Thursday, November 29, 2012

Span Trade and Twins Pitching

The Twins have traded Denard Span to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. This sounds like a Terry Ryan kind of deal. He is looking to the future and Meyer looks like a potential ace. Still, he hasn't pitched above AA so it may not provide any immediate value. Meyer was not on the National's 40 player roster. The Twins also lost Tommy Field on waivers yesterday. So they now have two open spots on the roster going into the winter meetings and the rule 5 draft. Assuming they don't make any more moves before then.

While I am sure the Twins hope Meyer will win a job in spring training, I don't think they are counting on it. So they still have only one starter, Scott Diamond,  and need find four more by the end of spring training. While Terry Ryan insists he intends to fill out the rotation, it is not realistic to think that the Twins are going to add four quality major league starters. So lets look at the options that are open.

To start with the Twins have a handful of young players who will be given the chance to win a spot. In addition to Meyer, Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendricks fit into that category.  Gibson may or may not be ready after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is probably healthy enough, but I suspect the Twins will want to start him at AAA unless he really is dominating in spring training.  Meyer probably fits into that same category. Those two look to be cornerstones of a future Twins rotation, but I don't think the Twins will rush them. Hendricks needs to show he can get major league hitters out. He hasn't so far.

In addition to those three, there are a couple pitchers who had starting jobs last year and will get another shot at the rotation this spring. Cole De Vries is on the roster. He pitches all right last summer and would be a candidate for the fifth spot next year. Sam Deduno signed after he cleared waivers and will be in spring training. If he suddenly shows he can control his fastball, he could be a mid-rotation starter. More likely  both those guys end up as AAA pitching depth. Same with PJ Walters who, like Deduno, was taken off the roster and signed a minor league contract with a spring training invitation.

Pedro Hernandez and BJ Hermsen are two other young prospects on the 40 player roster who are further away. They both have outside shots, but would have to surprise people in spring training.

The other possible starters that the Twins have already in the system are Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak.  Both have got chances as starters in the past and haven't taken them. They are more likely to end up in the bullpen, but may be given a chance depending on who else the Twins bring in.

So there are nine pitchers already in the organization, almost all longshots, who might be able to fill a spot in the rotation out of spring training. My guess is at most two of them will be in the rotation. That leaves at least two more pitchers who will need to come from outside the current roster.

I would expect the Twins to pick up at least one potential starter in the rule 5 draft. They might even grab a couple guys. These will be longshots. Scott Diamond came out of the rule 5 process, but only after spending a year in the minor leagues. Likewise Johan Santana was  a rule 5 claim and he also spent some time in the minor leagues before becoming a permanent fixture in the rotation. This is another longshot for immediate rotation help.

That leaves the Twins needing to sign at least two free agents. Its possible one of those will be a quality major league starter. But the rumors about Twins interest in Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers sound like guys in the target range. They might be able to get Myers on a one year deal with option. But Liriano is probably going to demand a multi-year contract. The Twins are unlikely to take on more than one of those.

In short, the Twins are going to have to gamble next year on the future being now with Gibson a Meyer. Those two, along with Scott Diamond, could provide a pretty solid rotation by the end of the summer if the Twins can just catch lightning with one or two other guys.

Update:

I missed a couple guys here. Nick Blackburn and Esmerling Vasquez. Blackburn is only around because the Twins have to pay him regardless. But he has been successful in the past and could come to spring training and claim a job. Vasquez is AAA depth, same as this year. But again, the 5th starter is likely to be the "AAA depth" that shows the best in spring.

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