Friday, January 19, 2007

Picking at the Scrap Heap

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.

7 comments:

Eric said...

The thought of Silva, Ponson and Ortiz in the same rotation -- makes me want to vomit.

That's all.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with your general take on signing such non entities as Ponson and R. Ortiz but I will take issue with the phrase, "the youngsters gain valuable major league experience." What they also accrue is service time. In the era of Gil Meche at 11 MM plus per, service time is gold. Matt Garza cannot and should not be in the major leagues before June, to burn off his service time from 06. He was rushed and if they start him in the bigs a la Liriano, we lose another guy's full year of service time for approximately 8 starts. Small market teams cannot do that.

I'll bet we see Baker in the rotation over Ponson, but Garza, Perkins, and Slowey should be at Rochester until it's safe to bring them up. You can't burn service time letting these guys feel their way around. I think 07 is a lost cause anyway and was when Liriano went down and Radke really faced retirement. We're plugging for 08. Don't worry you'll see all the kids by July/August when Torii is shipped out along with Castillo and RonDL as we prepare for the next window of opportunity. Such is life with the small market Twins. Though the Ortiz deal should bring payroll up over 70MM, more than I thought it would be.

Nick M. said...

I have to agree with the sentiment that this is an awful rotation. We are giving up a year of Santana, though, as well. We may only have him for so long and putting him in a rotation with one pitcher with only a little experience (Bonser) and three awful ones is a very disheartening idea. I'd like to see at least one of our young starters other than Bonser in the rotation. I'd prefer Garza, but I'll take Baker over Ortiz or Ponson. At least he's young and shown some talent.

Nick N. said...

I have to agree with Mr. Mosvick here. The Twins stand to potentially lose both Nathan and Santana following the 2008 season, two of their best players. In my opinion, they've got a window to win with those two in the next couple years. Do you really want to throw one of those years away by running out a bunch of crappy vets in the rotation who give the team almost no chance to win? At least there is the potential for success with the young guys. We know what Ortiz and Ponson are capable of in the majors at this point. We don't know what those youngsters are capable of. At worst, they'd gain experience and be ready to help the team in 2008, and 2008 is looking like the year for this team if Liriano is able to come back.

Anonymous said...

The other issue with letting the young guys run the show is, what if they fail because they are not ready.

Garza seemed ready, but he faltered badly. It won't do him good if he is kept at the major and keep getting 5.70 ERA, like Scott Baker. Was Scott Baker not ready? The big league experience did not do him good at all... Maybe he was moved too quickly, and then his confidence got shattered with the yo-yo-ing.

At this point, I don't know whether it's better to yo-yo the young SPs or to keep them in the rotation, if their ERAs are around 5.50+

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