It's a busy time for Andy and I, with finals and all, so please excuse the lack of actually posts. It also doesn't help that our favorite has been a train wreck and made baseball as a whole much more dreary. Never the mind, Terry Ryan has spelled our malaise for at least a few weeks by handing out moderate free agent contracts (or by Twins' standards, humongous big contracts) to Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.
By this time, if you care enough to come to this site, you've probably read a bit about how Nolasco and Hughes will hopefully be average to a touch above that this season. Nothing special, but not awful.
In a vacuum, that's a fine assessment; one I'd expect from the national media. But it's not that easy to remove the signings from their context. That context being the Twins rotation. Nolasco and Hughes will be replacing the two worst starters on by far the worst rotation in baseball. Their bar to hurdle is set so incredibly far in the basement they won't even have to worry about tripping over it.
Twins starters allowed 546 runs in 871 innings, so 0.627 runs per inning.
Nolasco is projected to pitch 198 innings and allow 95 runs by the Oliver projection system: 0.480 runs per inning.
Hughes is projected to pitch 174 innings and allow 94 runs (Oliver): 0.540 runs per inning.
So if we expected the Twins rotation to stand pat and fill those 372 innings with Andrew Alber, Sam Deduno etc. they could be expected to allow 233 runs. Replacing them with Nolasco and Hughes could be expected to allow 189 runs. That's 44 runs saved over the course of the season.
This is a pretty simple analysis, as the average Twins pitcher isn't replaced, it's the worst two pitchers being replaced. For that reason and that Oliver isn't quite as bullish on Hughes as others, this estimate is fairly conservative and I'm inclined to bump my personal estimate up to the 50-55 run range.
So basically those are my thoughts on the signing. Nolasco and Hughes aren't fantastic, but given the no-production hurlers they're replacing, it's a massive upgrade. That's probably why the Twins paid more than any other team for the pair, Nolasco and Hughes offered more value to this team than any other in the league.