In a transaction reminiscent of January 2007, and with the team being $22 million under their cap, the team signed veteran free agent pitcher Livan Hernandez. The move didn’t particularly upset me, as I feel the team is more than one key piece away from being a contender (not that Hernandez would qualify as that piece), but it certainly did come as a surprise. Here is a comparison of Hernandez and 4 other pitchers who were signed for less money than Hernandez. In figuring out these numbers, I rounded just about everything to make it easier on you guys, and the average IP/start numbers are a little off for both Wells and Lieber as they’ve logged about 80 relief appearances between them and I did not factor those relief innings out of total IP.

Player Age 2008 Salary (in millions) Avg. IP/start Avg. starts/yr. Career ERA
Livan Hernandez 33 5 6.7 29 4.25
Matt Clement 33 1.5 5.9 30 4.47
Kip Wells 30 3.1 5.8 25 4.63
Jon Lieber 37 3.5 6.6 25 4.28
Jason Jennings 29 4 5.9 29 4.91
Randy Wolf 31 4.75 6.1 23 4.26

 

As you can see, there weren’t very many viable options. Not to mention that Livan is an absolute workhorse, logging more than 200 IP in a season 9 times in his career to go along with 43 complete games. The Twins didn’t sign him to be our ace; they signed him to be insurance for the bullpen, which was sure to get overworked with a rotation of Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey, a Francisco Liriano nobody has seen before, and (insert any one of the numerous starting pitchers in our organization here). Considering last year was Baker’s first “full” year, which wasn’t even that full: 23 starts, 143 and 2/3 innings pitched, and a month and a half spent at AAA at the beginning of the year. Bonser actually managed 30 starts last year but never pitched more than 7 innings, although his offseason pound-droppage should help with that. And Slowey, if he even wins a starting spot, will try and just stay consistent in his first full year at the ML level. With Liriano, anything really is possible. It’s assumed he’ll start the year in the rotation, but he definitely will not produce like he did in ’06.

But those were just the guys who signed for less than Livan. As far as 1-year deals go, only 3 starting pitchers signed for more than Livan: Andy Pettitte, Kenny Rogers, and Tom Glavine signed for $16M, $8M, and $8M respectively. Speaking of Glavine, only 3 pitchers have made at least 30 starts in each of the past 10 seasons: Glavine, Hernandez, and future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux. That’s pretty good company. And Livan also leads the majors in innings pitched since 2003.1 

After some further review, the signing doesn’t seem to be all that bad. However, Livan gave up 34 HR last year (2nd most in the majors) and all of his career has been spent in the National League, where a pitcher bats every 9th time instead of a DH, making it considerably easier to put up much better pitching stats versus the AL.

Signing Hernandez pretty much eliminates the Twins from acquiring (or attempting to acquire) pitcher Josh Fogg, who is from the same mold as Hernandez: above 4.00 ERA, lots of innings pitched.

 

 

In some cheap young player news, “Hall of famer and former Twin Rod Carew, who was a master bunter, will make [Carlos] Gomez an early project in spring training, working to capitalize on his exceptional speed.”2

 

 

I had heard rumors of this next story but I didn’t want to mention anything unless a major news source reported it. Well, si.com ran the article so I’ll link to it here, but provide a brief summary: it’s rumored that with 5 minutes left in the window (the extended window too, not the original one) that was given to the Mets and pitcher Johan Santana to negotiate a contract, the two sides were about $5 million apart. Santana claimed he was fully prepared to walk out without agreeing on anything and to pitch 2008 with the Minnesota Twins. Apparently the sides met halfway, but if that’s true, it sheds a different light on Johan. It’s fairly obvious that he wanted out of Minnesota to pitch for a big market team, but if he was willing to let $5,000,000 get in the way of that? That’s just crazy.

 

In stadium news, the team has decided to add $22 million worth of amenities to the outdoor stadium set to open in 2010. These include more women’s bathrooms, some outdoor “heating shacks”, and a better stone used for the outside of the structure. More on this can be read here.

 

 

 

1http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7789152/Twins-pick-up-free-agent-hurler-Hernandez

2http://www.twincities.com/walters/ci_8219112

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