The Minnesota Twins have a long history of problems developing starting pitching. Using 100 starts as a barometer, since 1961 the Twins have signed and developed just 11 pitchers in their system that have gone on to get 100 or more starts in a Twins uniform. The only first round pick in the bunch is Pete Redfern, three round tw0 picks, two round three picks, one fourth round pick, one fifth round pick, Brad Radke was an eighth round pick, one 29th round pick and an amateur free agent (Dave Boswell).
Since the June amateur free agent draft started in 1965 the Twins have drafted 31 pitchers in round 1 or as round 1 supplementary/compensation picks. Actually part of the Twins issues with starting pitching relates to spending money or the lack there of. The first two right-handed pitchers drafted by the Twins in round 1 were Dick Ruthven in 1972 and Tim Belcher (first overall pick) in 1983 who both refused to sign with Minnesota and went on to have long careers in MLB. The first left-handed pitcher drafted in round 1 to start any games was Eddie Bane and his Twins career lasted 25 starts. As I mentioned earlier, the draft started in 1965 but the Twins only drafted starting pitching in round 1 twice (Ruthven in 1972 and Bane in 1973) between 1965-1981. The first RHP that they drafted in round 1 that actually started a number of games (45 in Twins career) was Willie Banks who the team drafted in 1987. Since 2000 they have drafted a pitcher in round 1 a total of 17 times.
Starting pitching signed and developed by the Twins since 1961
If you can’t find, sign, and develop your starting pitching, you only have a few options at your disposal, you could make a trade, you can sign a free agent, or you can find one on the waiver wire (ha, ha, ha).
The option I want to write about here is the Twins attempts to trade for starting pitching since the turn of the century, a total of 17 years. Trading for starters hasn’t exactly gone as planned either.
Twins trades for starting pitching: 2000-2016
July 30, 2001 – The Twins trade 29-year-old outfielder Matt Lawton to the New York Mets for 36 year-old starting pitcher Rick Reed. Reed pitched for Minnesota from 2001-2003 before becoming a free agent but he never pitched in the big leagues again. His career stats with the Twins were 25-25 with a 4.47 ERA in 65 starts.
November 15, 2002 – The Twins traded pitcher Matt Kinney and catcher Javier Valentin to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitchers Matt Yeatman and Jerry Oakes. Oakes peaked out in high A ball and Yeatman reached AA.
November 14, 2003 – With Joe Mauer knocking on the door the Twins traded 26-year-old catcher A.J. Pierzynski and cash to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano. AJ didn’t fit in with the Giants and lasted just one season there but he is still playing ball to this day. Nathan was supposed to be the jewel in the trade for Minnesota as they had big plans to make him a closer and the plan worked to perfection. Nathan had 260 saves for the Twins between 2004-2011. Liriano, a lefty, had all kinds of talent but he could never conquer consistency and he was traded to the White Sox at the 2012 trading deadline for Eduardo Escobar who is still with the Twins and pitcher Pedro Hernandez who has long since moved on. Liriano ended his stay in the Land of 10,000 Lakes with a 50-52 mark and an ERA of 4.33 in 130 starts. The Boof man started 60 games between 2006-2008 and his record was 18-25 with a 5.12 ERA.
December 3, 2003 – In their second big deal in less than a month the Twins send 28-year-old pitcher Eric Milton to the Philadelphia Phillies and receive infielder Nick Punto and pitchers Carlos Silva and Bobby Korecky. Silva, 25, pitches for the Twins from 2004 thru 2007 and posts a 4.42 ERA with 47 wins and 45 losses before becoming a FA. Korecky pitched 16 games in relief for Minnesota before moving on. Punto? Everybody knows about Nick Punto so nothing more needs to be said about Nick.
July 31, 2004 – In a four team trade the Twins send 1B Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox and receive a 19 year-old lefty Justin Jones in return from the Chicago Cubs. In his three seasons with the Twins organization Jones never reached above AA ball.
