When the Twins announced that Friday's starter was TBD and included Kyle Gibson in the list of candidates, it rightfully generated some buzz. As fans, we've been waiting to see Gibson pitch far, far longer than we ever thought we'd have to. Gibson was taken in the first round in 2009, and I was hoping he could be fast-tracked a la Matt Garza and make a cameo in 2010. That was a long shot, since injury necessitated Garza's initial call-up, but 2011 seemed a very reasonable target.
Fast forward two years and Gibson, now 25 years old, still hasn't debuted thanks to Tommy John. Frustrating? Definitely. Especially since the pitching has been so, so dreadful the past couple years.
The Twins have waited so long to promote Gibson, though, that I have to wonder if at this point they aren't better served to just hold off another 3-4 weeks to prevent him from reaching Super Two status. I'll be the first to say that I dislike making moves based on service time implications. It robs the fans of the opportunity to see the best product possible, and it robs the team of having the best chance to win on any given day.
I applauded the Twins for not being afraid to roll the dice on Aaron Hicks -- service time be damned -- even if I wondered whether or not he was ready. I wanted Gibson to break camp with the team as well, but at this point, with the Super Two cutoff looming in mid-June, what does a promotion accomplish?
The Twins are seven games out of first place, and they're not exactly looking like contenders these days. Promoting Gibson now seems like an exercise in instant gratification, when patience may be more logical. It'd be fun to see Gibson up here, but it could literally cost the Twins upwards of $10M in the long run. Promoting Gibson will assure that he's in the top 22% of his service class, which will make him eligible for arbitration four times instead of three times. Instead of paying Gibson something like $490K, $510K, $540K, $4M, $7M and $10M for his six years prior to free agency (assuming all goes well), it'd be more like $490K, $510K, $4M, $7M, $10M and $13M.
Even if the Twins were to work out a long-term extension with Gibson, his agents would have extra leverage in knowing that he qualified as a Super Two player. Instead of negotiating to buy out three arbitration seasons, the Twins would be buying out four arb seasons (plus however many free agent years are in the deal), which would significantly increase the price.
Also, it's not as if he's consistently dominated the International League apart. I realize that sounds crazy, considering two of his past four games have been shutouts, but he's given up nine runs on 18 hits in 7 2/3 innings in the other two. I can see why Terry Ryan called him "uneven" when talking to Darren Wolfson last week.
The Twins are seven games out of first place, and we're not really expecting them to contend. If this looked like a race that might go down to the wire, it'd make all the sense in the world to get the best players on the 25-man roster ASAP. But does getting an extra four starts at the Major League level in a season where the Twins aren't expected to finish at or near the bottom of the AL Central really outweigh the long-term cost? If the logic was to get him as much exposure to MLB hitters as possible in a season where his innings will be limited, that would make sense. But if that were the case, Gibson would've been up quite some time ago instead of Pedro Hernandez.
I really, really hate making decisions based on service time, but at this point I've waited so long to see Kyle Gibson pitch for the Twins that I'd be perfectly ok with waiting one month more, knowing what's at stake down the line. That said, if he does get the call, I'll be all smiles as I set my DVR accordingly.