Thirty-Something Starting Pitchers and the Twins

Arroyo could bring the durability the Twins brass craves - USA TODAY Sports

Warne examines some thirty-something starting pitchers whom the Twins should consider targeting this offseason.

Last week we examined the list of 30-something (age) hitters who could help the Twins dig out of this three year dry spell and be assets moving forward. Today, we’ll look at starting pitchers.

One important thing to note is that many of these starters could receive a qualifying offer (QO)

This week, let’s take a peek at similarly-aged pitchers (players pulled from MLBTradeRumors.com):

Bronson Arroyo - RHP - Cincinnati Reds (Possible, though unlikely QO)

Arroyo’s durability will endear him to the Twins brass, as the right-hander came one inning shy (back in 2011) of throwing 200 innings for nine straight seasons. And outside of a couple bumps in the road, he typically keeps his ERA in the high-3.00s to low-4.00s. He’ll be 37 when the season opens next year, but if that keeps his price down, it could help make him and the Twins a pretty nice fit.

Dan Haren - RHP - Washington Nationals (Possible QO)

The 4.67 ERA is unsightly, but doesn’t tell the whole story. Haren had a 3.53 ERA in the second half, and allowed his three best OPS’ against from July on (.584, .653, .624 versus .984, .702, and 1.110). Back woes bought him a ticket out of Anaheim, and kept teams from committing to him long term. At this point, it’s unclear if he’s still portrayed as potentially damaged goods, but he threw 170 innings this year. That should help calm those fears a little, but not a lot.

Josh Johnson - RHP - Toronto Blue Jays

Johnson was an unmitigated disaster in his first -- and likely last -- season in Toronto. Not only did Johnson have an ERA of 6.20 and a WHIP of 1.66, but he only made 16 starts before succumbing to a forearm strain in late August. Johnson likely wants just a one-year deal, so it’s unclear if that’s really a good fit for the Twins. But if it establishes rapport and makes the Twins a possibly preferred destination should Johnson re-establish himself, it’s worth a shot.

Jason Hammel - RHP - Baltimore Orioles

Hammel was a fun story in 2012, as he came over from the National League and did what most think was unthinkable: Improve. Hammel was a groundballing wizard in 2012, with a solid 8.6 K/9 to boot. But if it feels like we’re skipping 2013, it’s with intent. Hammel fell back into his old ways in 2013, more or less pitching to his career marks in ERA, K/9, WHIP, and pretty much any other appreciable metric. Getting him out of the AL East might help, but he looks like a back-end guy. It doesn’t really seem like the Twins need that.

Ubaldo Jimenez - RHP - Cleveland Indians (Guaranteed QO)

In multiple interviews with Twins GM Terry Ryan, 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson has confirmed that -- for the right player -- the club would be comfortable sacrificing its second round pick to sign a Type-A free agent. "If he’s good," are the words Ryan used in his last chat with Wolfson. Jimenez definitely fits the bill. Jimenez isn’t without risks, though. He’s notoriously been a pitcher with nasty splits, dating back to his Rockies days. Still, it’s unclear to what degree Coors played into that. Even in his very good 2013 season, Jimenez had a less-than-ideal WHIP (1.33) and his career walk rate of 4.0 per 9 isn’t very becoming. It’s hard to see the Twins in on the bidding here, to be frank.

Matt Garza - RHP - Texas Rangers (Ineligible for QO)

It’s not entirely clear if these bridges were completely burned, but if Garza is willing to come to the Twin Cities again, this could be a very nice fit. Since Garza was traded in-season, the Rangers are not permitted to hang a qualifying offer on him. So no matter where he signs, no team will forfeit a draft choice. The issue then becomes that it might entice to drive up the bidding rather than chase a guy like Jimenez who would cost that team a draft pick. At five years and $75 million (a best guess, that is), it still seems hard to see the Twins in on him.

Scott Kazmir - LHP - Cleveland Indians (Possible QO?)

