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
May 27, 2015, 8:42 AM EDT
Major League Baseball will likely fine Cash for his postgame comments. Because, while umpires don’t have much apparent accountability for their actions, managers do.
May 27, 2015, 7:21 AM EDT
Four walkoff wins last night.
May 26, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander took what might be the final step before a rehab assignment Tuesday afternoon at Oakland’s O.Co Coliseum …
May 26, 2015, 10:32 PM EDT
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura appeared to be in for an extended absence when he landed on the disabled list May 14 with a fracture in the pinkie on his throwing hand …
May 26, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says the trade is done and is only awaiting approval from the commissioner’s office.
May 26, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT
Check out this laser shot that Hunter Pence crushed Tuesday night at Milwaukee’s Miller Park …
May 26, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT
Great news on rehabbing ace Jose Fernandez.
May 26, 2015, 8:13 PM EDT
This wasn’t really a great catch by Josh Harrison because he bungled the route, but it did look cool …
May 26, 2015, 7:49 PM EDT
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com Monday that he is tired of fans who “bitch and complain” about the moves made by his front office. He went on an apology tour for those comments Tuesday …
May 26, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Mets ace Matt Harvey had the worst start of his young major league career on Saturday against the Pirates, surrendering seven runs in four innings, and manager Terry Collins indicated a few days later that Harvey is fighting through a period of “dead arm.”
May 26, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips missed back-to-back games earlier this month after being diagnosed with a painful case of turf toe in his left foot, and now the problem has resurfaced.
May 26, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
Lucroy finished fourth in the MVP voting last season.
May 26, 2015, 4:55 PM EDT
Charter Communications customers in Glendale, Burbank, Malibu and Long Beach will be getting the Dodgers’ network within the next few weeks.
May 26, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT
McGehee and his $4.8 million salary predictably cleared waivers.
May 26, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Five starting positions out of nine slots currently belong to Royals players.
May 26, 2015, 2:48 PM EDT
Dan Jennings’ managerial career is off to an interesting start.
May 26, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Good news for the Reds’ biggest trade chit — er, I mean, for their ace.
May 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
In other news, why do we take pitchers at their word when they claim that they’re not really trying to get something extra on the ball?
May 26, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT
Signed to a two-year, $16 million deal this offseason, Morse has hit just .211 with two homers and a .557 OPS in 37 games.
May 26, 2015, 1:28 PM EDT
Bundy was scratched from his scheduled start at Double-A.
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 9
- So that Juan Uribe trade to the Braves is back on … 9
- Ruben Amaro apologizes for comments about fans, admits he may have been late on rebuild 23
- Jonathan Lucroy expected to rejoin the Brewers on Monday 0
- More drama in Miami: Marlins demote third base coach Brett Butler after “confusion” over signs 34
- Ruben Amaro dismisses fans who “bitch and complain” about the Phillies’ moves 70
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 68
- Reds finally shut down Devin Mesoraco seven weeks after hip injury, surgery may be needed 7
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights (133)
- Bryce Harper on Marvin Hudson ejection: “I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump” (132)
- Bryce Harper ejected for second time in a week (122)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (101)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (96)