My earlier guess that the Twins were not likely to make any more moves until January has proven to be inaccurate. Today they announced the signing of Jason Marquis to a one-year, $3 million contract.
With that signing the starting rotation now appears to be tentatively set. Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn are the other four with Brian Duensing presumably returning to the bullpen where he had success before becoming a regular in the rotation late in 2010.
The latest addition to the Twins most recently pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks briefly before his 2011 season ended with a broken fibula. Most of last season he was with the Washington Nationals and pitched reasonably well there. He is known as a ground ball pitcher who fits the typical Twins’ pitcher profile, a “pitch-to-contact” pitcher.
I am less than enamored by this signing, but must recognize that in today’s MLB, he comes cheap. He also is not a long-term liability with only one year signed. If he has a great first half and the Twins flounder, he will be decent trade bait. If he fails miserably, he can be released without too much lost. And, if he performs at about the level he has in the past, he will be a decent innings-eater along with Pavano to help give the bullpen some rest. With improved infield defense, this might work out alright.
If this is the starting rotation, we are going to have to hope for decent comeback years from Baker, Liriano, and Blackburn for 2012 to be successful for the Twins. All three were on the DL in 2011 with assorted arm problems. Blackburn had surgery this off-season to correct a problem with a pinched nerve. There certainly is no guarantee that all of them will rebound, so the Twins will need to have at least a couple of other options for starters. Right now they would seem to be Liam Hendriks and Anthony Swarzak, but Terry Doyle might work himself into the mix depending on how well he pitches in spring training. If Doyle does not make the 25-man roster on opening day he needs to be returned to the White Sox because he was a Rule-5 pick this off-season. If the Twins like him enough, they may swing a deal to keep him, but that all remains to be seen. If he makes the roster, he will likely be one of the bullpen guys, possibly as the long reliever giving Swarzak a starting rotation spot at Rochester.
It is hard to have much confidence in this rotation because of how inconsistent they have been over the last few years. Put that together with the tough schedule the first 40 games and the Twins may once again dig too deep a hole to climb out of. On the other hand, if all pitch to a level they have done at their best in the past, this could be a very good group 1 through 5.
We’ll hope for the latter.