Earlier this morning I kicked off our Out of Options series with a quick introduction piece. With that in place I thought it only fitting to start things off with the Minnesota Twins who, next to the Royals, are my other favorite organization. The Twins currently have four players on their 40-man roster that are out of minor league options and may find themselves on waivers by the end of Spring Training.
At 26-years of age, the team’s 2004 1st round pick (20th overall) has played at least 20 games at five different positions in the major leagues since making his debut in 2010. Last season he made his first big league appearance at 3B. He went on to play 95 games at the hot corner and is all but penciled in as the Twins starter at that position. He hit 0.235/.301/.455 with 19 2B and 24 HR in 119 games last season and despite the subpar BA and OBP his OPS+ was a healthy 107. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2014 and as the starter, there’s less than a zero percent chance he won’t make the Twins Opening Day roster. That’s a bit of a shame as far as Kansas City is concerned since Plouffe has experience at every position on the diamond except catcher and pitcher and would fit the Royals need for an offensive minded super-utility player perfectly.
The 30-year old righty has spent time in the Reds, Blue Jays and Rockies organizations with all of his major league experience coming as a reliever. Last season he set a career high throwing 88.2 innings and posted a solid 3.25 ERA with Colorado. However his 1.44 WHIP and 1.26 SO/BB paint a much less attractive picture when it comes to his potential value. As the son of Gary and the nephew of Ron, he has major league bloodlines but his control is questionable and his ability to strike out batters has been in decline since 2009. Pitching in Colorado has surely impacted his peripherals but oddly enough his ERA+ with the Rockies the last two years is a well above average 143. If he makes the Twins bullpen, he’s a good bet to implode statistically and if he doesn’t make the team he will likely pass through waivers – though to be fair even Horacio Ramirez was claimed after the Royals DFA’d him years ago. One thing is certain, the Royals are stocked with a slew of bullpen options better than Roenicke.
The Twins 2nd round pick in the 2004 Draft, Swarzak joined a class that also included Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, Matt Tolbert and Rene Tosoni. Now 27, the right handed sometimes-starter, sometimes-reliever has had his moments, including a 7.0 inning shutout in his debut against the Brewers, but hasn’t pitched his way off the roster bubble. In relief he’s been more effective with a 4.03 ERA and 1.34 WHIP but curiously his control has suffered going from 2.5 BB/9 in the rotation to 3.0 BB/9 in the bullpen. He’s a product of the organization’s emphasis on limiting walks and pitching to contact and it has helped him log 257.2 innings with the Twins. Swarzak’s curveball is an above average major league pitch but his fastball and slider are below average leaving him as a replacement level option for any team. If we were talking about the Royals pitching staff heading into the 2010 season or perhaps even 2011-2012 campaigns, it would make sense to give the present day Swarzak a look. Of course as it stands the Royals rotation is in much better shape (both in terms of quality and depth) than it’s been in decades. They have a young, deep and talented stable of power arms filling up their bullpen and a number of viable swingman options that will be jockeying for a roster spot as well. Swarzak should be able to help a major league team in 2013 but that team is not the Royals. It’s hard for me to say that as I’ve long been a fan of his.
Of the four players in Twins camp that are out of minor league options, Wood is the least intriguing based on big league experience. The 30-year old right-handed reliever has 58.0 innings at the major league level with the last 8.0 of those innings with the Pirates in the summer of 2011. A 44th round selection of the Marlins in the 2002 MLB Draft, Wood spent eight years with Florida (2003-2010). He also had a brief 4.2 inning stint with Round Rock – the Rangers Triple-A affiliate – before he made his way to the Pirates. While things have not gone well for Wood in the major leagues, the last two seasons in Indianapolis (AAA) he’s thrown 114.1 innings with a 2.44 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 2.82 SO/BB while racking up 44 games. For a team desperate for bullpen arms, Tim Wood might be worth taking a flier on since his peripheral numbers in the big leagues appear out of whack when compared to his recent minor league performance. He could provide some value to a major league pitching staff if given a chance, but he just as easily could hand out more walks than strikeouts and finish with an ERA north of 5.00 which is what he’s done in his last two chances. The Royals have no need for a pitcher like Tim Wood given the state of their pitching staff and the current composition of their 40-man roster. To add him would be to downgrade one of their roster spots.
As we can see from the above, the only player out of options in Minnesota’s camp that has any value to the 2013 Kansas City Royals is Trevor Plouffe. Unfortunately, he is the one player on this list that is a lock to make the Twins Opening Day roster. I’ve always liked Swarzak and if the 2013 Royals pitching staff was more similar to the 2009, 2010 or perhaps even 2011 version he might be worth taking a flier on. Thankfully both in terms of the rotation and bullpen, Kansas City is in a much better place when it comes to their pitching options.