Tuesday, March 19, 2019

History as their guide

I was tooling around town Monday afternoon running errands when I heard one of the ex-players on MLB radio -- I think it was Brad Lidge, but no guarantee of that -- spout some nonsensical reasoning about the Twins.

I shall paraphrase:

Remember those contracts the Twins gave pitchers a few years ago? Five years for Phil Hughes, four years for Ricky Nolasco, four years for Ervin Santana. Why on earth wouldn't they do that for Dallas Keuchel? They have all that money coming off the books.

Yes, I remember. Those contracts were part of what got Terry Ryan fired:

Ricky Nolasco was awful with the Twins: 15-22 with a 5.44 ERA in 56 starts.

Phil Hughes gave the Twins an excellent first season (2014). Ryan gave him a rich extension, but Hughes immediately fell apart physically and he never mastered the art of pitching with diminished velocity. Both the Twins and Padres released him last season, but the Twins are still on the hook for the final $13 million plus. (He's almost certainly their most expensive pitcher this year).

Ervin Santana's signing was described this winter by LaVelle Neal as successful for the Twins, which suggests a really low bar. He was suspended for half of one season and essentially unable to pitch another. The Twins got two-and-a-half good seasons out of four from "Magic."

(I resent Santana's PED suspension far more than I resent the injuries that wrecked Hughes' career or Santana's final season, or even Nolasco's snotty public persona.) 

These are specific examples of a general principle: You sign a veteran pitcher, you are buying into a declining market. And the longer that contract runs, the more time it has to go sour. 

Citing Santana, Hughes and Nolasco as reasons the Twins should sign another veteran free agent is inane. Yeah, the money's there, but why wantonly burn it?

Keuchel has a resume. He has a Cy Young plaque to hang on his wall, he led the AL in starts last season, he helped the Astros win a World Series a couple years back, he has in other seasons led the league in innings, complete games, wins and shutouts.

And now, a bit more than a week before opening day, he remains unsigned.  He's also 31 years old and 2018 was the first season in three years in which he worked 200 innings. Teams, including the Twins, obviously don't think he's worth what he demands. Whoever it was filling airtime on Sirius Monday afternoon may not like it, but a part of that is the track record of Hughes, Nolasco and Santana.

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