February 2, 2008 – The Twins finally trade Johan Santana to the New York Mets and get outfielder Carlos Gomez, and pitching prospects Philip Humber (2004 first round), Kevin Mulvey (2006 second round) and Deolis Guerra (2005 amateur free agent). Mulvey appears in 2 games for the Twins before being traded to Arizona for Jon Rauch. Humber pitches for the Twins 13 times in 2008-2009 before leaving as a FA after the 2009 season. Guerra never wears a Twins uni in a big league game before leaving as a FA in November 2014. None of these three pitching prospects acquired from the Mets ever won a single game for the Minnesota Twins. If that wasn’t bad enough, after the 2009 season the Twins traded Carlos Gomez to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop J.J. Hardy and after the following season (2010) they traded Hardy along with Brendan Harris and a suitcase full of money to get pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Hoey did win one game for the Twins in 2011 before he was waived after the 2011 season never to pitch big league ball again. Jacobson you ask? Never pitched in the big leagues. So when all was said and done in the Santana trade, Jon Rauch who had the personality of Attila the Hun went 8-2 with 21 saves and a 2.62 ERA ended up as the Twins “plum” in moving Santana.
August 7, 2009 – The Twins sent a PTBNL (Yohan Pino) to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Carl Pavano. Pavano became a FA after the 2009 season but resigned with Minnesota and had a 33-33 record with 4.32 ERA between 2009-2012 before he became a FA again but was hurt in a non baseball related accident and has not pitched since.
August 15, 2011 – The Twins sent outfielder Delmon Young to Detroit and received pitchers Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros. Nelson who was from Edina, Minnesota was 21 at the time never got above high A for the Twins and last pitched for the St. Paul Saints in 2014. Oliveros was used in relief by the Twins in 2011, 2012 and 2014 and had a 0-1 record with a 5.22 ERA.
July 28, 2012 – The Chicago White Sox and the Twins hook up in a trade with the Twins getting infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez and the Sox got Francisco Liriano. As noted above Escobar is still with Minnesota and Hernandez long since moved on.
November 29, 2012 – The Twins acquire pitching prospect Alex Meyer from Washington for outfielder Denard Span. Meyer started one of the four games that he appeared in for Minnesota in 2015-2016 and had a 1-3 record with a 6.75 ERA. On August 1, 2016 the Twins tired on waiting for Meyer and packaged him with pitcher Ricky Nolasco a FA bust and sent them to the Angels for minor league pitcher Alan Busenitz and pitcher Hector Santiago who is still with the Twins and in the starting rotation.
December 6, 2012 – The Twins trade their second center-fielder in a week by moving Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitchers Vance Worley and minor league prospect Trevor May. The 25-year-old Worley didn’t pan out and had a 7.21 ERA with a 1-5 record in 2013 before the Twins sold him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in March 2014. The Twins have used May both as a starter and a reliever since he debuted in 2014 and the team can’t seem to decide where to use him. He pitched in relief in 2016 but he also ended up on the DL several times. The time has come for the Twins to make a decision on how to use the 26 year-old May, they should look long-term versus short-term.
November 19, 2013 – The Twins trade Duke Welker back to the Pirates from who they had acquired him in the August trade of Justin Morneau and receive pitcher Kris Johnson. Johnson gets three starts for Minnesota in 2014 before they release him in October 2014.
December 18, 2013 – The Twins part ways with catcher Ryan Doumit by sending him to the Atlanta Braves for their 2011 first round pick, Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin never pitches for Minnesota when the Twins lose Gilmartin to the New York Mets in the 2014 rule 5 draft.
What is the problem?
With the Twins record in finding, signing and developing starting pitching you have to wonder where the problem falls. Does the organization not know how to find starting pitching or do they not know how to develop starting pitching. Or is it all just a crap shoot and the Twins are just unlucky? Don’t look for any answers here, if I had the answers I would be doing more than writing this blog.