Sunday, December 16, 2012

Twins Ink Pelfrey

In the second exciting (not exciting) move in a week, the Twins have signed right-hander Mike Pelfrey to a one year deal worth at least $4 million.

I can say this much for certain, Pelfrey is a big dude - 6'7" - and was, at one point, pretty decent. From 2008-2011 he averaged 32 starts, 196 IP, a 4.27 ERA and 1.65 K/BB ratio. He's not a strikeout pitcher, or a pinpoint control guy, but he gets groundballs (48.6 GB%) and should continue to keep the ball in the park at Target Field.

Pelfrey's arsenal, at least in the past, has consisted of a hard sinker in the mid-90's, a 4-seamer at the same speed and a slider and splitter that he throws less than 20% of the time. In 2011, his slider was primarily used as a putaway pitch versus righties and almost never against lefties.

The most important question for Pelfrey doesn't pertain to his stuff or peripherals, however, it applies to his health. After 3 starts in 2012, Pelfrey injured his elbow, requiring Tommy John Surgery. The rule of thumb is that he won't be back for a full year, meaning we can expect to see him back in May. However, with advances in medicine, it's not entirely uncommon for pitchers to return in less than 12 months; according to a tweet from Jon Heyman, the Twins expect him to be ready for opening day. Darren Wolfson tweeted a source that said an opening day return was unlikely, but it should be pretty close. If he has to miss 3 or 4 starts to begin the season, the time missed won't significantly hurt the value of the deal, but it's certainly something to keep our collective eye on.

All that said, if Pelfrey sounds like quite a gamble. That's because he is, but unlike the Correia deal, Pelfrey has real upside and could make an impact on the Twins in 2013 and beyond.

What does this mean for the Twins pitching staff? Well, it now consists of four somewhat established starters in Worley, Diamond, Correia and Pelfrey. There's still Hendriks, DeVries and Gibson who each figure to start a few games. In addition to these options, Heyman notes the Twins are still in the market another starter and Wolfson says possibly two more starters.

I like the idea; stock up on low risk guys and hope they perform well to flip for prospects or lure fans out an increasingly empty Target Field. Going forward, hopefully they can find a guy with a bit more upside than Correia and Pelfrey. But, nonetheless, it's an encouraging move and shows Terry Ryan and co. are serious about putting together a real big league pitching staff in 2013, even if it won't win any awards.

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