Wired For Change: Minnesota Twins Can Bolster Rotation Through Waiver Acquisitions
The Minnesota Twins are a mess right now.
After sweeping the Chicago White Sox to claw their way back into the AL Central race and acquiring Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Oakland Athletics, the Twins have gone on to lose five of their next six games.
As such, the Twins currently sit four and a half games behind the Detroit Tigers in the division and two games under .500 on the season.
The Twins biggest issue this season has been—and continues to be—pitching.
Both Chicago and Detroit made major moves to bolster their rotations at the Deadline.
The Tigers brought in veteran southpaw Jarrod Washburn from the Seattle Mariners to strengthen an already imposing rotation that includes Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson.
The White Sox made arguably the biggest splash at the deadline by acquiring former San Diego Padres’ ace Jake Peavy for a collection of highly-talented young pitchers.
As a result of these moves, the Twins now find themselves playing catch-up in the pitching department.
The Twins starters have struggled mightily this season and things have only gotten worse as the season has worn on.
Only Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn have shown consistency of late. Beyond Baker and Blackburn, the options aren’t overly inspiring.
Kevin Slowey is out for the season. Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano have both been ineffective of late and are in danger of losing their rotation spots.
Rookie Anthony Swarzak is suffering through Jekyll and Hyde performances that are expected of rookies, but due to the lack of depth he is being forced to do so as part of the Major League rotation, in the midst of a pennant race.
With that in mind, here are five starters that figure to go unclaimed on waivers and thus have the potential to be traded to the Twins for a final late-season salvo at the AL Central crown.
Justin Duchscherer – RHP – Oakland Athletics
2009 Salary: $3.9 million
Contract Status: Eligible for Free Agency after 2009
2009 Stats: N/A
Why He’ll Clear Waivers: Duchscherer is working his way back from right elbow surgery earlier in the season and there is no guarantee he’ll even be able to make it back this season. Originally expected to return in June, his rehab has been pushed back twice as a result of back issues.
Why He Fits for the Twins: When Duchscherer is healthy—something that is constantly an issue—he can be a real beast on the mound as he has a solid repertoire of pitches and has been known to downright baffle hitters. He throws a cutter in the mid-80s, a four-seam fastball that hits the upper-80s, a sharp curveball, a two-seam fastball and a changeup.
In 2008, Duchscherer’s first year as a full-time starter, he made the All-Star team and posted a sparkling 2.54 ERA and an outstanding 0.99 WHIP in 141.2 innings before succumbing, once again, to injury.
Last season Duchscherer went six innings or better in 16 of 22 starts, proving that—if healthy—he could provide a much needed innings-eater down the stretch. It is entirely possible that a month and a half of a very effective Duchscherer could be more valuable than an entire season of Francisco Liriano.
Jon Garland – RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks
2009 Salary: $6.25 million
Contract Status: 2010: $10 million option ($2.5 million buyout if club declines, $1 million buyout if Garland declines)
2009 Stats: 6-10, 4.26 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 137.1 IP, 59 K
Why He’ll Clear Waivers: His salary for 2010 is prohibitive for many teams. He doesn’t figure to be a big enough upgrade to justify a big-money club claiming him for rotation depth.
Why He Fits for the Twins: He is a dependable starter who has pitched 190 innings or better every season since becoming a full-time starter. Additionally he has experience pitching both in the American League and, more specifically, the AL Central as he spent eight years pitching with the rival Chicago White Sox.
Garland would give the Twins a reliable arm that can be counted on to give the team a good chance to win every fifth day. On the season, 16 of his 22 starts have been quality starts.
His salary isn’t absurd for the remainder of this year and $10 million in 2010 for a quality innings-eater isn’t terrible either, especially if it serves as protection against further regression from Francisco Liriano or setbacks in Kevin Slowey’s recovery.
Doug Davis – LHP – Arizona Diamondbacks
2009 Salary: $8.75 million
Contract Status: Eligible for Free Agency after 2009
2009 Stats: 6-10, 3.67 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 137.1 IP, 108 K
Why He’ll Clear Waivers: The remainder of Davis’ contract figures to be too steep for many teams to take on down the stretch and he is viewed by many as a complimentary pitcher and not a difference-maker.
Why He Fits for the Twins: In four of the previous five seasons, Davis pitched for over 192 innings on the season. As such, he would provide the Twins with a reliable innings-eater who is in the midst of one of his best seasons as a professional.
He is a free-agent at season’s end, so the monetary commitment is significantly less than it would be with other potential waiver-wire trade partners who are locked up for 2010 and beyond.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of adding Davis would be that the Twins could then move one of the rotation’s other southpaws—Francisco Liriano or Glen Perkins—to the bullpen.
Bronson Arroyo – RHP – Cincinnati Reds
2009 Salary: $9.5 million
Contract Status: 2010: $11 million, 2011: $11 million club option ($2M buyout)
2009 Stats: 10-10, 5.10 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 137.2 IP, 80 K
Why He’ll Clear Waivers: Beyond what he’s owed this season, there is a minimum of $13 million that his new club would be on the hook for through 2011. Arroyo is a solid back end of the rotation starter, but very few teams want to commit that kind of money to the back end of the rotation.
Why He Fits for the Twins: Arroyo has experience pitching in markets of all-kinds and pitching well in those markets. He was a big part of the Boston Red Sox 2004 championship team and has toiled in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh as well.
Arroyo may not have electric stuff or be a major game-changer, but he can eat a lot of innings—he has tossed 200 innings or better in each of the last four seasons—to take pressure off of the bullpen.
Additionally, Arroyo is a fiery competitor who would fit in very well with the Twins’ clubhouse and could serve a mentor of sorts to some of the club’s younger starters.
Aaron Harang – RHP – Cincinnati Reds
2009 Salary: $11 million
Contract Status: 2010: $12.5 million, 2011: $12.75 million option ($2M buyout)
2009 Stats: 5-13, 4.52 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 141.1 IP, 125 K
Why He’ll Clear Waivers: His salary figures to be too much for any team that’s not the New York Yankees and his stats don’t have suitors beating down Walt Jocketty’s door.
Why He Fits for the Twins: Harang has been a legitimate ace in the past, despite pitching most of his games in the launching pad that is Great American Ballpark. From 2005-2007 he averaged 14 wins with a 3.77 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 199 strikeouts per season.
He has struggled the past season and a half and could benefit from a change of scenery and the opportunity to play on a team with legitimate playoff aspirations.
Harang’s current stats would have him leading the Twins in many categories including games started, innings pitched, and strikeouts. His 4.52 ERA would be second-best among the Twins regular starters and he would serve as a legitimate innings-eater, having gone seven or more innings in more than half of his starts.
His salary is a bit prohibitive, but the Twins are moving into a new ballpark in 2010 and the team’s payroll is still $6 million less than it was in 2007, leaving some wiggle room to take on additional salary prior to the opening of Target Field.