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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm Glad the Twins Aren't Paying for an Ace Right Now, and a Rock Cats Report

With no Scott Baker in the fold, and with an
ineffective Francisco Liriano, the future of the Twins'
rotation is dubious, at best
You all know the story by now: Last night was not a good night to be a Twins fan. A completely ineffective Francisco Liriano ruined what could have been some nice momentum in a tough, 4 game series against the Yankees, and we received news that Tommy John surgery was performed on Scott Baker, instead of a simpler procedure to "clean up" his right elbow. Liriano's awful performance (after a stellar spring), and Baker's 12 month (minimum) recovery period have likely caused a sea change in the way that the front office is viewing the starting rotation, for 2012 and beyond.

In my head, I had always penciled in one of Baker or Liriano as possibilities for 2013, thinking that it would be possible -- maybe even smart -- for the Twins to try to extend one of these veteran starters. Now, Baker's 2013 option will certainly be declined, as he is shelved for at least a year, and who knows what to do with Liriano? Sure, he could come back in his next start and fire a no-hitter, but that doesn't seem at all possible right now. Handed a 3-1 lead in Yankee Stadium, against CC Sabathia no less, Liriano couldn't even get out of the third inning. He threw more balls than strikes (I acknowledge, though, that the strike zone last night was bad), and Yankees hitters took advantage of pitches left out over the plate. This is not the kind of guy you build your rotation around. This is the kind of guy that winds up in the bullpen, which is where I expect Liriano will be by June if he doesn't straighten out. Worst of all, for a team that right now doesn't appear to be contending for anything other than the worst record in baseball, he's not even accumulating value for the Twins to trade him.

All of this brings me to my main point this morning. I, along with most of Twins Territory, wished during the past few off-seasons that the Twins would acquire an upper echelon pitcher. It hasn't happened, of course. Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis hardly qualify. But think -- just for a second -- if they had. What if, for example, we had gotten a guly like Cliff Lee, or Roy Halladay, or even Zack Greinke? What a colossal waste of money it would be for 2012, and probably 2013. We would be paying basically $1 million per win for this pitcher. In other words, $20 million for 20 or so wins. Yes, it'd be great to have a 20 game winner on staff, but not if that pitcher is literally your only consistent weapon. This team -- without Baker and with an ineffective Liriano -- still wouldn't be much better. Certainly it would win 10 or so more games over the course of the season, but probably not nearly enough to win the division. For right now, at least, it would seem like misallocated money. It's great to have a dominant pitcher -- the kind of guy that you know stands a very good chance of winning every 5th day and throwing 7, 8 or 9 innings -- but it's not so great if there are no #2 or #3 starters to round out the stable. I had always envisioned this ace alongside a couple other good, younger pitchers, leading the staff and perhaps even helping the others become better pitchers. For right now, anyway, it would seem like a waste of money.

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Amid all the bad news about the Twins, there is good news out of Twins Territory to report: The New Britain Rock Cats won their 6th straight game last night. Chris Colabello was the big star last night. He hit 2 home runs and had 3 RBIs to lead the way to a 6-3 victory over the Portland Sea Dogs. Colabello, 28, is one of those great baseball stories. He spent 2005-2011 playing in the Canadian-American League, which is an independent baseball league. He spent all but one of those seasons with the Worcester (Massachusetts) Tornadoes, and 2012 is his first year playing in the minor leagues. At 28, he's too old to be a top prospect, but you really, really have to respect the guy for going out there and trying to make a career as a professional ballplayer. I hope he does more than "provide minor league depth," or whatever scouts or front office people might tell you. Deibinson Romero, Pedro Florimon, Nathan Hanson, Evan Bigley, Chris Herrmann and Estarlin De Los Santos also picked up hits for New Britain. David Bromberg and Bobby Lanigan each pitched 3 innings for the Rock Cats, with Lanigan picking up the win after allowing no runs. Delois Guerra got the hold, pitching very well in the 7th and 8th innings, allowing no hits and striking out 2. Lester Oliveros pitched the 9th and, although he got into some trouble, allowing 2 earned runs on 2 hits and a walk, was able to make it through the inning. The Rock Cats are now 10-3, and play this afternoon to wrap up what has been a very successful road trip.

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