Figuring out the R.A. Dickey signing

Posted on December 26th, 2008 – 9:26 AM
By La Velle

The Twins have reached agreement with R.A. Dickey on a contract, one that apparently is either a major or minor league deal.

I’ve heard the Twins talk for years about getting a knuckleballer because the pitch seems to flutter more inside domed stadiums than outdoors. I remember the Twins making a run at Tim Wakefield after the 2000 season, only to watch him re-sign with Boston, where he now has a perpetual team option in his deal.

I know Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has proposed trying to teach a struggling prospect in the low minors a knuckleball or funky style to try to jumpstart a career or two.

So it’s not surprising that the Twins are going to sign Dickey, 34.

But in an offseason during which finding eighth-inning help is a higher priority, it’s a little bit of a head-scratcher to see the Twins sign someone to be a middle reliever or spot starter. It’s hard to see that when, if they need a spot start during the season, they can turn to Boof Bonser or Philip Humber or call up Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak or even Jeff Manship.

Now it’s fair to come back with the argument that the Twins likely aren’t spending a lot of money here and that teams bring in veteran arms all the time. But the Twins have plenty of options for starters, and we have seen in the past when trying the cagey veteran instead of the kid with more talent has failed.

And, with Humber out of options, the Twins’ bullpen appears full with Humber, Bonser, Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, Matt Guerrier, Craig Breslow (the smartest man in baseball) and Joe Nathan. You have prospects at Rochester and reliever Rob Delaney on the way at New Britain – and you can always find veteran pitching help to stash at Rochester at the end of spring training when people get cut.

Maybe I’m making too big of a deal about someone they won’t spend a lot of money for. But the bullpen needs a late-inning boost. Juan Cruz is a Type A free agent and Twins will never give up a draft pick. Joe Nelson has been signed. The Twins were interested in Brandon Lyon as of early this week – not sure where they are with that.

There’s always a chance that Jesse Crain’s command sharpens as he gets over a year removed from shoulder surgery. Matt Guerrier, who really should be the middle reliever/spot starter, could see his numbers improve if he’s not in as many pressure situations. My concern: How fans will react if the Twins’ bullpen struggles early with┬áthe same old faces.

Twins assistant GM Ron Antony (thank goodness he responded to my text message X-Mas morning when I was panicking for a response) maintains that the Twins are still looking for set-up help: “We will continue to see if we can find upgrades to the pen,” Antony wrote. “We are not looking at him as an eighth-inning guy.” Who goes then?

By the way, read about how Dickey doesn’t have a ligament in his elbow.

And I missed this report that kicked around some players it may take to land Mark DeRosa from the Cubs.

Programming note: I’m filling in at KFAN from Noon to 3 p.m. today. We’ll talk about Christmas gifts, a funny show I watched for the first time last night, hockey with Pat Micheletti at 1 p.m. and Vikings football with Judd Zulgad at 2 p.m.

Oh, I guess we can talk baseball too ;)

Late update: Just booked Clark Griffith for 12:20 to talk about the big spending Yankees and how it affects the rest of the sport.

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