It hasn't been an easy road for Tim Stauffer as far as his climb to the Major Leagues is concerned. His callups with the San Diego Padres began on May 11, 2005, and he received three more between 2006 and 2007 before missing all of 2008 to undergo shoulder surgery. He made it back to San Diego on July 11, 2009, and made his first Opening Day roster in 2010 before undergoing an emergency appendectomy on May 11 - the five year anniversary of his first MLB appearance. Stauffer was awarded San Diego's Opening Day start in 2011, and on the season thre 185.2 innings of 3.73 ERA baseball. But once again he had a set-back, and after one appearance in 2012 due to an elbow injury became a free agent.
Stauffer re-signed with the Padres on a minor league contract for 2013, his age-31 season, and returned to the Major League team on May 17. He made 43 appearances and in 69.2 innings posted a 3.75 ERA (3.55 FIP) as San Diego's long reliever. That performance spun him a one-year contract with the Padres in 2014.
After finally having establishing himself as a reliever in 2013, Stauffer's tenure and performance turned him into a fan favorite in San Diego. Depending on the situation, San Diego used him in the middle innings for an inning or more, or late in the game Stauffer was at times a bit more of a situational pitcher. He excelled in both roles in terms of run prevention, but his command was far better in the middle innings.
Stauffer posted a 2.56 ERA in 41 appearances out of the bullpen for San Diego, striking out 57 in 56.1 innings and walking 19. He did made three starts (totaling eight innings), but they were short outings and he did not fare well.
Rotation: Tommy Milone, Trevor May, Mike Pelfrey, Alex Meyer
Bullpen: Tommy Milone, Trevor May, Mike Pelfrey, Alex Meyer, J.R. Graham, Ryan Pressly, Michael Tonkin, Lester Oliveros, A.J. Achter, Stephen Pryor, Blaine Boyer
In spite of what his statistical history urges, the Twins have publicly stuck with the story that Stauffer will have an opportunity to make their rotation out of spring training. As thick as that competition already is, there are even more bodies competing for a precious few spots as a right-handed arm out of the bullpen behind Casey Fien.
Stauffer's base contract is for $2.2 million with $250,000 bonuses for his 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, and 27th appearances, $100,000 for his 45th appearance, and another $250,000 for his 55th appearance. All told, he could make $3.95 million in 2015 which, as Mike Berardino noted, is $700,000 less than Glen Perkins will make this year and $350,000 more than Jared Burton would have made had the Twins picked up his option.
Those first five bonus benchmarks look like they're meant for a starter, since most full-time relievers would hit 27 appearances by some point in July at the latest. The last two are obviously reliever posts. If he's healthy, effective, and stays on the roster all season it's hard to see Stauffer making less than $3.6 million in 2015.
What's his role for the 2015 team?
In spite of the lip service given to Stauffer's potential as a starting pitcher, the front office would be making a mistake to hand the fifth starter's job to him; either that or many things will have gone very, very wrong. Here are the career splits for Stauffer.
Injuries or not, Stauffer's history gives a strong indication that the rotation is not where the Twins will get the most for their money. Considering the presence of the aforementioned Milone, May, and Meyer (and, sure, Pelfrey), there are already more than enough deserving options for the job.
We've already mentioned twice that Stauffer's role with San Diego was as a long/middle innings reliever. This seems to be where the former Padres' best chance lies to not just make the roster, but to make an impact. There's competition here too, should the Twins choose to stash one or more of the losers from the competition for that last rotation spot. Actually, the only way that he could win the long relief role is if Milone makes the team, May and Meyer are optioned to Triple-A, and Pelfrey is either re-assigned as a short-appearance reliever or is given the heave-ho. That's a long check list.
For no other reason than his guaranteed $2.2 million contract, the Twins will likely take Stauffer north after spring training even if they have to force him into a bullpen role that doesn't necessarily play to his strengths. His career and his numbers as a reliever actually place him in good stead, and that contract communicates exactly how much the organization believes the bullpen needs another veteran in the mix.
Minnesota's assortment of options available for both the rotation and the bullpen means that the organization will be making some difficult decisions in the later days of March, but rostering Stauffer seems like a relatively foregone conclusion - even if that means a number of deserving candidates will be held in Triple-A at the start of the year. The only question seems to be where he'll fall in the bullpen's hierarchy.