Thursday, November 8, 2012

Former Twins Pitchers Fill Free Agent Market

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching...

Every club needs it and every club searches to add more pitching in the offseason. 

For the Twins, it will be a challenging offseason. The club needs to fill four starting spots in the rotation and the front office would also like to add some bullpen depth. This can come out of the free agent pool or by trading another player but the Twins have holes they need to fill before the start of next year.

Yesterday, I looked at the former Twins position players filling the free agent market and today I turn my attention to the former Twins pitchers. There are nine former pitchers on the market and five of them were on the team last season. Since pitching is a big area of need, there's a chance a couple of these men could be back in Twins uniforms before the start of next year.

Scott Baker, RHP
Last season: Baker was supposed to be an integral part of the Twins starting rotation. An injury in spring training kept this idea from becoming a reality. He is working his way back from Tommy John surgery but his last season with the club had a very good first half of the year. If the Twins could get that version of Baker, they wouldn't hesitate to bring him back to Minnesota.

Odds of returning: The Twins have made no secret about their intention to try and bring back Baker. Terry Ryan has referred to him as "one of our guys" and it sounded like Baker wouldn't mind staying with the Twins at the end of last season. There seem to be other teams interested in his services but he seems to have the best odds of returning out of the men listed below.

Matt Capps, RHP
Last season: It was a nightmare season for Capps in 2012 and the Twins just recently turned down his multi-million dollar option for next year. This means Capps will be on the free agent market for the second year in a row. Injuries have been part of the problem for Capps in the last two years so it's hard to know if a healthier version of this pitcher could have been more effective.

Odds of returning: The Twins have talked about adding more depth to an already strong bullpen but it doesn't seem like Capps will be part of that equation. There could be quite the uproar from the fans if he was brought back for another campaign. It just seems like it is time for this player and this club to go their separate ways.

Brian Fuentes, LHP
Last season: Fuentes put together his worst big league season last year in time with Oakland and St. Louis. Even though the A's gave him an opportunity as their closer, his ERA and WHIP went through the roof. He has spent most of the last six seasons in the American League with mixed results along the way. At 36-years old, he is aging and it could be tough for him to find a big league role.

Odds of returning: It would be nice to have some more depth in the bullpen and he is a left-handed pitcher so that always helps. Since he is coming off a bad season, the Twins might be able to get him on an affordable contract. Out of the relief arms on this list, he might be the one I would most like to end up in Minnesota again.
LaTroy Hawkins, RHP
Last season: He made a return trip the American League last season after putting together some decent numbers in the playoff bound Brewers from 2011. Hawkins will turn 40 before the start of next season but he continues to find a role with different teams. If he can stay healthy, there doesn't seem to be much that could stop him from pitching again.

Odds of returning: The upside of signing Hawkins seems limited at best because of his age and the risk of injury. His last couple of trips through the American League hasn't been as good as his time in the National League. While the addition of another bullpen arm would be a positive for the Twins, it seems more likely for the team to go in a different direction.

Francisco Liriano, LHP
Last season: Liriano spent time in Minnesota and Chicago last season and he will reach the free agent market for the first time this offseason. In the last two seasons, his ERA has been north of 5.00 and he has double digits losses in both of those years. His only good season since returning from Tommy John surgery was back in 2010 and it has been one headache after another since then.

Odds of Returning: Liriano has been frustrating Twins fans for multiple seasons so it seems like a reunion might be out of the question. The front office wants to bolster the starting rotation but the Twins know Liriano better than anyone. He will most likely get a multi-year contract and the Twins should avoid tying themselves into a long-term deal with Mr. Liriano.

Kyle Lohse, RHP
Last season: Following a career year as a staple in the starting rotation for the Cardinals, Lohse could be set to make some big money. He set a career high with 16 wins and his ERA was under 3.00 for the first time in his career. Lohse just turned 34 in October so this could be one of his last chances to strike it rich on the free agent market.

Odds of returning: Since the last time he was in town he went after Ron Gardenhire's door with a bat, I doubt he will be back in the Twins clubhouse. The front office wants to add multiple starting pitchers but it's hard to think Lohse would be on the list. Some team will give him the money he is looking for but it won't be the team from Minneapolis.

Jason Marquis, RHP
Last season: His year got off to a horrible start with the Twins after his daughter was in a scary accident. He would pull himself together after joining the Padres and posting some decent numbers. Besides his brief taste of the American League, Marquis has been a lifelong player in the National League. It might be easier for him to find success in the league he knows the best.

Odds of returning: The Twins took a chance on him before the start of last season and it didn't work out. This most likely means that he won't get another shot with the club. It's not like he is probably banging down the door to try and get back with the Twins. He can latch on to some NL team and try to rack up some innings at the backend of a rotation.

Carl Pavano, RHP
Last season: For the first time since joining the Twins on a full time basis, Pavano failed to reach the 220 innings pitched mark. He saw a decrease in velocity and a variety of injuries were to blame. It also didn't help that the Twins medical staff misdiagnosed his ailments. Before the start of next season, Pavano will turn 37 and his best years might be behind him. His shoulder issues and declining velocity don't make him a very attractive option.

Odds of returning: During the first couple years of his Twins tenure, it seemed like Pavano and the club had a good relationship. The handling of his injuries last season might have created a rift between him and the organization. His injury problems last season don't really put him in place to ask for a long-term deal but it would be nice for the Twins to look elsewhere. 

Jon Rauch, RHP
Last season: He spent the year in the Mets bullpen and he improved in a few areas. His WHIP was under 1.00 for the first time in his career and his ERA dropped from the year before.  Rauch also did a better job of keeping the ball in the park and it probably helped to have half of his games at Citi Field. His ERA ballooned at the end of the year when he seemed to be tiring. He gave up six runs in his last four innings pitched and that didn't help his final numbers.

Odds of returning: Twins fans are well aware of the ups-and-downs Rauch can bring to the mound. The club didn't have enough confidence in him as closer back in 2010 so they traded away one of their best prospects for Matt Capps. He was part of the last two Twins teams to make the postseason so maybe he can be the missing link. 

Do any of these pitchers have a shot of making a return trip to Minnesota? Who has the best chance of putting on a Twins uniform in 2013? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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