Friday, January 19, 2007 (Evening)
Twins Sign Ortiz
Ramon Ortiz! I honestly don't have a big problem with this signing, although I am not sure that they necessarily had to give him $3.1 million for the year. He is a guy that I really thought that the Twins needed to try to acquire... three or four years ago when he was in his late-20s and still showed glimpses of potential. Now, he is 33 years old and coming off of a season where he went 11-16 with a 5.57 ERA, in the National League. Translated to the American League, and it may not be pretty.
However, I think that the key numbers that Terry Ryan looked at in determining that Ortiz was worth signing were 33 and 190.2. He made 33 starts and pitched in 190.2 innings. As a matter of fact, he has made at least 30 starts in five of the last six years. Of course, the last time that he made 30 starts AND had an ERA under 5.20 was 2002.
We know that Johan Santana, Carlos Silva and Boof Bonser will start the season in the rotation. That means that the other two spots in the rotation will come from a group consisting of Matt Garza, Ramon Ortiz, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Sidney Ponson and Kevin Slowey. My opinion is that as of today that would probably be the order. Ortiz's contract makes him an automatic, in my opinion. So really, one rotation spot is between the other five.
I know that many times I am in favor of the Twins just trusting their youth, especially guys with obvious talent rather than spend money. My theory is that guys like Ponson and Ortiz, you know what you're going to get, and it isn't very good. At least with the youth, you have optimism of what they could be and their production would likely be no worse. That is probably true.
That said, I think that organizational depth is a very good thing. We saw the need for depth in the Twins outfield last year. There are a couple more things to consider:
Matt Garza flew up the system last year. He was incredible. I rank him just below Justin Verlander, so I think he can be well above average. But would he be better served to get a half-dozen AAA starts and come up in late May rather than get inconsistent fifth starter innings with the Twins?
Glen Perkins is supposedly considered a 5th starter option, but as well as he did in two or three appearances at Rochester late last year and in limited time with the Twins, don't forget that he went just 4-11 with a 3.91 ERA in his second season at AA. His "other", peripheral numbers were all solid, but some AAA seasoning would definitely be beneficial.
Scott Baker - OK, honestly, I believe that he just needs to be given a starting job and let him run with it for a half-season. He is too good to go back to AAA again. I would like to see him as the #5 starter to start the season.
Sidney Ponson - He's not good, the only benefit is that if he's just half-way decent (meaning only slightly below average, instead of horrific), he can provide needed innings.
Kevin Slowey is a guy who I think warrants an extended spring training look. But like Matt Garza, he was amazing at every level last year, but he only made one AAA start, so I don't think there is any need to rush him. Let him continue to progress and prepare and when he does come up, let it be for good.
The other thing to remember is that as bad as Ponson and Ortiz could be, Carlos Silva has the ability to be just as bad, if not worse.
Boof Bonser was great in September and earned his rotation spot. However, before September, he had been sent down twice and deemed not ready. He can be solid, but he is not a sure thing.
With so much youth and the Twins philosophy, it is also important to note that Ponson's contract is a minor league deal. Having more options means that his chance of making the Twins staff less. Ramon Ortiz's contract is just for one year, so even if it is a horrible signing, it is not long-term.
So to summarize, the Twins rotation really is Johan Santana and a bunch of question marks. Terry Ryan is just giving himself and Ron Gardenhire enough options in an attempt for five of them to succeed. Who those five are to start the season may be different than who they are in June, and July, and September. Providing Rochester with a rotation that includes Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey and probably Jeremy Cummings is not a bad thing as long as the goal of their time in Rochester is to ensure that when they get back to Minnesota, it is for good.
Here is something for Twins fans to hold their hopes on. I remember watching the latter part of the game he pitched last year and went eight no-hit innings. In either the bottom of the 8th or top of the 9th, he came to bat and homered. But then he gave up a single to lead off the 9th inning. He can be good. A few years ago, many called him Little Pedro. Maybe this is a guy that Rick Anderson can do something with!
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