- Starting pitching
- Right-handed relief pitching
These are the positions where members within the Twins organization have confirmed they're looking for help. The desire for additional starting pitching isn't a surprise, even if the defensive side of the equation for suppressing runs has been ignored for the time being, but the want of a right-handed relief pitcher is something of a mild surprise. By choosing to keep Brian Duensing, the Twins have six relievers on the roster with more than a cup of coffee's experience in the bullpen: Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Ryan Pressly, Caleb Thielbar, and Michael Tonkin. A.J. Achter, Logan Darnell, and Lester Oliveros all look pretty Major League reader, and guys like Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Mike Pelfrey, and Tommy Milone could all find themselves looking at long or middle relief roles. But I suppose you can't blame them for wanting a righty with a track record other than Fien.
- Outfield defense
- Bench offense
The assumed needs are based off of our deduction that the outfield defense is weak and that the bench could use a player who can hit. There are plenty of players out there that could fill those needs, if the Twins see things the similarly, and we covered both of those recently by examining Peter Bourjos and looking at who Minnesota could select in the Rule 5 draft.
Players tied to Minnesota
Justin Masterson, RHP - All of Twins Territory more or less unanimously agree that Masterson would be their free agent starting pitcher of choice, but as we enter the Winter Meetings it sounds like he's not interested in Minnesota. Which is disappointing, although hardly back breaking considering the depth of second tier starting pitching on the market. Still: he has yet to receive an offer.
About every sign has Masterson landing elsewhere. Met w/ teams in Indy in recent days, & #MNTwins have nothing booked on him for San Diego.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) December 7, 2014
Francisco Liriano, LHP - Liriano would be looking for a multi-year contract, which he's earned based off of two good years in Pittsburgh. He gave the Pirates 55 starts total, worth 162 innings, 169 strikeouts, 72 walks, and a 3.20 ERA per season. For the metric-friendly, that equates to 4.7 fWAR and the best back-to-back seasons of his career. Steamer projects him for a 2.2-win season in 2015. Minnesota has already spoken with his agent, and those conversations should continue this week. The Pirates really want him back.
Brett Anderson, LHP - There was interest in Anderson from the Twins last season before he went to Colorado on a one-year, $8 million dollar deal with a second year option. The Rockies bought that option out, obviously, as Anderson pitched just 43.1 innings over eight starts. When he's healthy he induces ground balls at roughly a 60% rate, which is on the extreme side of the scale and wouldn't put undo pressure on Minnesota's sub-par corner outfielders. While he does bring upside, he hasn't been reliably healthy...ever? Possibly ever. We're still checking.
Edinson Volquez, RHP - As a ground ball pitcher who used to miss some bats and offered a bit of velocity, you could see how Volquez would have been a tempting pitcher three or four years ago. At 31 he's still fairly young, but neither traditional nor advanced metrics look favorably on his future. The swinging strikes are down (and so are strikeouts, so don't pay too much attention to the strikeout pitcher endorsement), the command is suspect, contact rates are inching upward, and in the last two seasons he's been worth 1.0 fWAR - combined. On the plus side, he's made 95 starts over the last three years. That's not nothing, but it isn't much.
Ryan Vogelsong, RHP - He was closer to who we were used to seeing in 2014, but 2013 wasn't good and he'll be 38 in July. Mediocre strikeout rates would dip in the American League; he gives up a lot of line drives, which are harder to turn into outs; any regression in his command would be dangerous in terms of how many batters get on base. If the Twins needed a fifth starter I'd say give it a whirl, but I'd rather let May, Meyer, or Milone go to work.
Pat Neshek, RHP - Can you imagine the joy in Twins Territory if Neshek returned? He was a bit unlucky in his first season post-Twins, posting a 4.01 ERA for the Padres in spite of strong peripherals. But in the last three years he's averaged 47 appearances, 42 innings, 38 strikeouts and just ten walks for a 2.26 ERA. Heading into his age-34 season Neshek looks poised to be a strong short relief option for the next couple of years, and if he's the right-hander that the team wants for the bullpen I'll make no complaints. That might be a tough sell though, as roughly half of baseball has expressed interest to his agent.
Oddly enough, the Twins haven't been tied to any position players lately. With the signing of Torii Hunter, guys like Alex Rios are now off the radar. Maybe we'll see the Twins swing a trade or two this week, maybe we'll see them make a move in the free agent market, but one things this week is guaranteed for: rumors, speculation, and will-they-won't-they conversation. We'll try to give you a fair balance this week, depending on how closely Terry Ryan and his front office play things to the vest.