While we're awaiting confirmation on the Ricky Nolasco signing - because it does at this point appear to be a done deal - let's break down how the biggest free agent signing in Minnesota Twins history affects 2014's starting rotation. I'll give you a clue where we'll start: with Ricky Nolasco.
#47 / Los Angeles Dodgers
Dec 13, 1982
"I may look like a combination of Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey, but I'm as talented as both of them combined."
Earlier in the off-season, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan told Phil Mackey that he would pencil two pitchers into the 2014 starting rotation: Kevin Correia and Samuel Deduno. It's hard to argue. Correia pitched well last season, at least based off of every realistic expectation that was held for him, and he's still due $5.5 million this coming year. Deduno, meanwhile, had to work his way back into the Minnesota rotation but pitched well while he was there. While he's certainly no guarantee to hold onto a spot, thanks in no small part to a very volatile history in terms of consistency and control, his performance in 2013 has earned him the right to lose the job. A number of other pitchers would love to be in the same position.
After Nolasco, Correia, and Deduno, 2009 first round pick Kyle Gibson seems like an obvious answer. Ryan didn't mention him getting a rotation spot out of spring training during his conversation with Mackey, but his ceiling as a mid-rotation arm is still very attainable and his stuff could still challenge for the best among the big league team's starters. Let's put it this way: if Gibson is not in the rotation when the Twins break camp and go north in April, something has gone awry.
At this point we realize exactly why we're hearing that the Twins had the goal of adding two starting pitchers this winter. Holding season-long auditions for the fifth spot in the rotation, with candidates like Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, Andrew Albers, and Vance Worley, seems incredibly uninspiring. With millions to spend it's easy to see why the Twins are thinking the exact same thing.
Reports about Minnesota's strategy going forward agree: the next new Twins starter could arrive via free agency, or he could arrive via trade. But we know that the Twins do not want to leave that spot open to an internal candidate. And free agents know it.
Source close to a couple other FA pitchers, including Garza, doesn't think the Nolasco move eliminates them w/ the #MNTwins. They do have $.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) November 27, 2013
It's still relatively early in the off-season and the Twins have landed one of their primary targets. Indeed, it sounds like Nolasco was at the top of Minnesota's wish list for free agent starting pitchers. Let's see how they handle that second starter.