenhire prefers using his relievers in frequent short bursts as opposed to multi-inning stints. Three long men is simply excessive. That ain't happening.

Matt Maloney is a
left-handed pitcher
with outstanding
walk/strikeout ratios
in more than 500
innings in Triple A.
It's worth noting in this context that Maloney was picked up on waivers from a National League team last fall, meaning that everybody in the NL passed on him rather than use a spot on their 40-man roster. Now a waiver claim on him would require finding a spot on the 25-man roster, which is a bit tighter, so perhaps the Twins could get him through waivers and outright him to Rochester.

The Twins are likely to start trimming some of the pitchers in camp this week. The most likely candidates to be sent down to road to minor league camp are the ones on the 40-man roster who are more future than present (Liam Hendriks, Tyler Robertson). They would be sent out sooner rather than later in no small part because if they get hurt while in major-league camp they would have to go on the major league disabled list, and that's more expensive in a variety of ways. That same risk doesn't apply to the non-roster invitees.

But while Maloney and Doyle are on the 40, I don't expect any moves regarding them until closer to the regular season.

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