Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog Roundup: Pitching Help

After last night's 7-5 loss in which Francisco Liriano gave up 4 runs in the first inning after plunking Austin Jackson with the first pitch of the game, it seems the bad starting pitching virus has caught on. I'm not sure if there's any evidence to indicate that bad pitching is contagious, but it sure seems like the Twins' rotation (apart from Carl "Burt Reynolds" Pavano) is stuck in a vicious cycle of under-performance. Twinkie Town has a nice post up regarding both Blackburn and Slowey's league-leading ineptitude in two very important statistical categories, and rumors are flying about possible trade targets to boost rotation depth. Here's a brief look at some of the opinions in the Twins blogosphere on who the front office could or should target before the deadline:
  • Josh Johnson believes that, of the big-name arms, Dan Haren is a more appealing candidate due to the fact that he has a somewhat appealing contract ($8.25MM in 2010, $12.75MM in 2011 and 2012) and would be more than just a three-month rental. By traditional metrics, Haren is underperforming, but his peripherals hold up just fine with his career averages. However, in terms of the package, Johnson suggests Ramos, Bromberg, Angel Morales and Slama, which seems a little too high. I think Ramos is a starting point in any discussions, plus a good OF or SP prospect, but not both, and pieces three or four are hopefully closer to filler than the top of the prospect rankings. Maybe that's wishful thinking, though.
  • Matt Klassen at FanGraphs thinks that Cliff Lee or Oswalt might make sense for the right package, but doesn't see the Twins trading someone like Hicks or Sano. I tend to agree - as good as Cliff Lee has been, it's hard to justify sending one of the centerpieces of the farm system (at least one that isn't blocked by Joe Mauer) for three months of Lee or for Oswalt's $16MM salary next season.
  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press brings some lower-level options to the table in Fausto Carmona, Brian Bannister, and Jeremy Guthrie. He says Carmona could be a "top-of-the-line guy," which is definitely an overstatement. Sure, his 3.64 ERA looks nice and he seems to have rebounded from a disastrous 2008-09, but Carmona is hardly top-of-the-line stuff. His biggest asset is a 58.1% GB rate, which would help a fly-ball heavy staff, but his K/BB ratio is a paltry 1.56, and xFIP has him at 4.48. Bannister certainly has been plagued by his team's lack of support, but his peripherals show that he's at least a fairly consistent, if unspectacular, option. He owns a career 5.16 K/9 rate and a 4.86 FIP, and his numbers this season are worse than everyone else on the staff except Blackburn. Yes, he pitches for a bad team, but he hasn't been that great on his own merits and he's certainly not an upgrade over Baker or Slowey. Guthrie has also been a middle-of-the-road starter for a bad team, and although his 4.30 ERA looks decent considering he pitches for the Orioles, his K/9 has been under 5 the last two seasons and he doesn't induce a ton of ground balls (40.4% career). The bottom line with all these guys is that none of them are significant upgrades, and if, as Powers claims, "none of these fellows will come cheaply," I'd just as soon not bother.
  • halfchest at Twinkie Town also favors Haren and does a nice job taking a look at the peripherals behind his somewhat down year so far. He names Hicks, Gibson and Sano as the likely untouchables in trade talks, but also poses the idea of including someone in the package from the current rotation, even floating Baker's name as a source of salary relief. I have to say that Ramos, Baker, and Bromberg (he even thinks Slama might be needed to get it done) looks even worse than the option in bullet point #1, but again, maybe I'm underestimating what it will take to push through a deal for Haren.
The bottom line seems to be that, especially for an organization traditionally averse to trading prized prospects, any deal for an ace is going to hurt. I'd agree that if the Diamondbacks truly are willing to deal, which still remains to be seen, Haren seems like the most enticing target due to his somewhat manageable contract for the next few years. My personal feelings are stuck somewhere between not wanting to "sell the farm" (pun intended) for either a short rental or increased salary commitments and feeling like with the money that has been put into this team already and the talent level that's already there, the Twins need to do whatever it takes to win now. I can't say I've made up my mind yet, but I'd honestly be pretty surprised if the Twins pull something off for a big-name starter, so maybe this discussion is moot anyway. For now, let's just hope that the current rotation can pull their collective heads out before things get any uglier.


  1. Would a package centered around Ramos and two to three lower level prospects be enough for Lee? Given their payroll this year and the hike it'll take next year (mauer's raise, arby raises to guys like Hardy, Liriano, etc), it would seem that they don't have the long-term room for taking on more salary (unless they raise their ceiling), and so a 3 mo. rental might be the best fit.

  2. You may have a point, and now it's looking like all those extensions to players that didn't need them could really hurt us in that sense. I guess the increased price for Haren may be because he's got a few years of team control for a still high but not an absurd salary. You also figure that with Lee you're at least looking at some compensation draft picks when he walks. I know there are dollar values you can put on those, maybe that makes the calculus work, I don't know.

  3. I'd be doin' backflips if we landed Lee. We has the post-season pedigree and is about as consistent as they come, which, for as wild as this staff has been lately, would be nice.

  4. What would you be willing to package for him?