• Deep Starting Pitching Market Is A Lucky Break For Twins

    I may have exaggerated a little. I know – shocking for a blogger.

    The starting pitching free agents don't end with Zach Greinke.For months I’ve been saying that this free agent class of pitchers is almost historically deep. That might be a little strong, unless you think history only goes back as far as 2007. Because based on the dollars that were thrown around, 2006-2007 was an unbelievably lucrative free agent starting pitching market – for the players. It didn’t work out nearly as well for the owners.


    The top two contracts given out that year were unmitigated disasters. San Francisco is still trying to get out from under the $126M contract they gave Barry Zito while the Red Sox are finally finished with the $100+M they paid to get Daisuke Matsuzaka. Those two contracts are legendarily bad, and that’s NOT an exaggeration.

    But the next two were almost equally dismal. The Royals invested $55M in Gil Meche, though he saved them some of that when he voluntarily retired only four years into the deal. The next biggest deal went to Jason Schmidt, who made $47M and pitched only 43.1 innings. (Read that last sentence again.) And it didn’t stop there. The majority of the pitchers who signed for big money struggled and there were a lot of them: nine pitchers signed guaranteed deals for at least $20M.

    The teams may have figured out something since then. In the five years since, only eleven pitchers have reached that $20M level. No class since has had more than three pitchers reach that plateau. In fact, no class has had more than seven pitchers even get $10 million contracts.

    Or it could be that the pitchers since just haven’t been that good. For instance, last year was the year those seven pitchers got at least $10M. The market had three big names – CJ Wilson, Yu Darvish and Mark Buehrle. But beyond them, there wasn’t much. Hiroki Kuroda got a one-year, $11M deal from Yankees. Three others got $10+ million contracts, but they were all for multiple years, so the fifth, sixth and seventh biggest deals went to Aaron Harang ($6M/year), Chris Capuano ($5M/year) and Wei-Yin Chen ($3.8M/year).

    Did you just say “Who?” Exactly. If you’re looking for a thin market for starting pitching, the last five years qualify.

    This year is different. There are as many as 11 pitchers who could garner a $20M offer from a team. In the first draft of TwinsCentric’s Offseason GM Handbook (which you’ll be able to order soon, I promise), I count six that are virtually locks to make that money There are five more that might, and each will almost certainly get at least $10 million guaranteed. That’s deeper than any class since 2006.

    But it’s deeper still than that. Because after those guys there are another dozen pitchers who qualify as “innings eaters” or “intriguing gambles” which are the domains in which the Twins are most likely to dabble. Scott Baker belongs in the latter category and ranks 22nd overall on our list. By comparison, there were only 18 starting pitchers last year that signed major league contracts – and that was the most since 2006-2007.

    So, yes, I might have exaggerated a little in the past, so I’ll try and be a little more precise. (John Dyer-Bennett would have wanted it that way.) Right now, this year’s free agent starting pitching class looks to be the best group we have seen in at least five years. It is also flush with mid-level talent, going at least 20 to 25 players deep. And I’ll go a step further.

    If the Twins were trying to time find an offseason where average starting pitching would be available at a discount, they couldn’t have done a much better job. (Provided they actually spend some money.)

    ~~~
    This article was originally published in blog: Deep Starting Pitching Market Is A Lucky Break For Twins started by John Bonnes
    Comments 55 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      John, just to warn you... when we meet to discuss F/A salaries, I will probably disagree with you on like 95% of the starting pitchers.

      Greinke has Barry Zito contract written all over him. The starting pitcher mark is OK and there are some good arms. There isn't a single arm that doesn't come with a bunch of question marks.

