Once again, Twins fans were treated to one of the worst pitching staffs in the majors this past season. After bringing up the rear during this stretch of 4 consecutive 90-loss seasons, it's been obvious that major improvements still need to be made. Last offseason, the Twins attempted to improve their rotation with their two largest free agent signings ever in Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, and the results could not have been more disparate. Hughes only went on to post the best K/BB ratio in baseball history, while Nolasco looked like a bust even before completing the first year of his 4-year contract.
Nolasco and Hughes will certainly be joined by Kyle Gibson, who was the Twins' second best starter even though he battled inconsistency the entire season. Beyond that, however, the rotation is wide open with who will be joining them. Looking at the players still on the 40-man roster that made at least one start with the Twins last year, here's a good guess as to their chances of making the Opening Day rotation.
Need To Impress In Spring Training
Trevor May, Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey
Destined For Triple-A
Yohan Pino, Logan Darnell, Kris Johnson
You'll note that this does not factor in Alex Meyer, who I don't think will be handed a chance to start for the Twins immediately. This leaves the Twins with 6 players for 2 spots, though I feel we can all agree that it's more like it will be 3 dueling for 2 (the "Need To Impress" guys).
If I had my choice, Pelfrey would not even be an option here. He'd either be sent to the bullpen or I would just cut my losses and designate him for assignment, even though he is still owed $5.5 million next year. That would leave May and Milone for the two spots, giving the Twins an unspectacular rotation. It may not be worst or 2nd-worst in ERA like it's been for the past few seasons, but it still isn't exactly inspiring.
That's why I feel the Twins have to consider yet another free agent starting pitcher this offseason. While it could be argued that both May and Milone deserve to leave spring training as a part of the major league club, the Twins can still improve over both of them by dipping into the free agent market. For May, I'm sure the organization wants to see him prove that he belongs in the majors and he could be the very first pitcher called up in case of an injury. As for Milone, he's had success in the past and unless he bombs in spring training, I think he'd have a leg up in joining the rotation next season.
So, what about the free agent options? Well, it's a pipe dream once again to think the Twins will break the bank for Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, but there are still plenty of affordable pitchers out there that could improve the pitching staff. A name I've seen tossed around a few times is Brandon McCarthy, a pitcher that fits the mold of your stereotypical Twins pitcher from years past. There are reclamation projects in Chad Billingsley (injuries) and Justin Masterson (ineffectiveness). There are so many attractive starting pitchers that it would be hard to name all of them the Twins should pursue, but that means that they should have no problem improving the rotation once again.
Granted, they will also need to see more consistency out of Kyle Gibson and a much better form of Ricky Nolasco, but the Twins need to see a better pitching staff if they want to start competing next season. Adding one more promising veteran starter could help the team achieve that goal.