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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thoughts: Pinto, Payroll and Pitching

Josmil Pinto played well all of 2013.
Is he Joe Mauer's heir apparent in 2014?
As I've mentioned recently on Twitter, I'm a big fan of the "Joe Mauer to first base" move. It's logical, it protects Mauer and the Twins' financial investment in him, and most of all, it solves what otherwise could be a problem that plagues the team between now and Opening Day, 2014. Yes, there's merit to the argument that perhaps third base, or right field, might be better -- and more premium -- positions for Mauer to play, but I'll leave that for another day. Quite simply, I'm just happy that the organization made a decision in early November, thus leaving months to fill the voids that this move creates.

One of the trickle-down effects of this decision, of course, is that the Twins need to select from within, or acquire from elsewhere, a starting catcher. Honestly, good cases can be made either way. On the one hand, Josmil Pinto sure looked good this past September in Twins uniform. On the other hand, great September stats sometimes mean little. A free agent veteran, like A.J. Pierzynski, might sign a 1 year deal for, say, $6-7 million. Assuming he stays healthy, there's pretty good value there, especially considering that the 2014 Twins may be shuttling several rookie pitchers (Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Kyle Gibson, etc.) who could benefit from a veteran like A.J.

I could see a guy like A.J. being a good move for a year, but I don't see him as a player on the next competitive (meaning capable of winning a division and playoff series) Twins team. For the past several months, that's been my focus with this organization: most any decision should be focused on acquiring talent that will (or should, if things play out) be part of the "next wave" of Twins talent. Chris Colabello: give him at-bats to see if the offense can stick in the majors (hasn't looked good so far). Chris Herrmann: the defense at catcher is decent, he's all right in left field, but can he hit .250? Aaron Hicks: yes, there are going to be low points, but can he go through the ups-and-downs of a major league season, on a team where it doesn't matter, so that when it does matter, he's ready? Same thoughts with guys like Oswaldo Arcia, and even Kyle Gibson (though his pitching last season was so awful that demotion was necessary). You get my larger point: a lost season presents a good opportunity for trial, error, and hopefully growth. So while a guy like A.J. might be a fun, and statistically good, signing, I'm not sure where it gets this organization long-term. If the Twins have a catcher -- Pinto -- that they believe will be catching the next competitive Twins team, say, in 2016, shouldn't Pinto be given every opportunity to learn the routine of the majors, and the Twins' pitching rotation/bullpen (some of whom will be around in 2016) in 2014?

Similarly, I'm also underwhelmed with the free agent starting pitching class. Bronson Arroyo would instantly improve the Twins' rotation. Does that mean the Twins need to go get him for, say, $10 million a year for a couple years? I'm not so sure. I haven't read a name, other than Masahiro Tanaka, that really wows me. As much as I complained -- demanded?? -- that the Twins spend money on pitching this off-season, I don't see this free agent class making the significant differences that are necessary to put this team back into contention.

I guess I'm suggesting that, to me anyway, there's not much of a difference between watching a 95-loss team, and an 85-loss team. I guess I'm suggesting that perhaps there's merit in saving money (really, saving guaranteed money and 40 man roster spots) on guys that I don't believe will be helping this team in 2016 and beyond.

As much as I wanted payroll to increase, say, $30 million, I'm not sure it makes a whole lot of sense right now, at least as starting pitching and catching is concerned. To be sure, there's money to be spent in the infield and outfield, but that's another post entirely.

In any event, I think this is a discussion question more than anything else. You have to go with me on 1 thing, though: the 2014 Twins won't be competing for the playoffs, even if they increase payroll significantly. They're simply too far away. That being said, should they spend, say, $25 million on incrementally better starting pitching, locking in a couple older, proven vets for 2-3 years; should they save for a better free agent pitching class, perhaps next year; instead of spending $25 million on a couple guys, should they make a huge bid for Tanaka; should this be a year to go after a marquis position player for 5-7 years? If so, who?

1 comment:

  1. Disagree on Twins not competing if they increase payroll: Their revenues were $215M, add $35M more next season because of the media agreement, makes it $250. The promised 52% of that gives an $130M payroll. They are at $60M including arbitration raises. $70M can get them 3 SPs, a C and a SS plus more like a Gomes-type OF. Do some housecleaning and this can be a competitive team.