When we last joined our intrepid blogger, he was researching the word "intrepid." Shortly thereafter, he started looking for "aces" beyond Zach Greinke that the Twins could target this offseason. (You can see Part 2 below.) So he was counting down the qualified starting pitchers with the highest strikeout rates and highlighting the ones that might be available. We were up to #21......
23. Chad Billingsley (LAD)
24. Roy Halladay (PHI)
26. Scott Baker (MIN)
This deserves some comment, but I’m a little stunned. Let me digest this a bit.
27. Ian Kennedy (ARI)
30. Tommy Hanson (ATL)
That goes for the next two guys, too. I could see the Mets letting go of Niese(4.20 ERA, 148 K) for some offense. Ditto the Athletics and Gio Gonzalez (3.23 ERA, 171 K). They’re also both left-handed. I’d mark both off-limits if their respective teams weren’t so flawed.
Finally, Marcum(3.64 ERA, 165K) will be in his second year following Tommy John surgery and is two years from free agency. The Jays are already getting excited about their young rotation, so he might be available in the right deal. I would think high upside prospects would be especially tasty bait, so they can follow the path the Rays have tread.
Are they aces? Gio is probably the closest, but I’m encouraged that we haven’t even got to the next four names, all of whom are generally regarded as aces or still playing in the postseason.
34. C.J. Wilson (TEX)
38. Zack Greinke (KC)
I’m betting it was just a down year, but that doesn’t mean he should be the only guy considered. The next time someone tells you the Twins have to trade for Greinkie, here are some names to have handy: Wandy Rodriguez, Chad Billingsly, and Shaun Marcum. Maybe it'll get them past the Greinke mantra.
Ok – back to Scott Baker.
First, I should point out that he had the second highest ERA of anyone on this list, second to Jamie Shields. But it’s also worth noting that his strikeout rate and walk rate this year were very, very good. He just gave up too many damn hits. Oh, and led the league in slumped shoulders.
It turns out I could say the same thing about Jamie Shields (#18 yesterday), and I’m fairly confident Shields will bounce back. Would other teams be saying that about Baker? Are they wrong, or would a little distance give us a better perspective? And how much did the elbow problems, on which he had surgery immediately following the season, play into things?
This whole exercise is making me wonder if he is a very good candidate to have that breakout year we’ve been waiting for. He just turned 29 years old. His career strikeout rate is over 7 per nine innings. His walk rate is close to 2 per nine innings. His hit rate was below 1 per inning for the last two years. He is exactly the kind of sneaky good struggling pitcher that I would target just looking at his stats. Oh, plus, he’s relatively cheap.
That doesn’t mean he belongs on a list of possible aces. But he’s exactly the kind of sleeper that suddenly breaks through and everyone looks back and wonders how they didn’t see it coming. Shouldn’t we know better? Didn’t we just go through this with Liriano?
Before today I wouldn’t have given two cares about whether Baker got traded away this offseason. Now, I’d love to see him stick around, because I want to see what kind of year he has. I suspect I’m going to want to see it happen with him as a Twin.
Did you know there is such a thing as a blogging scholarship? Apparently there is, and one of the Twins own bloggers, Andrew Bryz-Gornia of Off The Mark, is a finalist for it. I've met Andrew several times over the last year, and I came away with the distinct impression that he is worth exactly $10,000. But I don't really want to pay him that with my own money, so could you please help me vote him to victory? Just click here and vote for him. Thanks.
Seth has been examining the multitude of decisions the Twins need to make about their bullpen.
And over at The Bat Shatters, Adam tries to decide: Thome vs. Kubel.