With the signing of Jair Jurrjens by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday for one year and 1.5 million dollars, it has become increasingly clear to me how far off the Minnesota Twins are in their free agent spending philosophy. In a previous article, I endorsed Twins general manager Terry Ryan’s idea for rebuilding the Twins, which consisted of building through the draft and making savvy trades for young and talented prospects. In that same article, I was also skeptical of how the Twins have spent their money on free agent pitchers this off-season and in the past with hopes of improving their rotation.
The Jurrjens signing especially disgusts me because he is exactly the type of pitcher the Twins should be building a rotation around: promising, low-risk, high-reward, inexpensive, short-term contract pitchers. Instead, the Twins have opted to fill their rotation with two decent signings—that fit the philosophy I have endorsed—in Rich Harden and Mike Pelfrey and one horrendous signing in Kevin Correia. Someone please explain to me how an organization will give a pitcher with a career 60-65 record and a 4.54 ERA—albeit all in the National League—a two-year 10 million dollar contract, but we cannot endorse or attempt to sign a pitcher like Jurrjens with a career 53-37 record and a 3.62 ERA in the same league?
Not to mention, Jurrjens is five years younger than Correia and would have saved the Twins 8.5 million dollars, while providing more upside as a possible long-term solution in the rotation. Injury concerns aside, the money saved is valuable to a team trying to acquire talent and remain flexible enough long-term to sign free agents who can improve the team when they do indeed become competitive again.
It is conceivable to argue that this may be a case of Jurrjens not wanting to come and pitch in Minnesota because there were rumors that indicated the Twins were interested in Jurrjens; however—for arguments sake—which free agent pitcher haven’t the Twins “had interest in” this off-season?
If the money or contract length were an issue, you could still negotiate more money and an additional year to entice Jurrjens to sign and the contract would still make more sense than the Correia signing. For a team not poised or projected to compete for another two seasons, why waste your money on fill-in-the-gap pitchers who are going to give you below average production?
Instead, why not save that wasted money, use it on low-risk, high-reward, inexpensive, short-term contract pitchers who could end up finding their form and become valuable trade assets or stalwarts in your rotation? You could also use that available rotation spot by giving it to a younger pitcher in need of seasoning, so they have a better chance to pitch at an improved level two years from now when the Twins are projected to be competitive.
Ryan stated that free agency was not the answer and that he was not going to spend money just to spend money. In my opinion, he has done exactly what he is preaching not to do. The Twins should be filling a rotation and bullpen with guys like Harden, Jurrjens, Pelfrey, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Saunders and other pitchers who are looking at short term contracts that could help them revitalize their career. These signings would not sacrifice the Twins future, would be inexpensive, could provide the Twins with needed trade assets come the trade deadline—which could net them valuable prospects for their future—and could even make the current Twins a more competitive team.
Baseball is a strange game and strange things can happen to a team to make them competitive for a season. Could this year’s Twins be that strange story? It would be hard to believe, especially with the kind of philosophy they are imploring now.