Mar 22, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Today: the Minnesota Twins.
The Big Question: Did the Twins do enough to improve their AL-worst rotation?
After a decade-long run as a consistent winner in the AL Central the Twins fell apart in 2011, losing 99 games and firing general manager Bill Smith while replacing him with the man he replaced, Terry Ryan. Things were supposed to be better last season and I suppose technically they were, but the Twins lost 96 games despite a far healthier team and some strong individual performances because they simply couldn’t pitch.
Twins starting pitchers had the worst ERA in baseball among teams that don’t call Coors Field home and the pitching staff as a whole recorded the fewest strikeouts in baseball for the second straight season. At the beginning of the offseason Ryan spoke of big plans for addressing the terrible rotation, but when the dust settled the only moves were trading for Vance Worley and signing Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey as free agents.
Worley was a sound pickup who should be a solid mid-rotation starter long term and Pelfrey is a reasonable enough reclamation project with mid-rotation potential as he comes back from Tommy John elbow surgery, but giving a two-year, $10 million deal to Correia made little sense when similar or better pitchers were agreeing to one-year deals all winter. Of the 91 pitchers to throw at least 400 innings as starters since 2010 he ranked 88th in ERA, 81st in strikeout rate, and 80th in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
And that was it. That was the full extent of the Twins addressing their awful rotation.
Would-be Opening Day starter Scott Diamond will begin the season on the disabled list following a setback with what the team called minor elbow surgery in December and former first-round pick Kyle Gibson isn’t ready for the majors after Tommy John surgery in late 2011, so the Twins will likely turn to Samuel Deduno and/or Cole DeVries to fill out the rotation. It’s not a good sign when the same career minor leaguers who joined the rotation as emergency options during a miserable season are already back in the mix before Opening Day.
What else is going on?
• As dark as things look for the Twins now the future is extremely bright. Thanks to the combination of shrewd international signings, high draft picks, and veteran-for-prospect trades the Twins have built one of the best farm systems in baseball. They placed six prospects on Baseball America‘s top-100 list, including Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton in the top 10, and will add the No. 4 overall pick in the draft to the farm system in June. I’ve been writing about the Twins on my personal blog for 11 years and this is the best, deepest farm system they’ve had in that time.
• Sano and Buxton are still teenagers and years away from the majors, but the Twins look likely to get an immediate impact from the farm system by naming Aaron Hicks their Opening Day center fielder. Hicks has yet to play above Double-A, but the former first-round pick is a standout defender with an elite arm and improved significantly at the plate last season by adding power to his already strong patience. Delaying the start of his service time clock by sending him to Triple-A for a month or so would seemingly make sense, but all signs point to the Twins handing Hicks the job now.
• Ron Gardenhire enters his 13th season as Twins manager without a contract beyond this year and most of his coaching staff was fired or reassigned during the offseason, leading to speculation that another 90-loss season would lead to his exit. He’s the second-longest tenured manager in MLB behind Mike Scioscia.
• If the Twins get off to another bad start it’ll be interesting to see if they begin shopping veterans. In the past they’ve largely shied away from that, choosing to let guys like Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel leave via free agency, but Justin Morneau will be a free agent after the season and Josh Willingham isn’t exactly part of the long-term plans at age 34.
• Joe Mauer took an incredible amount of heat locally for an injury wrecked 2011 season, which tends to happen when you miss half the year after signing a $184 million contract. He bounced back in a huge way last season, setting career-highs in games and plate appearances while hitting .319 with the highest on-base percentage in the league. Mauer was paid $23 million last season and Fan Graphs calculated his on-field value at … $23 million. Joe Mauer ain’t the problem.
• Target Field is an amazing place to watch a game and easily one of MLB’s best ballparks, but as the Twins enter Year 4 there they’ve already squandered much of the new ballpark excitement by putting out a terrible product. Only the Astros had a bigger attendance drop last year as Minnesota fell into the middle of the pack, and 20 percent of season ticket holders did not renew. And that becomes a chicken-or-egg situation, because the Twins have sliced payroll from $115 million in 2010 to $80 million this year in part due to decreased revenue, but the lack of spending has also helped turn the team into something no one wants to watch.
Prediction: Fifth place, American League Central
Sep 19, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT
Come for the cool video. Stay for a way-too-long explanation of why I hate Rush. And the inevitable comments from Rush fans about why I’m wrong about this.
Sep 19, 2014, 10:34 AM EDT
Imagine being a person so awful and sour that you feel this is something reasonable to say.
Sep 19, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT
After a good night last night he’s 12 for his last 30.
Sep 19, 2014, 8:53 AM EDT
That’s right: for the 2,559th time, Barry Bonds is gonna walk.
Sep 19, 2014, 8:27 AM EDT
I’m an old man who goes to bed early, so I couldn’t see all of this. If you’re like me, enjoy.
Sep 19, 2014, 7:17 AM EDT
It’s not dark yet for the Brewers, but it’s getting there. It’s absolutely pitch black for the A’s, though.
Sep 18, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Rizzo won the award in recognition of his community work with pediatric cancer patients.
Sep 18, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT
We learned late last week that Wally Backman will join the Mets coaching staff on Friday to finish out the season. Now there’s a chance that he could remain in the major leagues to begin 2015.
Sep 18, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
After snapping an 0-for-28 hitless streak last night, Derek Jeter homered at Yankee Stadium tonight for the first time all season.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:58 PM EDT
Stanton suffered facial fractures and dental damage when he was hit in the face by a fastball last Thursday.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:27 PM EDT
It’s possible Zimmerman could be activated from the disabled list as soon as this weekend.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Ramirez has missed back-to-back starts with an elbow strain.
Sep 18, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
Josh Hamilton rejoined the Angels’ lineup Tuesday after sitting out 10 games with a right shoulder injury, but he missed last night’s game and is out of the lineup again tonight with more shoulder problems.
Sep 18, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT
Hudson made it back to the majors this month for the first time since June 26, 2012.
Sep 18, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT
Marlins ace Jose Fernandez is still a long way from pitching in the majors again, but he’s very close to picking up a baseball for the first time since his Tommy John surgery on May 16.
Sep 18, 2014, 6:31 PM EDT
Arenado has taken a strong step forward during his sophomore season in the majors, batting .287/.328/.500 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI over 111 games.
Sep 18, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT
“Good news, but not as good as it could have been.”
Sep 18, 2014, 5:38 PM EDT
Khalil Greene was a first round pick compared to Cal Ripken. Then he was a decent and at times excellent Major League shortstop. Then he disappeared.
Sep 18, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT
When you’re mocked by the auto-complete function, you’re pretty much mocked by everything.
Sep 18, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Wade LeBlanc is taking his place, but don’t worry.
- It certainly looks like Barry Bonds’ criminal conviction is going to be overturned 58
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 44
- VIDEO: Derek Jeter hits first home run at Yankee Stadium this season 10
- Ron Washington claims he resigned because he cheated on his wife 97
- No, baseball does not need to “announce a domestic violence policy ASAP” 52
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 48
- Video: Rusney Castillo notches his first major league hit 7
- Michael Wacha cleared to return Saturday vs. Reds 2
- Ron Washington claims he resigned because he cheated on his wife (97)
- Chris Davis suspended 25 games for amphetamine use (92)
- Giancarlo Stanton diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and dental damage (91)
- Bud Selig can’t remember the last domestic violence incident in Major League Baseball (90)
- A couple of initial thoughts on the Chris Davis suspension (83)