There's a lot of talk out there right now, various people speculating on what the Twins will do in the off-season and what the Twins should do in the off-season. In my last piece, I went through each Twins' free-agent and tried to guess at what the Twins might do. One thing seems fairly clear; the Twins will not be bringing back Carl Pavano. To do so would not only be expensive, but would also hamper their ability to re-sign some of the valuable bullpen pieces they stand to lose. So assuming Pavano leaves, that leaves you with a rotation consisting of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Brian Duensing and Blackburn (?). To me this seems weak. If Liriano duplicated his efforts from this season and Baker and Slowey were able to remain healthy and effective for an entire season, it doesn't look that bad, but I want to argue that the Twins could make their rotation more impressive if they made a trade for a starting pitcher. Here's a list of the more enticing free-agent and non free-agent options out there:
Kevin Correia - SP - San Diego Padres
"Rough" would be a good way to describe this right-handers 2010 season. He ended the year with a 10-10 record to go along with a 5.40 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. The encouraging thing about Correia's 2010 numbers are the 4.71FIP and 4.19 xFIP. Am I arguing he's a lights-out pitcher? No. I do think, however, that pitching in Target field would benefit him AND he's a better pitcher than he showed this season. Not only that, he only made $3.6M this past year and would fit nicely into the back-end of the rotation. He's only 30 years old so he's got some left in the tank and who knows, a little work with Rick Anderson might turn this guy right around. He's an out-and-out free-agent so the Twins wouldn't have to work a trade for this guy allowing them to keep their current core of pitchers intact.
Hiroki Kuroda - SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
I would love to land Kuroda, but much like re-signing Pavano, signing Kuroda would likely mean losing most of the current bullpen (unless the Twins front-office decides they can go with a payroll around $120M). In 3 seasons with the Dodgers, Kuroda compiled almost 500 innings, a 3.60ERA and 1.16WHIP. His career FIP sits at 3.57 which means this guy is legit. He's 35 which is getting up there and he made north of $15M last season, but he probably has 2-3 good years left in him and would make a nice right-handed compliment to Liriano. He's not a high strikeout guy (career 6.6 K/9) but he has impeccable control (career 2.1 BB/9) and induces ground-balls at a high rate (career 55.3%).
Cliff Lee - SP - Texas Rangers
Oh how one can dream right? I can't help but wonder how things might have turned out if the Twins had landed Lee instead of Capps. I would put the Twins odds of landing Lee this off-season at about 0.5% so it's probably not worth talking about. Lee will probably command upwards of $20M per year in a new contract which is solidly out of range for the Twins.
Erik Bedard - SP - Seattle Mariners
This lefty hasn't played a full season since 2007, but presents a low-cost, high potential for the Twins, much like Thome last off-season. Bedard has a mutual option with the Mariners for next season (no word on the price of that option) but considering he didn't throw a pitch in 2010, I doubt the Mariners would pick it up...who knows. If he declines the option, the Twins could take a flyer on this guy, sign him to a 1-year, $2M deal and see what happens. Much like Brandon Webb, Bedard has been sidelined for over a year by a shoulder injury, a torn labrum and inflamed bursa-sac in his case. When Bedard has been on the mound, he's been great posting a career 3.71ERA and career 8.8 K/9. He's a risk to sign for sure, but if he can get healthy, he could be very valuable.
Fausto Carmona - SP - Cleveland Indians (Free-Agent, 2015)
This was a guy I lobbied for earlier this season around the trading deadline. Carmona had solid numbers in 2010, was selected to the all-star and best of all, he has dominated other AL central teams during his career. Camona is set to make $6.288M next season and has club options in his contract for 2012, 13 and 14 so he would be worth trading for given the fact he wouldn't just be a one-year rental. Carmona doesn't exactly fit the Twins' mold for starting pitchers, he is prone to walks, but he is a severe ground-ball pitcher which works in any ballpark. I should also mention that Carmona is entering his prime, turning 27 years old in December. I think the Twins would be wise to make a move for this guy, especially since it appears the Indians will be in rebuilding mode for at least another year or two.
Wandy Rodriquez - SP - Houston Astros (Free-Agent, 2012)
This lefty present another relatively low-cost option for the Twins, though a trade would have to take place in order to get him. Rodriguez has pitched right around 200 innings the past two season with pretty good results. He's not a strikeout artist, but over the last three seasons he has K'ed batters at a rate of higher than 8 per 9. Most importantly, he made $5M last year and is in his last year of arbitration eligibility with the Astros. If you figure around $7M through arbitration, that's a pretty fair price for a guy likely to give you ~32 starts and an ERA around 3.50. You could trade away a prospect or you could trade the salary of one of our starting pitchers (Baker, Blackburn?) to make this deal happen. Rodriguez is 31 years old, he's a ground-ball pitcher, he a lefty, and would make a good fit with the Twins.
Zack Greinke - SP - Kansas City Royals (Free-Agent, 2013)
Personally, I don't think Greinke is worth it. If you look at his stat sheet, he had one good year (2009) and most of the other years have been decent, but nothing special. If the Twins did trade for him, they would likely lose valuable major-league talent and would be on the hook for $13.5M to Greinke in 2011 and 2012. Grienke would make a nice addition to the rotation, I do not doubt this, but I would argue you could get equal production from a guy like Wandy Rodriguez at half the price (in money AND talent). Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune likes the prospect of Greinke in the rotation, but MLBTradeRumors isn't buying his proposal.
Those are the obvious starting pitching targets. There are, of course, a number of free-agents out there but most of them are probably not an upgrade from what the Twins have. I think Carmona and Rodriguez present the most enticing options in terms of cost vs. benefit, though I can see the case for landing true top talent as well. I think if the Twins do choose to let Pavano walk, they should make an effort to being in someone else because the results from our starting pitchers not named Liriano this past season were shaky at best.