Entering spring training, the Twins had a solid collection of pitchers that would be competing for the 5th spot in the rotation. With Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, and Kyle Gibson all givens for Opening Day, that left Tommy Milone, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, and Mike Pelfrey fighting for that final slot. Yeah, Terry Ryan has also tossed in Tim Stauffer's name, but that's as likely as Ryan Pressly wrestling closing duties away from Glen Perkins.
Obviously only one of those pitchers will go north with the team come April, and then it becomes a question of what to do with the others. Right now I think most people would agree that Milone appears to be the frontrunner based on experience and success. Pelfrey sounds like he'll be in the bullpen to start the season (I personally disagree, but I'll get to that later). Finally, since May and Meyer still have options, they'll be shipped to Rochester but will be a phone call away should anything happen to the starting five early in the season.
Pitching depth is always good to have, not only if your team has ineffectiveness or injury woes of its own but also for when other teams suffer the same problems. We're already seeing that manifest with the Blue Jays, Rangers, and Phillies all watching key pieces of their rotations suffer injuries in Marcus Stroman, Yu Darvish, and Cliff Lee, respectively.
I personally do not believe that Pelfrey should be in the bullpen to start the 2015 season. The main reason is that the pitching staff will already be populated by Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Caleb Thielbar, and Tim Stauffer. J.R. Graham is a Rule 5 pick and must be on the active roster unless the Twins swing a trade or send him back to Atlanta, and I feel Ryan Pressly has earned a spot in the bullpen based on his first two seasons. Thus, the Twins would either be saying that Pelfrey would be a better asset than Michael Tonkin, or they just want to milk the $5 million owed to Pelfrey for all its worth, even if he's merely a long reliever. Unfortunately though, the Twins would do exactly that thanks to Tonkin still having a minor league option.
I know some people feel that Pelfrey could transition to the bullpen like a Wade Davis or Glen Perkins, but I feel that we shouldn't bank on the most optimistic outcome. I feel it's much more likely that Pelfrey remains a mediocre pitcher and I'd much rather use a roster spot for Tonkin or even Lester Oliveros.
Thus, if it were up to me, I would be shopping Pelfrey around to other teams. Now, the Phillies (finally rebuilding) and the Rangers (won't be competitive) aren't great trade partners, but the Blue Jays might work out. With the loss of Stroman, FanGraphs projects their top four starters to be R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, and Marco Estrada. The fifth right now is Daniel Norris, a top prospect that received a cup of coffee in the majors last season. Since the Jays may want to keep him in the minors to start the season, they'll be looking for a temporary fifth starter, and Pelfrey could fit that bill.
It is still early in spring training, though. Even if the Jays choose to accelerate Norris to the majors or go a different direction, other teams will be looking for pitching before Opening Day. If Pelfrey keeps his health and isn't a complete disaster this spring, desperate teams will come calling for him as their pitchers fall victim to the injury bug. I know it sounds a little ridiculous that teams may want Pelfrey, but remember that Kyle Kendrick got a $5.5 million contract this offseason. Yeah, it was the Rockies, but they're always desperate for pit - hey! Send Pelfrey to the Rockies!
Who knows. There's still a good chunk of spring training remaining. Teams may either look for the Twins to send them Pelfrey or they might choose to look internally to fill their rotation holes. Regardless, I would not be surprised if Terry Ryan was fielding phone calls as April approaches.
This article is dedicated to my grandfather Roger "Doc" Bender, a big Twins fan that passed away late Monday night.