The Minnesota Twins continue to make an effort to refurbish their starting rotation, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has reported they have agreed to terms on a one-year, $4 million contract with Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey can reportedly earn $1.5 million more via incentives, and the deal should be confirmed once he passes a physical.
Pelfrey missed most of the 2012 season, making just three starts, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in May. The right-hander has spent his entire seven-year major league career to this point with the New York Mets, posting a 50-54 record with a 4.36 ERA over 153 appearances (149 starts). He made over 30 starts in each season from 2008-2011, setting career-highs in innings pitched (204) and wins (15) in 2010.
Assuming Pelfrey is healthy, he should be given every chance to earn a spot in the Twins’ starting rotation. All indications are he will be ready for the start of the 2013 season, but just how successful he can be in the American League is a big question.
Pelfrey’s peripheral numbers show a decidedly low-upside, neutral-looking pitcher. His career strikeout rate (5.1 K/9) is not great, while his BB/9 rate (3.2) is solid if unspectacular. His batted ball percentages don’t indicate any particularly alarming or noteworthy tendencies, at least with his last significant sample size (2011) as an indicator, as he had a ground ball percentage of 45.6 and a fly ball percentage of 34.7 that season. Pitching his home games at Citi Field appears to have benefited him though, with home run/fly ball rates sitting routinely lower than average, so the move to pitcher-friendly Target Field may not have a lot of tangible effect on his numbers.
Pelfrey is certainly a low-cost addition, which is not surprising since he is coming off elbow surgery, and with the high price of pitching on the free agent market he makes sense for the Twins in a lot of ways. I like his contract much better than the two-year, $10 million deal they gave Kevin Correia last week, but it occurs to me there is already a pitcher that is similar to both Pelfrey and Correia that will get an opportunity with Minnesota during the spring. His name is Nick Blackburn, and the prospect of having three pitchers of his ilk start games next season should scare Twins fans.