      I'd be happy with the Twins going after Edwin Jackson and Anibal Sanchez, but if it's actually going to take those $20M contracts, the Twins need to just say no.
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Ive actually been hearing national reports that think this yrs crop is incdedibly thin & overrated ......predicting that Jermemy Guthrie is gonna get 10m/yr type of crop
    1. Lesser Dali's Avatar
      Lesser Dali -
      I would be concerned, but I have no doubt the Twins will not make a foolish, big money offer on any of the free agent pitchers. Greinke will get paid, but other than that it would be foolish to offer big yearly money with years attached to it to any of the other FA's. In my opinion, Greinke is worth no more than 3 years at 36M. Although his mental state has leveled off a bit, I still here stories of him being aloof and not being a very good clubhouse guy. This is not an individual I would invest 100M into.
    1. Lesser Dali's Avatar
      Lesser Dali -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Ive actually been hearing national reports that think this yrs crop is incdedibly thin & overrated ......predicting that Jermemy Guthrie is gonna get 10m/yr type of crop
      If that is the case - stick with the likes of Deduno, Hendriks, or John Doe and hope for Gibson to enter the scene with some gusto. Jeremy Guthrie at 10M per - Disgraceful!!!
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Where the twins may benefit from this market is if teams overpay a starter they may have to dump someone for salary, Someone may have to give up a two or a three because they invested too much. With a trade that fills a hole for the other team they will not feel like they lost out.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      One thing to note in the GM handbook, the Twins have money to spend with a lot coming off the books this year AND no player on their roster will require a significant investment in the next 3-5 years.

      So if they sign a pitcher for 4 years 20 Million, it would not cause them to lose any young superstars on their current roster to FA.

      Twins need 2-3 Starting Pitchers & maybe a MI if there is one to be had
      1 Staring Pitcher 20 Million a year makes the payroll around 90 Million
      1 Starting Pitcher 8 million a year makes the payroll around 98 Million
      With a million or two to spend for a decent MI bench player or a flyer on a project makes the payroll around 100 million.

      Unless they plan to cut payroll down even further, this team has the long term room to get some decent starting pitchers if they choose to.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I am pretty confused by this and the G and G podcast. The latter seemed to indicate that pitchers would be available on one or two year contracts for under 10 million, and some WELL under that.

      There is no way that 20 million is thrown at more than a couple pitchers. And then I would expect a big drop.

      I guess I would ask for specifics:

      Greinke:

      A. Sanchez:

      Jackson:

      E. Santana:

      Marcum:

      Blanton:


      This provides a good range, in my view of the 20 mil vs. the 6-8 mil pitchers. There is no doubt that Boston and New York will try to buy big, but after that? The Angels are done spending, the Dodgers are done spending. Only a few other teams will make ONE big expenditure for somebody. The value in many of these guys drops a lot, though in the G and G podcast is seemed like it would drop in a HUGE way down to the 5 million range.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      By the way, given that those top two are unreachable, I would love for the Twins to sign any two of the bottom four there. And if all can be had for 2 year contracts, that would be fantastic.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      It will be interesting to see where Greinke ends up. He hates the big city spotlight, but will be too expensive for almost everyone but Boston and New York. I wouldn't touch Blanton, his numbers in the NL suck and coming into the AL will inflate even further. He's not worth the $10M he's making now, let alone what the bidding will bloat his salary to. Sanchez is making $8M now, and he's been no better than some of our in-house options since coming over from the NL to the Tigers. I'm very leary of any NL only pitcher coming to the AL. Jackson has a good history no matter the league, but would like to stay put. I think the Nats will accomodate him with a 3-year deal. Which leaves Santana and Marcum. I believe the Angels will pick up Santana's $13M option. Marcum would be a good fit. He had a very good 2010 in Toronto, but I think he will be priced out of the Twins comfort zone. I'm intrigued by Carlos Villanueva and I'd be interested in Brandon McCarthy.
    1. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
      Fire Dan Gladden -
      If you are an individual that believes the Twins are 2-3 years away from being competitive, how do you feel about the team going out and spending $20-30 mil on FA pitching this offseason? Seems to me you should be upset about the the team throwing money at pitchers when they still aren't close. That being said, what would the opinion be if you felt that way and they didn't spend the money?

      I believe they are close. Spending $12-15 mil for 2 mid-level FA pitchers could put them back in the mix (assuming they don't make any of the Span/Morneau trades.)
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If you will not pay market prices, you will not the best players...best meaning those that the market thinks are the best at the time of signing, not after the fact. I expect one middling signing and one flyer, cheap signing, and 85 to 90 losses next year.
    1. LewFordLives's Avatar
      LewFordLives -
      Unfortunately, the Twins aren't the only team in need of starting pitching. While a guy like Marcum might be a good fit for us, he's probably a good fit for 10 other teams as well. I don't expect the Twins to sign any impact pitchers.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      The Twins won't be able to fix this rotation soley through Free Agency. If they really want to have at least an average rotation heading into next year they need to do the following:

      1. Gibson needs to step up by June.
      2. They need to trade Span/Morneau/Willingham for a legit high upside arm.
      3. They need to find the "Willingham" of SP on the FA market.

