Terry Ryan: Twins Will Consider Re-Signing Scott Baker, Carl Pavano; Starting Pitcher Free Agent Market "Lean"

The last time the Twins signed a free agent starting pitcher who was good enough to make it through the entire season with the team, it was this guy. That was nine years ago.

Over at the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan has two entries (here and here) with Twins interim General Manager Terry Ryan. They cover a lot of ground, from managerial decisions to Joe Mauer to Ryan's future with that "interim" tag around his neck, but the most interesting part of the conversation (at least for me) involved talk about the starting pitching. That's the biggest weakness on a team with a few holes.

Join us after the jump as we get into what will be this winter's most popular talking point in more detail.

Here's what Souhan quoted first in regards to Ryan commenting on the rotation:

Ryan isn't happy with the production of his lineup but recognizes that the organization's foremost need is starting pitching. That's why he would consider re-signing Baker or Pavano.

"You have to be open to a lot of things when you're looking for starting pitching," he said. "You've going to have to take some risks and you're going to have to look at all markets, not just free agency, but trades and waivers and Rule 5s. But if you want to do it the correct way, that's going to provide stability over the long haul, you're going to have to draft and develop guys, too.

"Even when we had rotations that were darn good, we got them from about every avenue. We have to do the same thing moving forward here."

Souhan doesn't quote Ryan about Scott Baker or Carl Pavano (I'd like to see the Twins bring back Baker anyway), but I think it's interesting that free agency was almost dismissed. Johan Santana was a Rule 5 pick up, Francisco Liriano was acquired in a trade, Pavano was picked up during the August waiver period; when was the last time the Twins signed a good free agent starting pitcher? And not a Samuel Deduno minor leaguer or tweener, but a good Major League starter?

Jason Marquis, 2012: A borderline signing in the first place that ended up being terrible.
Livan Hernandez, 2008: Filler that also ended up being terrible.
Ramon Ortiz, 2007: Ouch.
Sidney Ponson, 2007: Also ouch.
Kenny Rogers, 2003: Okay, fine. He wasn't too bad and he made it through the entire year.

Think about that: the last time the Twins signed a free agent starting pitcher who made it through the entire year - not just without being awful but without being cut or released or outrighted or jettisoned to the moon - was nine years ago. And Rogers didn't even want to pitch for Minnesota...but nobody else offered him a job.

No wonder Terry Ryan isn't crazy about perusing the free agent market for starting pitchers.

Souhan's second quote about starters comes in the second article:

-On signing big-money free agent pitchers: ``It’s not so mjuch the money, it’s the years. If you look at the market coming up, there’s a handful of guys. The market’s a little lean. So if you’re going to go toe to toe with some of the franchises that go after players like that, you’re going to get into that neighborhood of dollars and years...''
I agree that signing pitchers to multi-year contracts, particularly ones in their early 30s as you tend to find in free agency, is a huge risk. You don't want to sign a 32-year old to a four-year contract. I wouldn't sign most good 30-year old pitchers to a four-year contract if I could help it.
But the market has options, and not all of them will demand three or four or five-year deals. Here's a list of ten starters I wouldn't mind seeing the Twins court this off-season, along with their age for the 2013 campaign.
Scott Baker (31), Eric Bedard (34), Joe Blanton (32), Zack Greinke (28), Rich Harden (31), Edwin Jackson (29), Colby Lewis (33), Francisco Liriano (29), Shaun Marcum (31), Anibal Sanchez (29)
That's a heft crew. None of these pitchers are terrible and a few would require a major investment, but there's plenty on the market for low-risk pitchers with upside or pitchers who fall into a third tier of starters who are more than capable of being a decent number two. The talent is there, and I'd be willing to bet that two or three of them could end up signing a one-year deal this winter.
Souhan's two articles are good and informative reads, so be sure to check them out. There's a lot that needs to be decided before the year is over, particularly in regards to the rotation, but hopefully the front office doesn't write off the free agent market simply because of their poor track record there over the last decade. As Ryan says it's about making the right decisions, and making the right decisions on the free agent market will be an integral part of this team's future success.
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