Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ramon Ortiz Joins the Rotation

The Twins seem to have found a pitcher that they definitely want to have on the Major League squad in Ramon Ortiz, who will be signed to a one-year, $3.1 million deal once he passes a physical. This is different than the signings of Sidney Ponson, Mike Venafro, Randy Choate, and Carmen Cali (and, for that matter, of Matt LeCroy and Ken Harvey), all of whom were signed to minor league deals. The fact that Ortiz got a Major League contract indicates that the Twins are pretty sold on the idea of having him in the rotation.

Is this a good idea? Well, Ortiz has had flashes of decent play throughout his career. His 2002 season with the Angels (15-9 / 3.77 ERA / 162-68 K-BB) was by far his best year, but 2001 and 2004 (when he was primarily used out of the bullpen) weren't terrible. For $3 million/year, the Twins can't expect too much out of him, and would probably be happy if he could make 30 starts and pitch 150 innings or so with an ERA on the south side of 5.00. And ultimately, the question is whether or not it makes sense to sign a pitcher who is going to put up those kinds of numbers.

The Twins rotation with Ortiz is probably going to look something like this (as suggested by LaVelle E. Neal) - Johan Santana, Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, Carlos Silva, and Boof Bonser (not necessarily in order). Ponson is the least likely piece of that rotation, since, as I mentioned earlier, he's only been signed to a minor league deal. But, there are a number of very good, young pitchers ready and waiting to get a shot. Matt Garza and Glen Perkins are the two guys most likely to make the team, but Scott Baker isn't a slouch (although he's falling behind the other guys on the depth chart, admittedly). Then, there's J.D. Durbin, who is out of options and will probably end up with another team if the Twins don't find a place for him.

On one hand, my preference would be to plug guys like Perkins and Garza into the rotation rather than using a roster spot on Ortiz and Ponson. Generally, I'd rather give young guys a shot rather than using re-treads. But there is another consideration involved, and that has to do with the infamous arbitration clock.

The Twins would probably struggle with their starters whether they were using Ortiz and Ponson or Garza and Perkins. The starting pitching is going to be the shakiest part of this team in 2007. The Twins may have decided to essentially give up on 2007 (unofficially, of course - they'll play as hard as they can, and you never know when you're going to win). If that's the case, then place-holders like Ortiz and Ponson make more sense in the rotation than young guys like Garza and Perkins. Why waste a year on young pitchers if you don't think it's going to benefit the team significantly?

Going into 2008, the Twins should be looking at a rotation of Santana, Bonser, Liriano, and then two of Perkins, Garza, and Slowey. Rather than being a weakness, that rotation should be a significant strength. With Santana possibly on his way out during or after 2008, keeping the extra year on Garza and Perkins (while giving them another year to improve in AAA), could be invaluable.

So, ultimately, I'm torn as to whether I agree or disagree with this signing, but I'm leaning towards viewing it as a good decision in light of the Twins current situation. I don't expect big things out of Ortiz - but if he can put up an ERA in the 4.50 to 4.75 range, he won't have been a bad signing.


  • At Fri Jan 19, 05:30:00 PM , Blogger Marty said...

    Ramon Ortiz had a 4.85 Career ERA and the guy hasn't had an ERA below 5 in two years, he had a losing season last year with the Nationals and got paid less than $3 million and suddenly the Twins are jumping out to pay him more than he got last year after he had one of his worst seasons ever? And you can't find it in yourself to criticise Ryan?

    What the H?

  • At Fri Jan 19, 06:09:00 PM , Blogger WV said...

    "Paying him more" in this case is only 500k more, which in today's baseball climate, seems like a demotion. And consider the alternatives-Bruce Chen was another frequently mentioned possible addition and he made nearly 4 million and put up an ERA close to 7 last season.

    Anyways--Taylor, I appreciate your spin involving arbitration and holding off the youngsters for another year. I think that's a nuance many people ignore in this kind of situation.

  • At Fri Jan 19, 06:31:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    WV - thanks for the comments. Marty - I didn't think my post was exactly glowing with praise for the signing. I would probably not have done this if I were a GM. But Terry Ryan is not an idiot, and I think he had something like keeping the young guys around longer in mind when he made the decision to sign Ortiz.

    Look, this could turn into Tony Batista redux, but let's hope not. And my quota of Terry Ryan bashing/questioning was filled in the Matt LeCroy post earlier this week.

  • At Fri Jan 19, 10:33:00 PM , Blogger Marty said...

    See, that's what makes you such a fine person Mr. Taylor, you actually have a limit to the amount of "bashing" you can give out to any one person. I on the other hand am a barbarian by blogger standards (both in how old the blog is as well as my content) and never tire of dishing out "bashings."

    This signing was a horrible idea. Sign a question mark to add to the other question marks already on the depth chart? Madness.

  • At Fri Jan 19, 10:48:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    I'm not going to seriously disagree. I think there are a few potential benefits to the signing, and I think that tilts it to, at worst, a neutral decision.

    And as for bashing people, you just have to get me on the right topic. I pretty much bashed Glen Mason every chance I got before Joel Maturi stunned me and fired him.


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