Thursday, October 18, 2012

Searching the market for "affordable" pitchers

In an interview over the weekend with 1500 ESPN, Terry Ryan spoke about one of the Twins biggest needs during the offseason. The starting rotation for the Twins was in shambles in 2012 due to combination of factors like season ending injuries, poor play, and inconsistencies on the mound. Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and Jason Marquis were supposed to comprise three-fifths of the starting rotation coming out of spring training. Baker wouldn't make it out of Florida after injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery. Pavano and Marquis would make appearances for the club but Marquis was terrible and Pavano dealt with injuries for most of the year. There were plenty of concerns with the starting staff and this leaves a plethora of question marks for 2013.

For the sounds of the interview with Ryan, the Twins will be looking for "affordable" pitching while monitoring some of the big names on the market. Zach Greinke will most likely be the pitcher to earn the most as a free agent this offseason. Jake Peavy and Dan Haren could also be big names on the market if their teams pass on the large options each player has for next year. There have been some nightmares in the past when Ryan has tried to find "affordable" pitchers in the free agent market. Twins fans had to suffer through Jason Marquis, Sidney Ponson, and Ramon Ortiz as lower level options to fill out a rotation.

The Twins will again be scavenging through the lower levels of free agency to try and find a few pitchers to make an impact on this organization for next year. There are plenty of options on the free agent market but the important thing to remember is the price needs to be right for the Twins. With the team already having $74 million in committed money for next year, the payroll will end up being between $90 million and $100 million so that leaves a little wiggle room for the club.

Here are five starting pitchers the Twins might be considering this offseason:

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2012 Stat Summary: W-L (9-5), 3.16 ERA, 125.1 IP, 101 SO, 43 BB, 1.277 WHIP

As a 31-year old, Iwakuma made his MLB debut with the Mariners in 2012 and he put up decent numbers for a man transitioning from Japan. For most of the first half of the year, he was used as a relief arm out of the bullpen. The beginning of July is when Iwakuma became a staple in the starting rotation for the Mariners. He finished the season on a strong note by winning five of his last seven outings. These starts were also against teams that were fighting for the playoffs like Los Angeles and Texas. During his time in Japan, he was used exclusively as a starter so it will be interesting to see what he can do with an entire season in a rotation.

Ervin Santana, RHP, Los Angles Angels
2010-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (37-35), 4.08 ERA, 629.1 IP, 480 SO, 206 BB, 1.270 WHIP

There have been comparisons between Santana and former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano so this could be a scary proposition to some. That being said, he has put together some decent seasons at the big league level. He had a sub-4.00 ERA in three of the last four years and he has pitched more than 200 innings in four different seasons. He is coming off of a rough year where he allowed the most home runs in the American League but switching to a more pitcher friendly Target Field could help his numbers. If the Twins could sneak in and get the Santana from previous seasons, it could be a steal for the club.

Gavin Floyd, RHP, Chicago White Sox
2010-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (34-37), 4.25 ERA, 549.0 IP, 446 SO, 166 BB, 1.295 WHIP

Twins fans will be familiar with Floyd since he played the last six seasons for AL Central foe Chicago. He has made 18 starts in his career versus the Twins and he hasn't fared very well with a 6-11 record and an ERA that is closer to six than it is to five. Since the Twins have moved to Target Field, his ERA has gone down and his strikeouts went up in games played in the Twin Cities. His familiarity with teams in the AL Central could also be a positive if the Twins wanted to consider that when sifting through these pitchers. The White Sox hold a $9.5 million option for next year and it seems likely for Chicago to turn his option down and let him hit the free agent market.

Erik Bedard, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2011-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (12-23), 4.31 ERA, 255.0 IP, 243 SO, 104 BB, 1.376 WHIP

In his second season back since missing all of 2010 due to injury, Bedard ran into some tough luck as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He lost his first four appearances of the year but he allowed less than two runs per game over five innings or more. The Pirates only scored a total of three runs in his first four appearances and it can be tough for a pitcher to come back from starting the year in a 0-4 hole. There were some rough starts along the way for Bedard in 2012 and the Pirates released him by the end of August. This has been a pitcher to show some decent ability in the past and he is a couple of years removed from his surgery. If the Twins wanted to try and take a flyer on a player, this could be the guy.

Kevin Correia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2010-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (34-32), 4.77 ERA, 470.0 IP, 201 SO, 149 BB, 1.387 WHIP

Correia pitched in the same rotation as Bedard in 2012 but it doesn't look like the Pirates will have room for him in 2013. He seems to fit the mold of a Twins hurler because he doesn't strike out a lot of batters but his WHIP was decent this year over the course of 171 innings. He has bounced around a few different National League clubs since making his debut with the Giants back in 2003. The 32-year old pitcher might have a tough time switching to the AL after spending his entire career in the NL but the Twins could give him a chance to earn a rotation spot for next year.

These are just a few names to consider before free agency begins after the World Series. What other names would you like the Twins to consider? Do any of the above names seem like viable options for the Twins?

Leave a comment below and start the discussion.

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