It was a dubious venture from the start. Like granting Skynet access to the internet, or taking your desperate writer of a husband and weirdo of a kid kid to an exceedingly remote and isolated hotel in the mountains where you'll be alone and inaccessible for months, you'd think that red flags would have popped up somewhere. But we know how it all went down. Skynet became self-aware and enslaved humanity, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and the Twins signed Mike Pelfrey to a two-year contract.
Oh, and did you know that Skynet is a real thing? It's a real thing. They're not even bothering to change the name. Skynet exists. Damnit, people, RUN.
Anyway, Pelfrey was lit up again today, in Game One of the double-header. And the Twins are concerned.
Gardy said he will sit down w/Pelfrey, Rick Anderson and front office types to plan a course of action for the struggling pitcher.— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) May 1, 2014
The writing has been on the wall since Day One for something like this. While even something as desperate as eating the whole of Pelfrey's contract wouldn't actually do anything in terms of restricting the Twins' current or future decisions, it does expose just how big of a mistake it was to offer a pitcher of his quality a two-year contract - after the team had already locked up two free agent starting pitchers to multi-year contracts.
Just to re-hash what we said about the Pelfrey signing over the winter - here, as it became increasingly likely that the Twins would bring him back:
I see an issue on two fronts. I see a front office that is desperate to put a better product on the field, and I see two targets who are insisting on multi-year contracts while the Twins are no longer in a good position to offer one. While the additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes are massive in terms of personnel and dollars, they're also moves that are just as focused on winning three and four years down the line as they are on winning in 2014.
You absolutely cannot say the same thing about a signing of Pelfrey or Arroyo that takes you beyond one season. For a team that is not built to win now, making a move that trades success today for good chances of regression in just one year's time seems like a waste of resources. Most importantly: it's not about the money. It's about the performances you can expect, and just as critically, the roster spot.
Then this, following the signing:
But knowing that the Twins didn't have to make that signing, and understanding that his profile is so similar to everything else sitting on the roster that in a blind ZiPS taste test you couldn't tell the difference, where is the benefit of spending $5.5 million for two separate seasons on a player when you have every chance of replicating that production at a fraction of the cost?
The Twins obviously look at Pelfrey, see his experience, and project him to continue improving now that he'll be nearly two full years removed from Tommy John surgery. When I look at Pelfrey, I see the same philosophy that hampered Minnesota's free agent pitcher signings for a decade, and I also see a player who will take up roster space when it's at a premium.
I don't think anybody really thought that Pelfrey's performance five starts into the season would be this much of a disaster. He had a 7.66 ERA through five starts last season, and then a 4.76 ERA the rest of the season; still not good, but fine for a number five. But can the Twins allow him that kind of an opportunity to resurrect the campaign?
Not this year, they can't. Not after the commitment that ownership has made to the fans for this season, and not when there are a handful of guys in Triple-A - and we'll name them: Logan Darnell, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Yohan Pino, and the guy who is pitching right now, Kris Johnson - who have all pitched well enough to earn a look. And that's not even looking at the most obvious candidate, Samuel Deduno. Pelfrey had the luxury of sticking around last season because there, honestly, wasn't anybody else available. This spring it's a different case.
We'll see what the outcome of the "plan of action" turns out to be. But I won't be surprised if the Twins eventually end up just eating Pelfrey's contract.