By Michael Rand
When the news broke of Ortiz signing a one-year deal with the Twins for $3.1 million, we went for the humor angle. With a day to digest things, we’d like to take a run at some serious pros and cons:
*$3.1 million is a relative bargain these days. As Diddy pointed out on a previous thread, Ortiz has a career ERA of 4.85. Gil Meche has a career ERA of 4.65. Ortiz got $3.1 mil; Meche got five years, $55 million from the Royals. Both pitchers are flawed; Ortiz’s flaws come considerably cheaper.
*For some reason, Ortiz’s best seasons have come in the American League. With Anaheim in 2001-2003, he was a combined 44-33 with a respectable ERA in the mid-fours. The past two years (one each in Cincy and Washington), he was 20-27 with a combined ERA in the mid-fives. And his best overall year was 2002 — 15-9, 3.77 ERA for Anaheim, the year the Angels won it all. Put him on a good team, which the Twins hope they are, and perhaps he’s a better pitcher.
*He eats innings: Despite some struggles in recent years, he’s thrown at least 170 innings in five of his past six seasons. He’ll turn 34 in May, which is hardly ancient for a pitcher. If he can come close to duplicating his Angels’ numbers, he can be a functional back end of the rotation guy.
*The Twins have a lot of No. 4 and No. 5 starter candidates. They also have a clear ace. What this says is aside from Johan Santana, Minnesota still doesn’t have any starting pitcher you completely trust. Not Boof yet. Not Silva after last year. Not any of the other young guys, no matter how much potential they have. Not Ortiz and Ponson, veterans the Twins are hoping to revive. The Twins winged it in this situation last year after Liriano and Radke were injured, but it’s a dangerous way to live. So from that standpoint, the Ortiz signing just adds one more candidate to the mix.
*With the exception of 2002, Ortiz has allowed more hits than innings pitched in the past six seasons. Unlike Radke or (good) Silva, he doesn’t make up for it with pinpoint control, having allowed more than 3 walks per 9 innings over the course of his career. That’s a lot of baserunners, meaning he will likely tend to skate a fine line in a lot of games.
A pretty good signing given the market and the Twins’ circumstances. It’s only one year; if it works, they can could try to extend him; if it doesn’t, they aim to get Liriano back in 2008. And, don’t forget: He’s making $1.1 million less than Kyle Lohse. Which one would you rather have?