Some things are just painfully predictable.
On Jan. 2, I wrote an article called The SP Dilemma that weighed some of the Twins' options to fill their need for help in the rotation. When addressing the subject of free agency, I mentioned two names as good possibilities: Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz. Shortly I made that post, the Twins went out and signed Ponson. Today, it has come to light that the team will be handing Ortiz a one-year contract worth $3.1 million.
Like Ponson, Ortiz was a disaster last season. Playing in a pitcher-friendly park in Washington, Ortiz went 11-16 with a 5.57 ERA, striking out 104 and walking 64 in 190 2/3 innings. He posted a 3.77 ERA for the Angels during their championship season of 2002, but in the four years since he has posted a 5+ ERA three times, and at age 33 it's fairly unrealistic to expect a bounce-back.
Alas, the Twins continue to pick at the free agent scrap heap. This deal has to be seen as worse than the Ponson signing because it's for considerably more money and Ortiz is pretty much just as bad. Throughout his career, Ortiz has lacked control, he's been homer-prone, and he's been utterly hittable. There are few positive things to say about him, although I'm sure we'll hear the term "innings eater" get thrown around (despite the fact that he hasn't thrown 200+ innings since '02).
The distressing thing about these signings is that they represent a sad trend that the Twins are continuing to follow, which is showing a complete lack of faith in their young talent and opting instead for over-priced veterans who are mediocre or worse. Last year they decided to go with Juan Castro, Tony Batista and Kyle Lohse over Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto and Francisco Liriano. Those foolish decisions nearly ruined their season. This year, it looks like they might go with Ponson, Ortiz and Carlos Silva over quality young arms like Matt Garza, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey. My hope is that Ponson and Ortiz have been brought in simply to compete in spring training and that the Twins will go north with the best pitchers, but we've seen in the past that gaudy spring training numbers sometimes still aren't enough to detach the Twins from their vet obsession (like when Bartlett hit .360 in spring training last year and still couldn't beat out Castro for the starting job).
I'm not saying that all three of the young guys I mentioned are ready to be full-time major-league starters, but the fact that all three might have to start the season in the minors in favor of a bunch of guys that posted ERAs upward of 5.50 last season is absurd. I'm pretty sure that anyone from the group of Garza, Perkins, Slowey and Scott Baker could post an ERA like that (at worst) and they'd at least be gaining big-league valuable experience while doing it.
It's unclear at this point what the Twins are going to do with these new players they've signed. Perhaps a bad showing in spring training will keep them out of the 2007 rotation. Whatever the case, I know this much: the thought of Silva, Ponson and Ortiz in the same rotation is extremely painful. It could be a lonnng year.