Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The front office and the pitching surplus

I am increasingly being asked as I go around town: Are the Twins for real? The pessimist in me says no. I do not trust Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson's low strikeout rates. I am skeptical of Danny Santana's erratic defense. I am wary of Aaron Hicks' balsa-wood bat. I can go on with things to be concerned about: Torii Hunter's age, Joe Mauer's decline, a bullpen stuffed with mediocre track records.

And behind all that, I have come on some level to mistrust the front office. At the core of my pessimism is my sense that Terry Ryan and Co. will misread these first two months success.

Here's the thing: There are solutions available to almost all the pitfalls I see (Mauer's decline being the exception). I'm just not sure the organization is willing to take advantage of those solutions.

For example: The Twins at the moment have a surplus of starting pitchers. Tommy Milone has allowed one stinking earned run in four starts in Triple A, and there's no room for him in the rotation. Plus Ervin Santana is starting his second spring training in preparation for a return from his PED suspension. Plus it's hard to see from here what more J.O. Berrios has to do to move up the ladder.

This is a good problem to have, but it's still a problem; Milone cannot be happy about his current status, and at some point frustrating him will become counterproductive. It's also an opportunity. There are, or will be, deals to be made in the coming weeks. Starting pitchers are valuable commodities.

My fear is that Ryan will seek to extend Pelfrey rather than move him this summer. (On the other hand, Pelfrey is represented by Scott Boras, and Boras's clients seldom do midseason deals.)

Now, it's be clear about what I'm NOT saying. I'm not saying the Twins should be frantically trading Pelfrey (or Milone, or Ricky Nolasco) for the first offer they get. They can be, should be, patient. This pitching surplus is almost certainly temporary. Pitchers get hurt; that's almost a third certainty in life (behind death and taxes). Move one guy now, see another go down next week, and suddenly this excess has evaporated.

But they have to be willing to seize the opportunity when it's there. Ryan's often-laudable sense of loyalty (or determination to see his previous moves succeed) may need to be set aside to do that.

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