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  • Finding Positives in Pelfrey

    On Saturday, the news we've been expecting for weeks finally arrived: the Twins have agreed to terms with Mike Pelfrey on a two-year contract. Ever since it was initially reported back in November that Minnesota had made a multi-year bid for the right-hander, there has been little question that a reunion was in store because, frankly, it seemed unlikely any other team would match.

    The move has been met with criticism from many fans and analysts, which is unsurprising considering that Pelfrey pitched quite poorly in his first year with the club. I expected to experience that same feeling of antipathy when the signing was inevitably announced. And yet... I am not.

    To be clear, I'm not a big fan of Pelfrey. Watching him pitch is a grind because he works slowly and uses tons of pitches. For the game-watching fan, he's kind of a drag. But that's secondary to the results he achieves.

    Those haven't been good either, of course, at least not since he put up a 3.66 ERA over 204 innings back in 2010. I didn't like the contract given to Pelfrey last year because I saw little upside in a one-year deal for a guy who wasn't great to begin with and was only 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery. The best-case scenario was that Pelf would get off to a rough start and come around during the latter part of the season boosting his own value going forward.

    That did happen, to some extent. The righty endured a miserable first two months, getting tagged for a 6.66 ERA and .907 OPS while completing six innings just twice in 11 starts. But he looked noticeably better from May through September, turning in a 4.44 ERA while allowing only seven homers in 101 innings.

    The overall numbers are far from dazzling, but that's why Pelfrey was available at such a low price. And at that price ($11 million plus incentives over two years), he stands a good chance of being a solid value for the back end of the rotation.

    Here are a couple key things to keep in mind: He revved his fastball back up to the mid-90s in 2013 despite being less than a year removed from elbow surgery, and on the season he posted a career-high 6.0 K/9 rate (including 6.7 in the final four months).

    Anyone who had become entangled in thoughts of a top-flight talent like Matt Garza is surely disappointed, but in my mind those reports were never realistic. The Twins weren't going to sign another pitcher to a four/five-year deal worth potentially upwards of $75 million after already committing that amount to a pair of hurlers in November. Those printed rumors struck me as a classic example of media being leveraged in negotiations -- either by the Twins (trying to motivate Pelfrey to sign) or by Garza's agent (trying to drum up the market).

    Once Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes were on board, I sincerely doubt Terry Ryan was ever truly interested in adding Garza, or Masahiro Tanaka, or even Bronson Arroyo (who, at 36, simply doesn't fit as well with the organization's contention timeline as Pelfrey, who is still 29). Not at the prices they are going to eventually command.

    In all likelihood, the Twins are now done shopping for starting pitching. No one is going to look at their rotation -- which will include Nolasco, Hughes, Pelfrey, Kevin Correia and one returning arm -- and be blown away, but this group is a far more stable one than we've seen the past few years. The first four names are all experienced hurlers who made at least 29 starts in the majors last year. Leaving only one spot open puts the Twins in a position where they can pick the best of their internal candidates rather than counting on total question marks to fill multiple holes.

    I know it's hard to get excited about Pelfrey based on what we've seen. But it's important to view him for what he is: an inexpensive back-end piece whose contract won't constrict the Twins much in terms of years or money. And while last year's deal carried little upside, there's more to be found in this one.

    If Pelf can build on the things he did in the second half of 2013, he could turn out to be a pretty damn good value at around $7 million per year in his age 30 and 31 seasons.
    This article was originally published in blog: Finding Positives in Pelfrey started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 81 Comments
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Oh my!

      This thread has taken on a very broad life of its own, and is obviously covering the entire breadth of the 2014 Twins we all love so much. It would be virtually impossible to cut and paste every comment I'd like t address and agree with.

      Isnt this version of the hot stove just the best ever? LoL

      To attempt to address some of the primary points:

      Ryan is not done yet. He will be addressing some useful pieces to the bench still. Probably a C, an INF who can hit and play a little, and probably a flyer at least n an OF as insurance for Mastro health and Hicks development. But positionally speaking, I see no major trades or FA signings. (Unless there is a surprise a SS). At this point in the rebuild, you just don't trade young talent, great young talent, just to add a decent ML player. Do you really try to acquire someone to replace or block Pinto, Arcia, Sano, Buxton, Hicks and Rosario? Not to mention a healthy Mauer, Dozier and rebounding Willingham. (primary DH hopefully) No. You add a couple pieces t supplement.

      And be honest for a moment, could the Twins offense this next season, even with the players we currently have, no uber prospects ready to suddenly break-out, just a new season, better health, in some cases mild improvement, be any worse than last season?

      Thinking a strong and obvious NO.

      As to the jist of this article, the Pelfrey signing, I admit to some struggle. I have debated this signing since the end of last season internally, and with my own father, a rabid Twins fan who raised me as such, and has been an ardent and informed fan since they arrived in Minnesota. Probably forgotten more about Twins history than any of us can even know.

      Ultimately, it's a good signing in my opinion.

      Yes I wanted Garza. But I think it's becoming clear that the YEARS may not make sense. Nolasco and Hughes are good, quality signings that in years past we would be doing cartwheels over. And both have real potential. Garza and Arroyo come with their own separate question marks that make me a bit uneasy, though cant say I'd complain too much.

      Pelfrey has some real talent, though his career has been somewhat up and down. He showed some real flashes last year once he got his legs underneath him, before running out of gas late. Now a full year plus removed from TJ, we might see more of that consistency, and probably will. His contract does nothing to hinder our youngsters. He gives us a 4 deep pitching option of at least decent SP to open ST with.

      I hear and understand the arguments how we might be "too deep" in SP to begin ST. Really? Is that a real thing? Name me a ball club that goes through the spring without a single SP that doesn't have a blister, or a strain, or a pull, or some twinge to slow or shelve someone, even for just a few weeks.

      I LOVE Deduno if/when healthy and hope he is! I truly believe he is an electric and erratic arm who learned to take something off his stuff, and was a late bloomer. But he might not be ready at the start. Diamond and Worley have talent, have shown what they can do when right, and might be right again. I hope they do/are. But what if the don't?

      Gibson? I think he's a serious #2 potentially, but no matter how hard you try to spin it, last year was his first year coming back from TJ surgery. Not saying, again, I don't believe in the kid, but it takes time. Sure I want him kicking butt and taking names from day one, and I hope he does. But is spending a month or so in AAA pitching every 5th day to stetch himself out really a bad thing?

      Point is, this is a solid and not very expensive signing that gives us depth and flexibility. In an ideal world, everyone is healthy and pitching like they belong,and we can trade Correia to someone a little less fortunate in the SP department due to injury or otherwise, and all the younger guys, Gibson, Worley and Diamond rock and we can make a deal.

      But depth is never a bad thing.
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