Yesterday, I outlined six starting pitchers who I think the Twins should target in an effort to boost their rotation. If you missed it, you can find it here. I am focusing on pitchers who are far from free agency, but maybe not household names. I want to find another Vance Worley, but this time, I'd like for it to work out a bit better. Instead of a flood of sadness, perhaps a geyser of effective innings?
My one question to myself was why would teams give up these valuable players? It's not like they don't have idiots checking Fangraphs for walk and ground ball rates too. They know what xFIPs are. However, the Phillies traded Vance Worley just one year ago. While we all know how that turned out, it could have worked out nicely for the Twins. I mean, Worley had an excellent rookie season in 2011. He regressed a bit in 2012, but fought injuries too. He was just 25 and years from free agency. There was still reason to think he would be an effective pitcher going forward. He certainly wasn't in 2013, although he could still bounce back.
The Vance Worley trade looks like a failure because of how he (and Trevor May to an extent) performed, but the idea wasn't a bad one. Find a good, but not dominant starter and add him to the back of the rotation cheaply. Moves like those free the team up for hypothetical free agent signings and blockbuster trades that aren't likely to happen 'round these parts. We can dream though.
Anyway, I have six more players who I think fit that Worley archetype. Would you like to see them?
Ivan Nova - New York Yankees - Age 27 in 2014, Free Agent in 2017
Nova probably seems like an odd inclusion. You don't have to dig to find out why he's good, he was just good in 2013. His 3.10 ERA was better than his 3.68 xFIP, so it's not like there's some great hidden value that some dork on Fangraphs can unearth. To explain his inclusion, I'll create a narrative. I just think Nova's a fine pitcher and I'm not sure a fine pitcher is right for the Yankees. The Yankees want stars, not values. They want CC Sabathias not Ivan Novas. Don't get me wrong, they'll use Ivan Novas, but they prefer to have BIG STAR names instead. Nova is a good pitcher. His ground ball rate is outstanding, he limits walks and his strikeout rate is good, although not great. The Twins would properly appreciate his value. End narrative.
Wily Peralta - Milwaukee Brewers - Age 25 in 2014, Free Agent in 2019
When the Brewers signed Kyle Lohse right before last season, I posited that Peralta might become available via trade. I was completely wrong, but maybe the right deal didn't come along. Peralta's youth and upside would make him a more expensive trade target. His talent is so great that it might be worth paying a slight premium to acquire him. Peralta throws hard (94-95) but it hasn't translated to MLB strikeouts just yet (16.1% K rate in 2013). His walk rate is not high, but higher than I'd like (9.1%). His ground ball rate is nice though (51%). With some natural development, Peralta could still reach his lofty prospect ceiling. Right now, he's a number 4 or 5, but he could become a 3 and maybe even a 2. 1 to watch.
David Phelps - New York Yankees - Age 27 in 2014, Free Agent in 2019
Back to the Big Apple! Phelps has shuffled between the Yankee rotation and bullpen over the past two seasons. As a reliever, he racks up strikeouts, with a 28% rate in 2013. As a starter, his K rate drops almost ten points, but still hovers around league-average. His walk rate actually dipped as a starter too. Phelps is a fly ball pitcher and we all know that left-handed power is suppressed at Target Field. His 2013 ERA was just under five, but his xFIP was just over four. He was lucky with HR/FB ratio, but had some bad luck with strand rate and BABIP. In all, Phelps could be a reliable 4th or 5th starter and I can't imagine he would cost much in return.
Todd Redmond - Toronto Blue Jays - Age 29 in 2014, Free Agent in 2020
Redmond might be a one-year wonder, but his 2013 season was a quiet breakout campaign. Redmond basically spent all of 2009-2012 in AAA with Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Blue Jays had some injury issues in their rotation, so Redmond got his chance. He made 14 starts for the Blue Jays and posted a decent 4.32 ERA. His xFIP of 4.16 nearly matches, so you can basically believe what you see on the surface. Redmond's primary pitch is his sinker, but he has extreme fly ball tendencies. Very odd. Redmond gave up a lot of home runs last season, but his strikeout and walk rates were both very good and right in line with how he pitched in AAA for all those years. The Twins have had luck with sinkerballers in the past, and if Redmond becomes available again (he was waived twice last year), he could be a decent fifth starter for a few years. Just don't give him a Blackburn contract.
Esmil Rogers - Toronto Blue Jays - Age 28 in 2014, Free Agent in 2017
BACK TO BACK BLUE JAYS! Canada is cool. Rogers throws hard, with a fastball sitting 93-94. His ERA in 2013 was a poor 4.77, but his xFIP was an acceptable 4.06. Rogers split his season between the bullpen and rotation and actually saw his strikeout rate jump when starting (17.4% to 11.3%) although he generally struck out more batters as a reliever in the past. Rogers gets enough ground balls and was a little unlucky with home runs last season. Rogers isn't going to be anything more than a 4th or 5th starter, but he could fill that role very cheaply. If nothing else, he could be Anthony Swarzak's replacement in long relief when Swarzak starts next year. Right?
Nick Tepesch - Texas Rangers - Age 25 in 2014, Free Agent in 2019
I'm fond of Tepesch. In 2013, Tepesch was an early Rookie of the Year candidate, before fading hard in June and July. He ended the season with 17 starts, an ERA of 4.84 and an xFIP of 3.82. Tepesch is triple good - good strikeout rate, good walk rate, good ground ball rate. He's a sinker/slider pitcher who works around 90-91. Tepesch's slider is excellent, but his sinker and fastball were very hittable in 2013. He's just 25, but he projects to be the Rangers' sixth starter at best, possibly lower considering they just signed Colby Lewis. The Rangers could use a LF/DH kind of guy and the Twins have this Josh Willingham dude who they should really be considering shopping around. It's just an idea, but Tepesch isn't bad return for a 35-year-old, soon-to-be-free agent coming of an injury-plagued season.
That's my list, what do you think? Obviously some of these guys are more impressive than others. If the Twins just exchange Mike Pelfrey for Esmil Rogers in the 2014 rotation, fans should rightfully picket Target Field and post snarky (but not clever) comments on the Twins' Facebook page. However, if the Twins could possibly land a big free agent like Matt Garza and then make a trade for someone like Dallas Keuchel, the rotation could be pretty decent for a good while. I'm finding it hard to believe the Twins will sign a big free agent, do you really think they'll sign two or more?
All teams need 4th and 5th starters. Kevin Correia is the only Twins pitcher who I would consider a reliable 4th or 5th starter. Unfortunately, he's masquerading as their Ace. Adding to the back of the rotation is not exciting, but it helps win games. If Correia was the Twins' 4th best starter, the rotation could be pretty good. The 2000s Twins had some unsexy, but reliable starters at the back of their rotations. The 12 guys I outlined won't help transform the team, but they are good supplements. Some could be even better. I support exploring all avenues.