      I can't see them competing for anyone that has #1/#2 or even high end #3 type stuff on the FA market, much of the burden will fall on shrewd trades or if Gibson/Baker can step up and be a #2 in 2013.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      You have to be a little leary of any NL pitchers who would be moving over to the AL. The numbers over time back up the fact that pitchers tend to struggle making that move. Smaller ballparks on average, DH instead of pitchers in the lineup. Guys who look pretty good in the NL often don't look so good in the AL. That doesn't just mean an increase in ERA, which is understandable, but also in things that try and account for differences like ERA+, it's common to see pitchers revert some when making that move. Obviously you can find individual cases that made the move successfully, but the trend is well-established to not have as much success.

      I'll be curious to see the trend for Target Field long-term as far as hitter-friendliness. First couple years it played big, but it seems it's normalizing a bit this year. But we probably won't really know until another half-dozen years how it's really going to play over time.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Most of the Twins' improvement in starting pitching next year will result from our current group of young pitchers doing better with experience. I have high hopes for Gibson -- for 2014. Next year he will be in his first year in the majors, and in his first year back after Tommy John surgery.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      While the SP market is better than most years I am going to disagree that it is really deep.

      Good SP'ers
      greinke
      Sanchez
      Marcum
      Jackson

      the rest are pretty mediocre since Colby Lewis had TJ and McCarthy fractured his skull

      The best path imo if you don't go after Greinke or Marcum is to try and get a pair of guys like Villanueva and Baker on shorter term (but not 1 yr) contracts in the 5-7M range.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      John, just to warn you... when we meet to discuss F/A salaries, I will probably disagree with you on like 95% of the starting pitchers.
      It was really hard coming up with those numbers. I'm very open for feedback. I'm already starting to modify them a bit.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      I guess I would ask for specifics:

      Greinke, A. Sanchez, Jackson, E. Santana, Marcum, Blanton:


      This provides a good range, in my view of the 20 mil vs. the 6-8 mil pitchers. There is no doubt that Boston and New York will try to buy big, but after that? The Angels are done spending, the Dodgers are done spending. Only a few other teams will make ONE big expenditure for somebody. The value in many of these guys drops a lot, though in the G and G podcast is seemed like it would drop in a HUGE way down to the 5 million range.
      I don't want to publish numbers until the other guys have seen them, I'd say the first three all will get $20M + deals. Santana is one of my $10+ M guys, but could be as high as $20 if he finishes strong. Marcum might get to $10, but may need to do a one-year deal for less. Blanton I'd have in the 6ish range.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Sanchez has not looked very good in the AL so far he may need to go back to the NL. Santana has neg war and has been really bad. If these guys are going to get north of 7-8 mill a yr that isn't a very good bang for the buck. For the most part all the guys with decent numbers are NL guys and could be big failures in the AL.
      I just don't see the list of Starters as deep at all. That's not saying they wouldn't improve our rotation but I don't see many guys that will make a big impact. It's more likely that we pick up a Millwood, Guthrie or Saunders type and resign Pavano, imo.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I think this is a market the Twins are best kind of sitting back and watching for a bit. Once Greinke signs, the next tier will go. Jackson and Sanchez should get decent deals, like over $20M. I'm not sure I see anyone else who would get more than $6M a year... I mean, i think if the Twins were aggressive, like they were with Carroll and Doumit last year, and offered Blanton 2 years and $12M, I think he'd probably sign. Guthrie was released 2 months ago.I'm intrigued by Ervin Santana, and I might go 3 years, $18M with him.

      There you go... there's my strategy... be aggressive and see if you an have Anibal Sanchez (4 years, $28M), Ervin Santana (3 years, $18M), and Joe Blanton at 1 year, $5M. There's $18M and three pitchers who are likely the top three in the Twins rotation, followed by Diamond and then Deduno for the short-term. If they're not willing to sign those deals quickly, stay in good standing with their agents and offer them the same deal, or 95% of the same deal, in early January.
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