This offseason the Minnesota Twins were one of the busiest teams in MLB. A popular addition to the rumor mill, Minnesota made the effort to claim a strong interest in nearly every big-name starting pitcher available. The eventual signing of Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal marked the largest free agent signing in Twins history. Shortly after, the team further proved they weren’t bluffing by locking up Phil Hughes to a three-year deal worth $24 million. Even after these signings, the Twins reportedly maintained interest in many starting arms such as Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jiminez.
Before the 2013 season, Minnesota agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with Mike Pelfrey. Prior to 2013, Pelfrey spent all seven years of his career with the New York Mets where he sported a 50-54 record and 4.36 ERA. Seeing a cheap option as a fourth or fifth starter, the Twins were attracted to the possibility of Pelfrey returning to the 15-9 record and 3.66 ERA he posted in 2010. Instead, Pelfrey’s first campaign with the Twins in 2013 was easily the worst of his career. In 29 starts he posted a 5-13 record, 5.19 ERA and 1.552 WHIP. Unable to reach late innings in the majority of his appearances, Pelfrey averaged just over five innings pitched per start. He was, however, the third starting pitcher the team chose to sign this offseason, well before the three previously mentioned options had a destination for the 2014 season. Not only did Minnesota give Pelfrey a second chance after his poor performance, but the team gave him a raise to the tune of $11 million over two guaranteed years.
Garza and Jiminez eventually each signed contracts almost identical to Nolasco’s deal, but Arroyo agreed to a deal more comparable to Pelfrey’s. Reportedly, the Twins never formally offered anything to Arroyo, and on Feb. 7 he agreed to a two-year, $23.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Arroyo is one of the most consistent starting pitchers in MLB who seems to be getting better as he gets older. He is a major innings-eater and has thrown more than 199 innings in each of the last nine seasons. With a career 4.19 ERA, the 37-year-old’s last two seasons have been outstanding and nearly identical. In 2012, Arroyo produced a 3.74 ERA with 129 strikeouts and 35 walks, compared to a 3.79 ERA with 124 strikeouts and 34 walks in 2013. He even threw exactly 202 innings over 32 starts in each season.
Signing Arroyo over Pelfrey would’ve cost the Twins an extra $6.5 million in 2014 and would only have raised their expected payroll from roughly $76 million to $82.5 million, which is still less than their 2013 mark.
Pelfrey could potentially bounce back and have a decent showing this season, but Arroyo was a sure thing. His presence as a No. 2 starter in the rotation would have also increased the value of Minnesota’s other pitchers. In an expensive offseason, the Twins’ only cheap decision could end up costing them big in 2014.