Future success hinges on the men on the mound
Sports | Neil Vance for The Clarion
Standout rookie Scott Diamond was a bright spot in the Twins' rotation this year, posting a 12-8 record and a 3.64 earned run average. | Courtesy of Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT
Admit it. We’ve been spoiled as Twins fans over the past decade. It may seem like it has been an eternity since the Twins were contenders, but it has really been less than two years since they were last playing October baseball, capping a run of six division titles in nine years.
The past two seasons have been, admittedly, less positive. The only questions left to answer this year are whether the Twins will be able to finish ahead of the Cleveland Indians in the division and if they will be able to finish with a better record than last year’s 99-loss campaign.
That is not to say that there has been nothing positive to build off of this year. There have actually been a handful of bright spots worth mentioning.
For starters, Josh Willingham has been a huge acquisition for the Twins. Signed to a three-year, $21 million contract last offseason and brought in to replace Michael Cuddyer in the lineup, Willingham has filled in admirably and ranks among the league leaders in home runs and runs batted in.
Joe Mauer has also returned to classic form, bouncing back from a 2011 season riddled with injuries to reclaim his place among the league leaders in batting average. He leads the league in on-base percentage.
With Justin Morneau’s miraculous health, Scott Diamond’s impressive rookie season and Ryan Doumit’s team-friendly two-year extension, we can see a glimmer of hope.
However, it is clear that these bursts of positivity do not characterize the team, as the Twins are still near the bottom of the American League standings.
So what does Minnesota need to fix to be competitive in 2013? It ultimately boils down to its weakest area: starting pitching. This year the Twins rank near the bottom of the American League in nearly every meaningful pitching category.
Unfortunately, next year’s rotation is wrought with uncertainty. After his strong rookie year, Diamond seems to be the only lock for the 2013 rotation so far. Samuel Deduno is also likely to get a shot to hold on to a rotation spot, and the team is hopeful that top prospect Kyle Gibson will be fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last year. But that leaves at least two spots in the rotation up for grabs.
One option to fill one or both of those roles is via trade. The Twins have particular depth in the outfield, which has led to speculation that Denard Span could be moved to bring in a starter. Span has a team-friendly contract in place for two more years, which further increases his value. With Ben Revere, Josh Willingham, Chris Parmelee and other top prospects looking for major league time, it may be time to cash in on that depth.
The Twins could also make some noise in a deep free agent pitching market. A gem like Zack Greinke will be out of Minnesota’s price range, but the club could consider bringing in someone like Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson or Brandon McCarthy if there is significant payroll room. Cheaper options like Joe Saunders or Jeremy Guthrie are also a possibility.
Simply put, the Twins need to bring in some pitching from outside the organization if they are serious about competing in 2013. If not, it could unfortunately be more of the same for the hometown team.