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Sports Columns

October 28, 2012

Thoma column: With pitching staffed pruned, Twins must now graft arms

Last week the Twins began their offseason project of remodeling the starting rotation with some addition by subtraction. Soon it will be time to add by addition.

The 2012 Twins used 12 different starting pitchers, each of whom got at least five starts. Of those 12, just seven remained on the 40-man roster Sunday and one of those, Carl Pavano, is only there as a technicality — he’ll be a free agent now that the World Series is completed.

Of the seven who remain, only Scott Diamond is a certainty to be in the 2012 rotation.

A vague guess at where Terry Ryan and Co. will go from here:

1) Import two established starters, one via trade and one via free agency.

2) Re-sign Scott Baker and target a rotation spots for a rehab project.

3) Let the other candidates sort themselves out for the fifth spot.

A few thoughts about that framework:

First: Established starters don’t come easy or cheap in the trade market.

Last offseason, by my count, 10 pitchers who had made it through at least one full year in a major league rotation were traded, and six of them were traded for one of the others. Two of the other four brought back prospects who themselves wound up in major league rotations during the season.

Which means that only two established starters went in trades that didn’t involve either another established starter or a major-league-ready prospect.

The Twins lack those kinds of pitching chips. They do have some trade chips to use in this pursuit: They have two major-league center fielders in Denard Span and Ben Revere, and they have two first basemen in Justin Morneau and Chris Parmelee. They have a raft of good outfield prospects in their system.

But those are the rare pitching trades these days.

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