Tuesday, June 29, 2004

4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 HR

That’s the line from Matt Guerrier’s second major league start, a 7-2 loss last Saturday at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers. Unfortunately for both Matt and the Twins, his first major league start (4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 HR in a 6-4 win over the lowly Expos) wasn’t much better.

Where have the cries of “Free Matt Guerrier” gone so suddenly? If it hasn’t already become blatantly obvious to everybody by now, I’ll spell it out for you: Matt Guerrier is not the solution to the Twins’ fifth starter conundrum. Yes, I realize that he’s relatively young (26), and has had only two big league starts to prove himself, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Guerrier doesn’t have great stuff in the first place, and thus far in the majors his location has been very poor. When you miss up in the strike zone with mediocre stuff in the major leagues, you’re gonna get pounded. That is exactly what has happened to Guerrier these past two starts. He hasn’t been fooling anybody, that’s for sure.

Now it looks like Guerrier will probably get one more start to prove that he belongs in the majors (Saturday against Arizona), but for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at a couple of other options the Twins have regarding the hole in their rotation.

1.) Trade for a veteran starting pitcher

I know many Twins fans wanted desperately to see Freddy Garcia in a Twins uniform come July, but that simply was not to be. It’s time to move on. One name that I have dying to bring up for weeks now is the Pirates’ Kris Benson. The former first overall pick (1996) doesn’t have the most impressive overall stats (4.78 ERA and 1.49 WHIP) but he has been pitching pretty well of late. On Monday night he limited the Cardinals to just one run and six hits in eight innings of stellar pitching, and his ERA for the month of June is a solid 3.95. He sandwiched a bad month of May (8.10 ERA) between April and June, which is the main reason his numbers aren’t that great overall.

I really think that the Twins and Kris Benson would be a good fit. He’s a solid veteran who doesn’t walk many guys, with a low 90s fastball and pretty good stuff. The biggest hurdle, as always, is salary. Benson will make over $6 million in his walkout year, and the Twins have always been reluctant to rent players for the stretch run. It’s rumored that the Yankees, Mets, and Phillies (among others) are also interested in Benson, but the Twins can outbid any team in baseball when it comes down to what the Pirates really need: prospects. The Yankees’ farm system is almost bone dry, and both the Phils and Mets have only a handful of good prospects. The Twins can dangle Morneau, Kubel, Durbin (heaven forbid), Restovich, Ford (shudder the thought), Liriano, and Tiffee, among many others. I don’t think Benson will cost as much as Garcia did for the ChiSox, but TR would have to give up a prospect or two and probably pay about half of Benson’s salary. The Twins are a few mil under payroll for the year, so the latter is not out of the question.

Benson and Garcia were the biggest two names in an otherwise meager trading market, but another rumored possibility is the Expos’ Tony Armas Jr. Armas had shoulder surgery this off-season and has been a little rusty overall thus far this year (6.18 ERA in 23.1 innings this year), but he pitched well in his last outing and could emerge as a hot commodity come July. Armas is only 26, makes just $2.1 million this season, and isn’t a free agent until after next year. You can’t ask for much more from a mid-season acquisition if you are a small market team like the Twins. A trade is how I hope the Twins fill the void in the rotation, but there is also another option.

2.) Fill from within

This is the more realistic and likely option, but it is also the worst. Simply put, there isn’t a whole ton to choose from when it comes to starting pitching within the Twins organization. J.D. Durbin would have been a candidate had he stayed healthy, but he’s out for a while longer and was only pitching at AA before he went down. Wille Erye has been putting up Matt Guerrier-type numbers at AAA, but it’s pretty apparent that the team doesn’t think that highly of his potential. Pete Munro and Rick Helling would have been possible options, but neither is with the organization any more. Carlos Pulido is proving once and for all that he is indeed the epitome of the phrase “washed up”. And Seth Greisinger has been as bad in Rochester as he was up here in Minnesota.

A name I’ve heard recently is Scott Baker, the 2003’s second round draft choice out of Oklahoma State. He has dominated at both high A and AA ball so far this year, but I think it would be a grave, grave mistake to bring him up in the middle of a pennant race. We all remember what happened last time the Twins brought up a “polished” college pitcher with little minor league experience in the middle of the season (see: Adam Johnson, 2001). Maybe I’m missing someone, but it doesn’t look like the solution to this problem is currently within the Twins organization.

Well, there you have it. I hope this post helps fill the empty place in your soul left by yesterday’s off-day, as it has most assuredly accomplished this for me. If you have any thoughts of your own, don’t hesitate to drop a comment in the comments section below. I’ll try to respond the best I can, and maybe it will help me organize my thoughts a bit better in regards to this subject. Also, feel free to e-mail me at twinsfan21@msn.com. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!