For the first offseason in a while, the idea the Twins are going for and what I think they should do are in line.
Finding Major League arms who can effectively throw five or more innings a game and do it 30 or more times a year is difficult to find which is why the Twins ought to compile as many cheap starters as possible before the young guns are ready to step up. Trying to rely on non-prospect pitchers does no good for rebuilding (see Cole DeVries, Sam Deduno and P.J. Walters).
Brandon Webb, the 2006 Cy Young award winner and 2007 and 2008 runner-up, is holding a throwing session after the holidays and the Twins are going to be one of the teams in attendance. In 2003-2008 Webb produced a b/WAR and f/WAR of 31.7 while Baseball Prospectus had his WARP at 18.3.
Whichever WAR(P) you prefer, he was a well-above average pitcher. Then came 2009, the season in which Webb threw just 4 innings on opening day and the brief collapse of the Diamondbacks began.
The shoulder is something which is completely unpredictable. He had a similar labrum surgery to what Jeff Francis had done (and relatively at the same time) who has been able to 400.1 innings since 2010 to a 5.08 ERA while Webb has thrown zero innings to a non-existent ERA.
Let’s pretend we’re in a perfect world and Webb comes out throwing a consistent 85-87 (he averaged 89 on his fastball/sinker while healthy according to BrooksBaseball.net) and throws an alright change and breaking ball. The idea of signing him to a Minor League deal with an invite to spring training would be a great option for Minnesota.
Not only would he bring Major League experience (which is starting to get expensive by the way) but he throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground and away from Josh Willingham (64.2 percent groundball rate according to FanGraphs).
Say we go into spring training and Rick Anderson can’t get the sinker sinking and he gets hit hard and sucks. Well then it’s simple. Webb gets released and both move on knowing they gave it their all.
This is a low-cost option for the Twins with the upside of an innings eater with Major League experience. The way be throws groundballs could be a great way for the pitching prospects to learn that just because the ball will stay in Target Field when it’s up in the zone, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing rolling to the left or right center gap.
If they have to give anything more than a Minor League deal, they should pass but if it knocks Brian Duensing back to the pen, the Twins can’t go wrong.