Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pitching In 2017? Twins Don't Need Any

Over the past few days, it seems the talk of Twins starting pitching has reared its head again. I talked about how bad it's been recently, and it probably can't be overstated. Right now, Minnesota has the worst ERA in the big leagues and it's not particularly close. They don't strike anyone out, and it's just not a great situation. A year from now though, they don't need pitching either.

Now before getting all up in arms, let's take a step back. It's nearly guaranteed that the Twins will lose 90 games this season, and they very well could find themselves staring at 100 losses for the first time since 1982. Regardless of the fact that Molitor and his bunched just missed the playoffs a season ago, they really aren't in a position to compete a season from now anyways. The most important factor for 2017 is that the new GM realize that, and construct the team with that reality in mind.

Over the course of the 2011 to 2014 seasons, the Twins were in no position to compete. What they did during the offseason though was to add warm bodies like Kevin Correia and Jason Marquis to their starting pitching staff. At that point, it may have been necessary with a less healthier farm system, especially on the pitching front. Right now though, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Here's the reality, the Twins already have Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson as guaranteed rotation arms to start 2017. Assuming they don't trade Ervin Santana, he'll be at the top, and without DFA'ing Hector Santiago (which I'd be in favor of), there's just one spot left. That one spot is going to need to go to top pitching prospect Jose Berrios.

Therein lies the problem.

Minnesota could have as many as four of the five starting rotation spots filled, and only two of them may be around when this club gets back to relevance. If the hope is that 2018 sees Minnesota at the top of the AL Central again, that rotation should be led by Berrios. Behind the aforementioned group to open 2017, whoever is managing the 25 man needs to be getting significant looks at longer term options.

Trevor May's back is all but begging to go back to starting pitching. Adalberto Mejia is a top 100 pitching prospect Minnesota was flipped by the Giants for Eduardo Nunez. Stephen Gonsalves is nearly kicking the door down to be called up to the show, and he has both Tyler Jay and Kohl Stewart behind him. There's a ton of inexperience and youth among these names, but using 2017 as anything but a proving ground for the arms doesn't make much sense.

With the way things are set up, the bullpen should follow suit with the starting staff. Players like Jake Reed, Zack Jones, Trevor Hildenberger, D.J. Baxendale, Alex Wimmers, and even a healthy Nick Burdi should be given significant run in relief next season. While there's some spots already claimed, putting retreads ahead of the home grown talent doesn't stand to make much sense.

Now, it's absolutely fair to question the validity of each of these options (starting or relief) working out. There could be a handful of mediocrity among the options, and finding top tier players isn't an easy ask. That being said, making a move for an ace in a losing season before finding out what your internal talent looks like doesn't sound like a great ask either.

If you really want to deal Brian Dozier for a top tier starter, you can probably ask around. Given that he's 29 and not signed into any of his free agent years, I'm not sure that the return is necessarily what it's made out to look like. Outside of that scenario, hold onto your top prospects and actually play them. Turn 2017 into a big league providing ground. Get the kids' feet wet and make sure you know who's capable of leading you into relevancy during the 2018 season.

Prior to 2018, the Twins will likely have the same opportunity to make a deal in swapping prospects for a starter should they choose to do so. They'll likely have two more top 10 draft picks in their system, and a GM in place to actually turn things around should all be realities. Right now though, practice some patience and wait.

It may not be glamorous, but the 2017 Twins shouldn't be significantly different than this bunch. Move on from the holdovers and get the perceived difference makers from the farm up. After you've gotten some time to complete evaluations at the highest level, then figure out what's next.

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