13 March 2003

The Gambler Wins!

Not or some poser but this Kenny Rogers was signed by the Minnesota Twins to a one-year, $2 million contract.

My initial reaction to this news was to think that it's the classic knee-jerk, poorly thought-out, desperation signing, and I'm still not totally convinced it wasn't. The pricetag is not too bad for a team like New York, LA or Chicago, but $2 million is still a lot of money in the midwest. What's most surprising about the signing is that Rogers wasn't already signed by someone, given that Jamie Moyer had been able to negotiate a three-year deal with the Mariners. Take a look at their home/road splits the last three years:

Home 4.59 17 15 47 300.33 337 172 153 33 103 156 0.285
Away 4.70 14 13 40 258.33 282 143 135 26 94 152 0.276
Total 4.64 31 28 87 558.66 619 315 288 59 197 308 0.281

Home 3.45 22 13 48 318.67 273 132 122 33 71 197 0.231
Away 4.47 24 11 45 275.66 285 144 137 41 76 167 0.265
Total 3.92 46 24 93 594.33 558 276 259 74 147 364 0.247

At first glance, one might think that there's a pretty vast difference between the two pitchers, and certainly a 3/4 run disparity in ERA is nothing to sneeze at, but a closer look, as usual, reveals that the pitchers are not so different. Jamie Moyer's been helped tremendously by his home park, Safeco Field, where his ERA over the last three seasons is more than an entire run lower than it is on the road. Rogers had the presumed displeasure of pitching half of his games (more, actually) in Arlington Cemet..err..Ballpark, which is described as a "severe hitters park" by Baseball Prospectus. (His slight improvement in ERA at home belies the fact that all of his peripheral stats got worse there.) So they're probably as close to even with each other as any two pitchers could be.

I'm not saying that Rogers is going to suddenly morph into Warren Spahn, or even Tommy John, but he is two years younger than Moyer, but he's been almost as good as Moyer for the last three seasons, and would presumably have a better chance of aging gracefully, since he throws harder than Moyer does. (Actually, come to think of it, my cousin's 2-year-old daughter probably throws harder than Moyer, so forget I mentioned it.)

Eric Milton went down with a knee injury that should keep him out of action for about four months, which kinda sucks for him, but was not necessarily expected to hurt the Twins' chances much this year, as they already had six or seven guys who could start, and Radke, Mays and Milton all kinda underachieved last year. If one of the other two bounces back, and if they get even comparable performances from Kyle Lohse, Santana, or Juan Rincon, then the Twins are fine, and might have better spent the money shoring up their infield or bench.

Still, you'd understand it if they were maybe a little reluctant to go with an all-young guys rotation, and needed a "veteran presence" to steady the load. But Radke, Reed and Mays have all been around for a while (Reed's been around for two or three whiles), and Johan Santana is likely to be very good at the back of the rotation. Or at least he would have been, if not for Rogers. The only truly troubling thing about the transaction is this:

According to the AP story,

"The Twins were confident Johan Santana could fill Milton's spot, as he did
last season when Milton, Brad Radke and Joe Mays missed a total of more
than six months to injuries. But Santana, 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA last year,
is more valuable in the bullpen as a long or short left-handed reliever."

I'm sorry, but unless you think think that Santana is going to be a BAD starter, it makes no sense to say that he's more valuable as a reliever. As I mentioned the other day, an as Buffy will confirm, it is much easier to kill one vampire than ten, and it is much easier to find someone to pitch 70 good innings than 200. Duh. At least it wasn't a direct quote from anyone in the Twins' front office.

Not surprisingly, Aaron Gleeman expresses many of the same sentiments as me, but in more detail, and with a somewhat more positive spin, as he is a Twins fan. Aaron also goes into some discussion of the Jack "DH Waiting to Happen" Cust acquisition by Baltimore and the Joe Table-Omar Vizquel feud, which has already been overplayed, so I won't discuss it myself.

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