Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Andrew Albers, South Korea and the Rochester starting rotation

Andrew Albers
was the Twins
minor league pitcher
of the year in
The word Tuesday afternoon was that Andrew Albers, a soft-tossing left-handed pitcher who had two superb starts last summer for the Twins followed by eight less impressive ones (5.70 ERA in that stretch), has a deal to pitch in South Korea.

There are hurdles to cross, not the least of which is for the Twins to agree to let Albers go.

Albers has good reason to accept the Korean offer; while he's on the Twins' 40-man roster, he's well down the totem pole. Financially, he's certain to do better there than in Rochester, and it's not easy to see his route into the Twins rotation.

Four starting rotation slots are spoken for -- Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey each have multi-million salaries. In the spring training contest for the fifth starter slot, Albers starts off behind Sam Deduno, Scott Diamond and Vance Worley, if only because those three guys are all out of options, which makes them use-or-lose. Albers has all three of his options remaining; it's easy for the Twins to send him back to Triple A.

And as for a midseason callup ... well, there figures to be some higher ceiling options.

Let's project this out. Let's say Deduno opens the season as the fifth starter, that Diamond is kept as a long reliever, that Ryan Pressly is optioned out to work as a starter (a scenario I described the other day) and that Worley and Kris Johnson don't clear waivers (I don't know that Johnson is out of options, but I presume he is). What does the Rochester rotation look like?

Kyle Gibson, for sure. Presumably Alex Meyer and Trevor May will move up from Double A. Pressly would be a serious possibility, given that he had a respectable 3.87 ERA in 76.2 innings in the majors last year. Albers might be the fifth guy in that scenario. Or maybe Sean Gilmartin would be.  It's crowded, even ignoring the out-of-options crowd.

Even if Albers makes the Rochester rotation, when the Twins need somebody to step into the major league rotation, Albers isn't likely to be the first choice.

The Twins are entering (again) the last year of their affiliation agreement with Rochester, and it's an affiliation they really want to retain. The New York Mets desperately want out of Las Vegas -- nobody wants to have their Triple A team there -- and Rochester has a great deal of appeal to them. Rochester wants a winning club.

Keeping Albers might not do anything for the major league club, but it might be very helpful for making the Red Wings happy with a continuing affiliation with the Twins.

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