The Twins, already facing stiff competition in challenging for the AL Central this year, suffered a huge blow when it was announced that their best pitcher from 2011, Scott Baker, would miss the entire 2012 season due to impending elbow surgery.
At the end of this season Terry Ryan will have some interesting roster decisions to make, particularly regarding the starting pitching in 2013. At the press conference in which the Twins announced Baker’s surgery Ryan spoke of ‘hoping to have him ready for 2013’, in a nonchalant manner. Hold on, not so fast, the Twins have an option on Baker for 2013, for $9 million. I’m not sure if that is a price tag that I would be willing to pay for someone as brittle as Scott Baker. Would you have paid $9 million for Francisco Liriano’s 2008 comeback season? (in which he pitched 76 innings with a WHIP of 1.39), I would not. Baker, admittedly, is facing entirely different circumstances, he will not be undergoing Tommy John surgery, however his surgery does require 6 months of rehab.
|Losing Baker is a big blow to the Twins 2012 hopes|
Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis will be free agents at the end of the season and with Pavano turning 37 next January and unlikely to replicate the outstanding numbers he put up in his 2010 campaign; it seems unlikely the Twins will resign him. Jason Marquis was signed to a 1 year contract with the Twins, who were looking for a veteran presence to put up some innings in an inexperienced pitching staff, may also be looking elsewhere for work in 2013. Finally the mercurial Francisco Liriano is a free agent at the end of the 2012 season and may not make it that far if the Twins fall out of contention early and decide to use him as trade bait.
Baker’s injury will undoubtedly present Liam Hendriks and Anthony Swarzak with increased opportunities to start. Hendriks had an outstanding spring which followed a moderately successful September call-up for the 2011 club. Indeed he deserves his opportunity, despite being fast-tracked through the Twins minor league system and not having much experience even at the AAA level. Swarzak has had success for the Twins both as a spot starter and a reliever, so it will be interesting to see in what capacity the Twins use him, much will depend on Hendriks early success. The potential departures at the end of the season also potentially open the door for consensus top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson, who is slated for a return to the mound from Tommy John surgery in August to put himself back on the fast track to the big league club in 2013.
Whether the front office wants to admit it or not the Twins are in a prime spot to restock their mediocre minor league system this year and perhaps next. The Twins hold 6 of the first 100 draft selection in 2012, including the 2nd, 32nd, 42nd and 63rd and while this years draft class doesn’t have a Strasburg or Harper type cornerstone superstar, it is thought to be a deep class. Should the Twins live up to most expert forecasts they may well have excellent draft position again in 2013, giving them an ideal opportunity to address areas of need within the organization (particularly starting pitching).
While Baker’s injury is a devastating blow to the Twins, it might just give them the push they need to fully commit to building for the future.