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Incremental Upgrades and You: A Minnesota Twins Joint

A look at a potential misunderstanding regarding actually upgrading this rotation, and what can be done to combat that misunderstanding.

Bob Levey

Unless you've been under a rock, you're keenly aware the Twins have added three likely pieces to the 2013 rotation. And unless you're some kind of Twins bobo (copyright Dan Barreiro), you've probably felt at least mixed emotions on these moves.

Vance Worley was a step in the right direction, as were Trevor May and Alex Meyer. May and Meyer bring the heat, and with it come copious strikeouts. Worley, on the other hand, is a moderate strikeouts, keep-it-in-the-ballpark kinda guy. As a cost-controlled chip, he's quite valuable.

And that's sort of where, at least in my view, the plan goes awry. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are basically the same pitchers the Twins would have targeted the past half dozen seasons. You guessed it: no strikeouts, shaky peripherals, and quite frankly not enough durability or ability to overcome any of it. Livan Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, and Jason Marquis all come to mind.

None of which is to say I'm expecting the Twins to go out and grab filet mignon; that's just not the Twins way, nor would it be smart. But one thing I've noticed on just about every single team which has gone late into the playoffs in recent history is this: most have some sort of 'chance' they took on a player that worked out excellently. Lance Berkman for the Cardinals. Ryan Vogelsong. Colby Lewis, among about a million other Rangers moves.

And I'm not saying blind stabs in the dark made these teams contenders; they had 85-90 percent of a damn good team in place and then were aggressive when the time called for it.

The Twins just don't do this.

If the Twins internally have resigned to a subpar 2013 -- and they shouldn't, and maintain that they haven't -- then they're still taking the wrong road in my opinion. If you're going to be lousy, then by all means give Samuel Deduno a rotation slot and sign three guys like Jair Jurrjens and co. to minor league deals on the eve of spring training. Be true to yourself!

And if you aren't giving up on 2013 -- again, the Twins should NOT -- take some doggone chances. Sign a guy like Carlos Villaneuva, or Manny Parra (more on these guys later), and at least take a chance on highish-ceiling arms that, if they flame out, can easily be discarded or at the very least shifted to the bullpen to potentially harness their high K potential.

Let's say Worley is around a 2.0 win pitcher, and Correia maybe 1.0 and Pelfrey 1.0 (generous to the last two). You've added 4.0 wins (thank you math professor). For a team on the fringe of the playoffs, this is terrific.

But what's the net growth on last season's rotation?

Let's say these three replace Nick Blackburn (-0.8 WAR), Jason Marquis (-0.7), and for comparison's sake, Liam Hendriks (-0.2). I'll even be charitable and tabulate the negative effect with anyone else who started a game or more with negative contribution (Swarzak, Deduno, and Walters combined for -0.4 WAR). This gets us to -2.1 WAR.

So we have a net effect of 6.1 wins. I think we can safely assume a similar offensive output from this year's Twins club to next; Josh Willingham may cool off but either Chris Parmelee or Justin Morneau should be good enough to pick up the slack. Nevertheless, it's not a vastly improved or decimated offense.

So you add those 6.1 wins to last year's team and you're still only at 72-90.


All 72-90 does for the Twins is move them down to draft around 8-10th overall. A 72-90 record doesn't bring Morneau back after next offseason; it burns out year two of Willingham's three-year deal. It saps another year out of Joe Mauer's knees. It gets any young talent one year closer to a free agency pay day.

So are the Twins kidding themselves?

If they were to open the season with today's 40-man complement, I'd have to say yes. But there are still options; options which can make this Twins team a more aggressive outfit that both looks to the future but fully recognizes the lack of need to spend up to the budget and max out further future financial potential.

So here's my plan: Don't sign Shaun Marcum -- whom I feel is a popular target among fans. Instead, sign Parra, Villanueva, and any other quasi-cheap strikeout-type arm on the market. Stage a massive competition for the last few rotation spots, because not only will the high-K arms play up in the bullpen, but then you haven't signed anyone too expensive to be a swingman or full-time bullpen arm.

I specifically mean this for Villaneuva, because he's had success in bullpen roles before. If he'll sign for Correia money or less -- why should he, but dream with me for a second here -- that's not so crippling of a contract that it would hurt you if he ends up chucking the eighth inning with Jared Burton in front of Glen Perkins.

The Twins need to be more like the Rays and Padres when it comes to pitching: Stockpile high-ceiling arms; use a few, sell a few, and understand that a good many of 'em will flame out.

That's just my opinion. What have you to say, TwinkieTown nation?