This last week has been hell on the future of the Minnesota Twins rotation. Basically, all we knew was that Carl Pavano was going to be in the mix, because at random points throughout the spring there have been questions about each of the other five pitchers. Francisco Liriano trade rumors surfaced, Brian Duensing was the source of fan frustration as both sides made good arguments as to whether he should start or come out of the bullpen, Nick Blackburn is one of "Gardy's guys" (which may or may not mean something), Scott Baker hasn't looked too hot this spring and had a minor setback with his elbow prior to that, and now this with Kevin Slowey.
Those Liriano rumors were put to rest, although it sounds like there may have been some preliminary banter just after the New Year. Duensing has already received Gardy's blessing for the rotation, so that's three. Between Baker, Blackburn and Slowey, however, nothing has been settled, but it doesn't take a crystal ball to help you read between the lines: the Twins are gauging market interest in one of their starters. Even if we're not 100% sure which one of those guys they'd prefer to deal.
Yesterday, Joe Christense tweeted that the Blue Jays were scouting Slowey at the B game (in which Slowey pitched three very good innings, it should be noted). Actually, to be fair, Christensen states that Toronto had scouts there and he was told they were interested in Slowey...and I don't need to tell you there's a difference, but it's an easy conclusion to make.
Last night, Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTR articulated how the Jays aren't short on pitching, mentioning how deep they were in competition for a rotation spot. Slowey may have more experience than some of those guys, and Nicholson-Smith goes on to list the immense depth the Jays seem to have in the bullpen: Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch, Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen, Carlos Villanueva, and Josh Roenicke.
Are the Twins reallly going to be looking for relief help for one of their starting pitchers? In my interview with Assistant GM Rob Antony a couple of weeks ago, we talked about this towards the end of the conversation:
J: In the scenario where you maybe end up moving one of those guys, do you know what you'd be looking for in return?
RA: That's where spring training and some other things would have to play out. At this point the question marks are in the bullpen, and like I said we have a lot of candidates and a lot of options. I don't think we'd trade away one of our starting pitchers for a middle reliever or something. It would have to be something that would make sense for us. We'll let things unfold and develop.
And a trade isn't even the most likely scenario, it's a possible scenario.
RA: I'm not sure what route we'd go, but I'd think we'd just want to get talent and something equitable back.
The Twins have already dealt one major player from their 25-man roster for work-in-progress relief help this winter. While Antony suggests that they wouldn't move one of their starters for a Jim Hoey or a Brett Jacobson, does this preclude them from thinking about bigger names?
No doubt a name like Dotel, Francisco or Frasor in the Minnesota bullpen would suddenly change the group's aspect. Instead of trying to fill three or maybe four of those bullpen roles with unproven arms, suddenly you're including a proven and effective reliever in a group that includes Joe Nathan, Matt Capps and Jose Mijares. It's worth noting that a strong bullpen addition just doesn't make the core of that unit stronger, more imposing, it also makes the back end stronger.
For the record, I'm perfectly happy to keep all six of our guys around. Injuries happen, guys have bad seasons, and having the luxury of an extra starter with experience (and one that's moderately talented as well) is more important than running out and trying to make your bullpen a little bit better. Admittedly I don't know the whole picture, including how accurate the Blue Jay rumor might be or how the Twins plan on fitting out their bullpen beyond 2011, but for today I'm happy to buy into the old cliche': you can't have too much starting pitching.