What the current rotation will be: (in my opinion)
This looks like a thoroughly mediocre bunch of starters, but there is some upside in there. Baker looked like he finally turned a corner and was having a very solid season that was cut short with an elbow injury. I know everyone was fed up with Liriano this past season but he still can be a dominant pitcher if the Twins can get him to maintain his shoulder strength this offseason. He came to camp out of shape and was behind the 8 ball from the beginning which I think is the main reason he did not repeat his numbers from the previous season. Pavano's peripheral stats where nearly identical to his very solid 2010 season but was hurt by the horrendous infield defense playing behind him. Blackburn is under contract for the next 2 years for around 10 million and I am convinced Punto passed on his envelope of compromising photos of Gardy so will probably be in the rotation much to our dismay. Slowey spent the entire season in the doghouse with the manager, his teammates, and the local media. I think there is a better chance of him ending up being non-tendered then actually pitching for us next season.
Kyle Gibson having TJ surgery was a major blow as I felt he probably could have stepped in this year and held his own in the back end of the rotation and been an upgrade over both Blacky and Slowey. Liam Hendriks looked a little overwhelmed in his September call up but also show some promise as well and he could step into the 5th slot if the Twins do release Slowey and do not bring in anyone else to fill out the rotation.
Free Agent Options:
Erik Bedard (33)
Because of his injury history I believe it would be hard for him to get more than a one year deal. He is coming off another injury shortened season in which he threw just 129 innings, but pitched well with a 3.56 xFIP and 125 k's. He would be an upgrade over most of the rotation when healthy and I think if he is on the market we should offer him a one year deal at 5 million with incentives up to 8 million. He will probably have a lot of competition on the market and we would probably get out bid but that’s the most I would offer him considering his injury history.
Mark Buehrle (33)
I have long loathed him while playing for the pale house and have a hard time picturing him playing for the Twins, but he is a solid pitcher who has been remarkably consistent throughout his career. He is probably the 2nd best starter on the market behind C.J. Wilson and therefore will probably price himself out of the Twins market as I expect him to get a deal worth over 35 million over 3 years. He will probably be worth that contract due to his consistency but counting on him into his mid-thirties at 10 figures is daunting and I would have to think hard about offering him that kind of deal.
Hisashi Iwakuma (31)
I’ll admit I do not know much about him other then he turned down 4 years and 15m from the A's last year. Per his numbers on baseball-reference.com (http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Hisashi_Iwakuma) he seems to be in the mold of the Twins pitch to contact type giving up the 1st and 2nd most hits in Japan while striking out 150 over 200 innings. The Twins finished 2nd in the bidding for him last year and may be interested in bringing in another Japanese import in the hopes that it helps Nishioka but at what he turned down last year it would be hard to imagine paying him what he wants.
C.J. Wilson (31)
Wilson is coming off of back to back solids seasons and no doubt will be overpaid by some east coast team desperate for pitching. I have read 5 years and 90m+ as a starting point and think it would be nearly impossible for the Twins to afford that and think they should and will wisely pass.
Ricky Nolasco (29)
The Marlins have seemingly grown disgruntled with Nolasco and his average performance (http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/09/marlins-open-to-trading-nolasco.html) and I think he would be an ideal fit for the Twins especially if they improve the middle infield defense as well this offseason as that is the main culprit behind Nolasco's seemingly average numbers. He has posted strong K rates and GB rates the last 3 years and would instantly slide into the top of our rotation.
What would it take to get Nolasco?
Since he is still owed around $20m over the next two years and he is coming off his worst season in the last three years, as long as we were to take on the full contract, the cost for him would not be astronomical. Using the Edwin Jackson trades as models (almost identical WAR the last three years) we can get an idea of what it would cost to acquire him. I think that it would take a major league ready piece plus a b level prospect to acquire him as that’s the price the White Sox paid to get Jackson with roughly a year and half of control left. Looking at the Marlins roster I can identify a couple of options they would ask for in a trade.
The first proposal I would offer would be:
Ben Revere + mid-level SP (Bromberg or Pat Dean possibly) for Nolasco.
Option #2 would be:
Liam Hendricks + Mid-Level Outfield Prospect (Daniel Ortiz or Eddie Rosario) for Nolasco
My first choice of all the above options is I would much rather deal Revere and his limited offensive upside plus a descent upside arm to get Nolasco then pay big money for a free agent starter. Revere could slide into CF between Stanton and Morrison and his speed would play well in the NL. Nolasco would slot in with Baker and Liriano to, fingers crossed, provide a descent trio of starters at the top of the rotation.
That’s what I would do if I was running the Twins what are your thoughts?
The Armchair GM