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Updated: September 16th, 2013 4:50pm
Warne: 10 possible offseason free-agent pitching targets for the Twins

Warne: 10 possible offseason free-agent pitching targets for the Twins

by Brandon Warne
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan gave a brief, but telling answer to a question during his media availability Sunday.

A reporter asked Ryan if he felt the answers to his starting pitching woes were presently inside the organization.

"Some," Ryan said, without needing to go into much more detail to get his point across.

After adding Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey in the last offseason, it's still unclear if the club is any closer to having a rotation in place for the next Twins playoff run -- whenever that may be.

In fact, with the regression of Scott Diamond and the reliance on the likes of Samuel Deduno, it wouldn't be hard to argue that it was two steps forward and three steps back.

Just like last season, the Twins likely won't be in on any frontline rotation talent. That much seems evident. That disqualifies Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, and maybe even Jorge De La Rosa, as well as option guys like Jon Lester, James Shields, and Ubaldo Jimenez.

But if the idea was to patch up the rotation and survive through 2013 to get to the light on the other side of the tunnel, now might be a good time to consider handing out a two- or three-year deal to a pitcher who could be the opening day starter.

That is, someone better than Kevin Correia.

Make no mistake, Correia has been exactly who the Twins should have envisioned. But he's not starting anything higher than a game three in a playoff series.

It'll be up to the Twins to aim higher in free agency this offseason, and here's a list of pitchers who would qualify (via Cot's Contracts, Baseball Prospectus):

Phil Hughes, RHP, New York Yankees

Stats: 4-13, 5.07 ERA/4.50 FIP/4.40 xFIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

Analysis: Hughes has gotten a bad rap as a fly ball pitcher in the tight confines of new Yankee Stadium, but it isn't hard to see that he would benefit greatly from a change of scenery (home ERA 6.13; road 3.80).

Prediction: Seems like a pretty good shot. His stock is very low, and he's very projectable as possibly even a No. 2 starter for the Twins.

Bronson Arroyo, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Stats: 13-11, 3.58 ERA /3.97 FIP /3.80 xFIP, 5.7 K/9, 1.3 BB/9

Analysis: Almost makes too much sense, as he's won 10-plus games in eight of the past 10 seasons. In the two he didn't, he won nine. He's also on his way to his eighth 200-inning season in that time frame. The Twins still seem to value those sorts of things, and combined with his decent-but-not-great peripherals it would seem like a decent marriage on a two-year deal.

Prediction: Somewhat likely, though he'll be 36 on opening day. With about 2,300 innings under his belt, it's hard to know how long he can go.

Chris Capuano, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers*

Stats: 4-7, 4.34 ERA /3.62 FIP /3.74 xFIP, 6.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

Analysis: Capuano has had a nondescript season for the Dodgers, but even that would be enough for him to help the Twins. At 35, the Twins will likely shy away from him on anything but a one-year deal, but he could certainly help anchor a staff in transition.

*It seems likely the Dodgers will decline his $6 million mutual option.

Prediction: The Twins were believed to have some interest last time he was a free agent, when he signed with the Dodgers prior to 2012. That interest has likely waned at this point, but he remains an outside possibility.

Scott Feldman, LHP, Baltimore Orioles

Stats: 12-10, 3.54 ERA /3.85 FIP /3.89 xFIP, 6.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9

Analysis: Feldman is another guy whom the Twins showed interest in last offseason, before he ultimately signed a one-year deal with the Cubs. Feldman fits the bill with the Twins as a groundball machine, but he also gets fairly healthy strikeout rates, and the durability issues which have dogged him in the past may keep his price down.

Prediction: Would probably be more likely if he was more durable, but barring an extension with the Orioles, he's a name that'll be mentioned this winter.

Josh Johnson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Stats: 2-8, 6.20 ERA /4.62 FIP /3.60 xFIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9

Analysis: It was a terrible year that came at the worst possible time, as injuries and ineffectiveness has sabotaged what has otherwise been a good body of work for his career. He'll likely have to settle for a below-market deal loaded with incentives.

Prediction: A lot of people like to point to the fact that he was born in Minneapolis, but if the Twins are interested, it should just be because he's a good pitcher. If the Twins take a high-stakes gamble, this ought to be it.

Jason Hammel, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Stats: 7-8, 5.12 ERA /5.19 FIP /4.65 xFIP, 6.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9

Analysis: Hammel has been a very good pitcher at various times over the past five years. When he's good, it's because of strong groundball rates. To that end, he'd seem like a good fit for the Twins. But as a guy who has never thrown 180 innings in the major leagues, it's hard to know just how interested the Twins would be, especially after a down year for the right-hander.

Prediction: The Twins will come up any time a national writer mentions teams interested, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be in the mix.

Roberto Hernandez, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Stats: 6-13, 4.89 ERA /4.55 FIP /3.50 xFIP, 6.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

Analysis: As far as comeback seasons go, the former Fausto Carmona has at the very least erased how poorly he pitched in 2012. Still, it hasn't been all that great of a season for Hernandez, who has pitched out of the bullpen down the stretch for the Rays.

Prediction: The Twins will be interested in any groundball guy, and to that end, Hernandez qualifies. Personal stuff might keep him off the club's radar, though.

Colby Lewis, RHP, Texas Rangers

Stats: Has not pitched in the major leagues in 2013.

Analysis: Lewis has missed the entire season with hip and elbow surgeries, but when he's healthy, he's a capable mid-rotation starter since returning from Japan prior to the 2010 season.

Prediction: The Twins were a finalist to sign Lewis back in 2010, and should still have interest in him especially at the rumored likely price of a minor league deal. However, at age 34 he should be a complimentary piece from the offseason, not a cornerstone. He has said he wants to return to the Rangers, too.

Paul Maholm, LHP, Atlanta Braves

Stats: 10-10, 4.35 ERA /4.17 FIP /3.96 xFIP, 6.1 K/9, 3.0 BB/9

Analysis: Maholm is a soft-tossing, groundball-inducing lefty who at one point might have been in line for a qualifying offer. It's unclear/unlikely if that's still the case, but a Maholm signing wouldn't break the mold for the Twins.

Prediction: He'd be an upgrade, but in the end he's still just a guy. It wouldn't be a wildly popular signing.

Jason Vargas, LHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Stats: 8-7, 4.20 ERA /4.14 FIP /4.29 xFIP, 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

Analysis: Vargas hasn't been all that bad on an Angels team that's had more pitching issues than could ever have been imagined. He's not particularly adept at getting grounders - which is not that worrisome at Target Field -- and he's below average in striking batters out. And like Maholm, he's a soft-tossing lefty. With that lack of projection, the Twins might do well to look elsewhere.

Prediction: Like Maholm in a lot of ways. Wouldn't be a popular or game-changing signing. Twins should aim higher.

Brandon Warne covers the Minnesota Twins for 1500ESPN.com. He has also contributed as a baseball analyst for Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com
Email Brandon | @Brandon_Warne
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