Warne: Twins slightly overthinking how to handle Kyle Gibson situation
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MINNEAPOLIS -- As pitchers and position players shuttle between the Minnesota Twins and Triple-A Rochester, it's becoming clear that Kyle Gibson won't be up in the big leagues until he makes at least one more start with the Red Wings.
Essentially, teams can deftly work around a player's service time by promoting that player in early June, thereby garnering an extra season of service from the player before he's eligible to hit free agency.
And it's easy to see why the Twins would do this with a talented young ballplayer. The season is becoming increasingly lost, and it makes sense to pay a player what he's worth in his final arbitration season for an extra season than to pay what the free market might dictate, especially considering what inflation could do between now and then with new TV market deals.
But in some ways it is worth wondering: are the Twins out-thinking themselves here just a bit?
Kyle Gibson will be 26 shortly after season's end, and will have no more than a half-season of big league service time under his belt. At age 26, Kevin Slowey -- a comparable pitcher in terms of ceiling -- was in his fourth season with the Twins. Scott Baker? Same exact deal. In fact, both pitchers had already thrown more than 450 innings in the big leagues by that time.
Gibson will be lucky to have thrown 50 by the end of the season at this rate.
But like Gibson, both Slowey and Baker were polished college pitchers drafted with high picks, expected to be on the fast track to the big leagues to help fill out -- rather than front-line, ostensibly -- some pretty good Twins rotations when the club was in the business of winning division championships.
It's the way the Twins conducted business for a very long stretch. The Twins also drafted guys like Alex Wimmers, Matt Garza, and other college pitchers with hopes of maximizing draft dollars, minimizing risk, and building solid rotations around a couple of acquired aces in Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano.
Now of course the elephant in the room is Gibson's Tommy John operation, which took place 18 months ago. And it's entirely obvious why the Twins would use the kid gloves with Gibson, while a guy like Mike Pelfrey is allowed to pretty much get back on the horse and ride.
But the idea of holding a guy back to save a year of service time really makes the most sense with a can't-miss prospect who is in his early 20s. Tampa Bay's Wil Myers, for instance. Myers obliterated Triple-A last year -- PCL notwithstanding -- but yet was sent back to Triple-A for a little added seasoning after coming over in the James Shields trade.
Myers is 22, and the Rays have been able to patch it over with guys like Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, and Ben Zobrist. With the second-worst rotation ERA in all of baseball, the Twins simply don't have this luxury. But by keeping Myers down, the Rays will now likely control his rights until he's 28 or maybe 29, rather than 27 or 28.
Considering a ballplayer's prime starts at age 28, it's pretty easy to see why this is such a preferred route with can't-miss prospects. Then again, the Rays will also probably just try to sign him to a deal like the club did with David Price, Matt Moore, and most notably, Evan Longoria.
At this rate, the Twins would hold Gibson's rights through his age-31 season. And while that sounds terrific, where are Slowey and Baker going to be in their age-31 seasons? Well, Baker is 31 right now, and is on the 60-day DL. Slowey won't be 30 until next May, but he already spent a full season out of the majors after an ugly Twins divorce.
Even if Slowey makes it back to where he was as a +3.0 win pitcher with the Twins, it will be as a faded memory to those in the Twins organization.
Let's not confuse the situation, at this point, based on where the Twins are and where they appear to be going. There's no harm in waiting another week or so. It makes sense. But if this was the plan all along, the Twins may have outwitted themselves a bit.