Twins Hodgepodge: Bullpen, Contenders (?), French, Rotation

Chad Qualls won't be sliding into Target Field -- or our hearts -- this season.

Sorry for the delay on the post today. There hasn’t been much in the way of major Twins news, but I’m going to delve into some minor topics after the jump, including: dwindling right-handed bullpen options; contenders – buying or selling; one of the Twins’ most recent minor signings; and another surprising candidate to settle for a one-year deal.

  • I was in the midst of writing about the Nationals’ signing of Brad Lidge and the Indians’ signing of Dan Wheeler for this post when I saw that the Phillies swooped in and snatched up Chad Qualls as well. Lidge and his 9.55 K/9 vs. right-handers (3.88 BB/9) since 2009 landed just a $1M base salary. He hasn’t been great against right-handers (4.39 FIP), but he’s a cheap strikeout arm with lots of upside in a big park (he’s been notoriously homer-prone in past years). Qualls got $1.15M for his 3.25 FIP and 3.95 K/BB ratio against righties (again since ’09). Wheeler had to settle for a minor league dealwith a $900K base should he make the team, which is pretty good for a guy with a 5.78 K/BB ratio, 2.88 ERA, and 3.46 FIP (since ’09) against same-handers. All three of these guys have flaws – Lidge’s injuries and ERA, Qualls’ fluke 2010, and Wheeler’s awful platoon split – but all could have been low-cost additions that thrived if effectively used in a pitcher-friendly environment. Todd Coffey is still on the market, and at this point, he’s my main hope for a final bullpen addition. You won’t see me complain about Michael Wuertz, though.
  • Phil Mackey at 1500ESPN has a great write-up on the notion that Ron Gardenhire, Jim Pohlad, and Dave St. Peter are building hope for 2012 contention. Should the fans buy or sell it? As Mackey notes, coming out and proclaiming that .500 is within reach is hardly a way to bolster fan enthusiasm prior to a season’s kickoff. Still, promising hope and better days is a dangerous move by Twins brass. Suggesting that this team is built to win, even with the likes of the Tigers in our division, and the Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and heck even the Blue Jays in our league is a bold statement. I’m always optimistic to a fault preseason, so I’ll go on record as saying that with enough breaks (and it'd be a lot), it’s certainly possible. While the Tigers are the favorites, I don’t think they were as good as their record indicated last season. Adding Prince Fielder is a boon, but they also lost a significant bat in Victor Martinez and to say their defense looks "awful" would be putting things lightly. The point remains though, that while boasting that this team can be a contender may drum up more excitement, it also creates the opportunity for finger pointing, disenchantment, and resentment for the front office.
  • My reaction to hearing that the Twins signed Luke French last week was as follows: "Of course the Twins signed Luke French." The former Tiger and Mariner couldn’t be a more prototypical Twin in terms of skill set. The left-hander has averaged 86.7mph on his "heater" in 155 career innings, whiffing a pungent 4.6 batters per nine innings, which is, erm… complemented (?)… by an equally pedestrian 3.3 BB/9. Once thought of highly enough to be one of two pieces deemed an acceptable return for Seattle to send Jarrod Washburn to Detroit, French spent 2011 toiling his way to a 6.27 ERA for the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate. The caveat here is, of course, that this is a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, and therefore it’s nothing to be worried about. I’m hopeful he’ll never see the Majors in a Twins uniform. He’s reasonable Triple-A depth, but anything more is asking too much. It’s tough to even consider him a LOOGY candidate, given the .291/.363/.453 line that lefties have against him in his career. This one paragraph is probably more words than the signing deserves.
  • The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Edwin Jackson is likely to sign a one-year deal and hit the open market again next offseason. I have a hard time believing that, and it'd be a terrible move for him in my opinion, but it's not Scott Templeton reporting, so there's probably at least something to it (high fives all around for those who appreciate that reference). If that is indeed the case, and the Twins are really as serious about contending in 2012 as they say, they'd be wise to make a legitimate offer -- payroll be damned. The expansive park and a familiarity with the AL Central might even make Minnesota appealing for E-Jax. You could make the same argument for Roy Oswalt, but he's being far more selective about his landing spot.

Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, MLB.com Fantasy, and has contributed at 612sports.net. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve

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