If you've followed the Twins for more than a year or two, by now you have figured out the Twins have a 'type' when it comes to starting pitchers. It could almost be on one of those Uncle Sam posters. I want you to:
Not walk anyone*
Strike out 7.0 or fewer per nine
Induce ground balls at a better-than-average rate
And while the Twins did well until the last year or so in this regard, the time has come for the Twins to return to the Mega Lo Mart in search of at least a pair, if not a trio of new arms to round out what the club hopes is a rejuvenated rotation. So let's break down the different bins the Twins will be choosing from, keeping in mind that I'm only going to list free agents, and only those whom I think the Twins will target.
Bin I: The New-ish Releases
These are the guys the Twins also ought to target. Certainly, these aren't guys that will front a rotation or be considered 'aces' so to speak, but they are competent in their own right, and the Twins would do well to target any of these hurlers. (Note: This would include Scott Baker, but he need not be described to Twins fans.)
Pros: All-around good pitcher. 7+ K/9, low walks, good FIP. Cons: Health. Quick Take: Marcum has a 200 and a 195 inning season in his rear-view mirror prior to this one; it's a risk worth taking if Marcum takes $8-10 mill or less total per year.
Pros: Durable. Decent whiff rate. Better FIPs than ERA. Cons: HR rate. NL whiff rate > AL whiff rate Quick Take: If you bring Blanton to Target Field, you'd lose the whiffs but also the home runs. If he looks like the pitcher from his Oakland days, less some aging, that's a dang fine pitcher. Worth a two-year deal in my view.
Pros: Still young. Few innings on his arm. Has been very good past two seasons. Cons: Has only exhibited this type of success for fewer than half his career innings. Quick Take: It's hard to gauge how much he'll get versus how much he's worth. Probably will get a lot more from someone else, to be honest. (~$10m/year)
Pros: Durable. Good whiff rate. ERA and FIP almost always in line. Cons: Move to AL suppressed whiffs a bit. Cost. Quick Take: Sanchez will get $15ish million from someone. Not the Twins, in my view.
Bin II: The Lesser-Known Indy Films
These are the guys that the Twins seem destined to target, if you ask the cold weather fans. This is the bargain bin, where few pitchers ever reach a high ceiling, but may well toil many innings at a 4.50 ERA clip. If the Twins only shop here, expect fans to be pretty disappointed.
Pros: Durable. Won't wow you in any one way but decent all around. Cons: Not a standout. No strikeouts, pedestrian HR rate. Some wiggle room in his BABIP. Quick Take: Saunders could logically stake his claim to the first tier based on results, but he just doesn't have the projection I like to move him up there. Would rather the Twins only land him in the $5 mill range and there's no way he signs near that.
Pros: Strikeouts, and lots of them in 2012. Cons: Finished slowly. Durability questions. Walk rate and HR rate a bit worrisome. Quick Take: If he signs to a contract that wouldn't kill you if he ends up as a reliever ($10/2), it's a gamble worth taking. Don't see him ending up in Minnesota, though.
Pros: Whiff rate increasing. Bad luck on strand rate inflated ERA. Cons: Still very low career whiff rate. Quick Take: It's hard to see where Feldman is going as a pitcher. His best year was inexplicable, and he was probably better this season in a year with a 5.09 ERA. Starting to come around on him, if cost is low.
Pros: Throws hard. Has pitched in AL East. Durable. Cons: Doesn't strike anyone out. Not too stingy on HR. Quintessential middle-of-rotation guy who shouldn't cost you $8m. Quick Take: Seems like a guy the Twins might like, but will have to wait to see what market looks like for him. Throws harder than you think (92.8 mph average heater).
Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona
Pros: Once out-dueled Johan Santana. At one time had filthy sinker. Should have fresh arm in 2013. Cons: Quite frankly was destroyed in 2012. Last 'good' season was 2012, only truly awesome season was 2007. Quick Take: His player profile fits the Twins pretty well but I don't think his personality profile does. Twins seem to steer clear of guys with extenuating circumstances.
Bin III: The Trunk of a Guy in the Parking Lot
These are just total fliers. You could get a copy of Little Big League, or you might just get a 'recorded in the theater' copy of 'Trouble With the Curve'.
Pros: Tons of grounders. Ate innings at his peak. Would be really cheap. Cons: Hard to know if he has anything left at all. Quick Take: Could totally see him on a minor league deal in Twinstripes.
Pros: Was durable for decent period in Colorado. Pitched well in Colorado, too. Cons: 1.9 K/9 in 2012. Not a typo. Quick Take: Cook is another Pineiro type with elite ground ball tendencies and a disdain for the whiff. He'll end up someplace on a minor league deal; don't be stunned if it's here.
Pros: Good for 150-plus innings three of last four years. Decent back-end type. Cons: Somehow only amassed 0.9 WAR in 171.0 innings pitched. Virtually no projection. Quick Take: Correia gets grounders and lots of teams like that a lot. Four straight years of 10-plus wins means someone could overpay, and that would only take about $5m per year.
Pros: Left-handed. Cons: Just about everything else. Quick Take: I only kid. Francis' season looks pretty abysmal -- 5.58 ERA especially -- but he was worth nearly two wins due to a subpar strand rate, good groundball rates, a high BABIP, and a pretty good K/BB rate. It's hard to know how durable he is, but there are worse fifth starters. His average heater was 85.3 mph last season.
Pros: Decent whiff rates. Veteran. Good career marks across the board. Cons: Turns 37 next season. HR rate blew up in '12. May not have much left. Quick Take: Shouldn't come on more than a minor league deal with how rough his '12 was. Something in between '11 and '12 would make him a viable back-end guy.
Pros: All the grounders you can handle. Veteran. Cons: No strikeouts. Turns 40 in June. Quick Take: Worth a flier maybe, but can't pencil him into any rotation.
Pros: We have a pulse. Cons: 8.07 ERA last season. Seriously. Quick Take: He's always whiffed and always walked. If someone can get him back to even 2011 numbers, he could maybe help someone. Tall task ahead for whoever tries, though.
Pros: Durable lefty with a funky curveball. One year removed from being really good. Cons: He's 36. Quick Take: He's a guy to take a shot on, but there are a lot of them. Will be intriguing to see whom the Twins identify as targets in this bin.
Pros: Beat the Twins once. Cons: Isn't very good. Quick Take: Please don't.