For a brief stretch, it appeared that someone else might have the most ‘Twins’ offseason this year rather than, well the Twins.
Much like offseasons before, the Twins let its veterans walk via free agency, permitting them to sign deals that are considerably above Terry Ryan’s insanity threshold. Remember the Torii Hunter deal?
But this offseason was different. First came Jamey Carroll, who may look like Nick Punto, but is actually a pretty good ballplayer overall. Then, there was Ryan Doumit, professional hitter. If he stays healthy, he can at least hold his own in the trip-slash department. Finally came the big man on campus, Josh Willingham. I campaigned harder for Willingham than any presidential candidate in the two times I’ve now been able to vote, and for the first time since Mike Lamb — YES, that Mike Lamb — the Twins reeled in a free agent that I really had my eyes on. Things were looking good. Almost TOO good.
Sometimes in the nick of time, you remember who you are. By signing Matt Capps to a new deal, the Twins started the reversion process. “Those draft picks are nice for the coastal folks,” one was quoted as saying. “But we here in the Midwest don’t need such fancy things.”
But the icing on this proverbial cake — devil’s food, if you will — came just before the Twins brass recessed for the holiday season. By dumping philosophical pundit (and noted jackassery enthusiast) Kevin Slowey, the Twins wrangled up enough money to sign (pick one: junkballer, groundballer, slowballer, ball as in pitch out of the strike zone-baller) Jason Marquis to a one-year pact worth just more than what Slowey pulled from the Mile High men.
Let’s have a look at the most ‘Twins’ offseasons of the past 10 years:
2011-’12 – Twins (re-sign Capps, inked Marquis, Cuddyer/Kubel/Nathan walked)
2010-’11- Twins (dumped Hardy for Nishioka, much of ‘pen)
2009-’10- Royals (inked Kendall/Podsednik/Ankiel/Chen*/Humber/Fields)
2008-’09- Twins (inked Crede/Dickey/Ayala, G. Jones walked)
2007-’08- Twins (signed Lamb/L. Hernandez/Everett/Bass, Hunter/Silva* walked, dealt Santana/Garza/Bartlett for literal peanuts)
2006-’07- Twins (inked Cirillo/R. Ortiz/Ponson)
2005-’06- Twins (J. Jones/Balfour walked, Romero dealt, White signed)
2004-’05- Twins (Koskie/Guzman* walked, Mulholland re-signed, Castro/Abernathy/Tyner/Redmond* inked)
2003-’04- Twins (dealt Pierzynski*/Milton*, inked Blanco/Offerman/Roa)
2002-’03- Twins (David bleeping Ortiz non-tendered, Kenny Rogers inked)
As you can see, nine of the last 10 most ‘Twins’ offseasons have belonged to the Twins. In fact, the Royals merely saved the Twins from their own offseason in ’09-’10 because the Twins moved into a new ballpark, signed Jim Thome, and dealt for J.J. Hardy. It’s good to see that by signing Marquis, the Twins remembered its affinity for right-handed hurlers with little in the way of stuff and balls-in-play tendencies.
In fact, a glance at one of the Twins’ erstwhile righties, Nick Blackburn, reveals some interesting similarities.
ERA: 4.50 to 4.55. Advantage: Blackburn
xFIP: 4.42 to 4.62. Advantage: Blackburn
WHIP: 1.43 to 1.44. Advantage: Marquis
K/9: 5.2 to 4.3. Advantage: Marquis
K/BB: 2.0 to 1.5. Advantage: Blackburn.
GB%: 48.1 to 50.4. Advantage: Marquis.
ERA-: 107 to 106: Advantage: Marquis.
Now they certainly aren’t identical pitchers — what pitchers are — but it appears the Twins are simply happy to churn through strike-tossing, use-your-fielder types. This is an ideology seen not only in whom the Twins sign as free agents, but also in the club’s draft strategy, with early-round picks such as Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Kyle Gibson, and Alex Wimmers in recent years.
The odd thing about Marquis is that while even to a Twins fan he just ‘feels’ like someone whom the Twins would target, he really doesn’t fit that mold.
Marquis has issued a free pass to 8.8 percent of all hitters he’s faced, while Blackburn and Baker both check in at 5.6 percent, and Slowey at an even more stingy 3.7 percent. Actually, for the reputation that follows the Twins, both Slowey and Baker carry career K/9 rates which approach the 7.0 mark. of So no, Marquis doesn’t even really fit a Twins mold that doesn’t exactly have a high ceiling, either.
So why sign Marquis? I don’t really know. That’s right, 660 long-winded words to this point to draw the conclusion that I still don’t know why the *&(&^ the Twins signed Marquis. Face it, the club decided to forgo draft pick compensation to ink Capps, who’ll make double what Takashi Saito will bring in next season. Inking Marquis, with BW personal favorite Rich Harden still on the market, is just as baffling as any move the club makes. Harden would certainly give the club a different look, as a right-handed fireballer with strikeout and fly ball tendencies, but he just doesn’t seem to be on the club’s radar.
I’ll say this much: My money is on Liam Hendriks taking Marquis’ spot in the rotation by the All Star break.
*This one actually turned out OK.