Kazmir has a lot of the same woes as Jimenez, with a few different red flags of his own. Kazmir was basically a disaster from 2010-’12, including a stop with the Indy ball Sugar Land Skeeters which didn’t go particularly well either (5.34 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 1.6 K/BB). It’s hard to tell what clicked exactly for Kazmir in Cleveland, but he had a damn fine year. Kazmir made 29 starts, fanned more than a batter per inning (higher than his career rate), and kept the free pass in check well enough to nearly post a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 2008. There’s still definite crash-and-burn potential here, but at the price he’s likely to command -- think two years, and maybe $7-10mm per -- he could make some sense for the Twins.

Ricky Nolasco - RHP - Los Angeles Dodgers (Likely QO)

Nolasco had a resurgence at the right time -- for him anyway. His 3.70 ERA this year was the second-best in his career, and more than a half-run lower than his career mark. In the four years between sub-4.00 ERA for Nolasco, he put up the following marks:

4.68 ERA

7.5 K/9

1.33 WHIP

87 ERA+

For what he’s about to get paid on the free agent market, one might almost want the Twins to stay away.

Ervin Santana - RHP - Kansas City Royals (Guaranteed QO)

Probably the quintessential prize for teams willing to sacrifice a draft pick on this year’s crop of 30-somethings. Erv isn’t without faults either. Three times in his nine year career he’s posted an ERA above 5.00, and in the past he’s had a notorious home/away split (currently: 3.71 home ERA/4.73 road). But he’s made 30 or more starts in his last four years, as well as five of his last six and six of his last eight. His comps list might scare you, though: Brett Myers, Vicente Padilla, Joel Pineiro, Jake Westbrook, and Steve Avery.

Colby Lewis - RHP - Texas Rangers

The Twins were reportedly one of the finalists to sign Lewis when he first returned stateside back in 2010. Injury issues aside, he’s been quite good since then: 3.93 ERA, 8.1 K/9, and 1.18 WHIP. However, he didn’t pitch at all in 2013, and was limited to just 16 starts in 2012 (elbow/hip surgeries). The Twins can do much worse on a flier than Lewis, for sure. He’d like to return to the Rangers, but if that falls through, don’t be surprised if the Twins show interest.

Others:

Scott Baker: Can’t imagine relations between him and Twins have improved. Don’t count on it.
Gavin Floyd: Would be on top list if not for Tommy John surgery, which may cost him a large portion of the 2014 season. One year plus an option might make sense for both parties.

Johan Santana: For nostalgia’s sake, this could be fun. His left arm may well be shredded, though.

Roy Halladay: Extremely doubtful. Seems like sort of guy who’d pitch for Toronto or Philly, but no one else.

Chris Carpenter: Same as Halladay. Would probably say "St. Louis or nobody."

Hiroki Kuroda: Won’t come to Minnesota.

Bruce Chen: Just because.

Bartolo Colon: Only because we won’t have a 40-plus column next week.

Tim Hudson: At 38 and coming off a major injury, it’s not happening here.

Freddy Garcia: Let’s hope not.

Jon Garland: Resurfaced after not pitching in 2012. Maybe shouldn’t have (5.82 ERA).

Randy Messenger: Sturdy right-hander who has thrived in Japan in recent years. Twins definitely have a lot of interest in him.

Mike Pelfrey: He’ll test free agency. Still maintain he should become a reliever, personally.

Roy Oswalt: Pros: Strikeouts. Walks. Cons: Everything else.

Joe Saunders: Decidedly mediocre (5.26, 1.60 WHIP) in pitcher’s park. Stay away.

Jeff Karstens: Could be a diamond in the rough but has no durability at all (162.1 IP career high).

Jason Vargas: Worth a look at the right price, but won’t stand out in an even decent rotation.

Edinson Volquez: Possibly intriguing flier, though perhaps flier potential ends at age 30?

Barry Zito: Just say no.

Jake Westbrook: Might have made some sense a year ago.

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