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Minnesota Twins Should Look at the International Market for Pitching Help

The Twins Need to Infuse Some Life Into the Organization, and an International Signing Would Do That

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COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins need to infuse some life into their team this offseason.

It's been three straight seasons with 90-plus losses and for a team that has been accustomed to winning, especially under Ron Gardenhire, who recently signed a two-year deal, it is hard to understand for baseball fans in the Twin Cities.

The deal itself was fine. Sabermatricians will tell you that the manager doesn't affect the outcome of the season very much in the long run; six division titles will tell you that Gardenhire can get a team to win with enough talent on the field and the fact that the Twins' team ERA has been ranked either No. 28 or No. 29 in the league for the past three seasons indicates that they didn't have enough talent on the field.

There are problems with hitting. Minnesota's batters struck out more than 1,400 times last year, but there is promise there. Trevor Plouffe, 27, had 24 home runs two years ago in a breakout campaign. Chris Parmelee, 25, put up virtually the same numbers Plouffe did as a 25-year-old and both were first-rounders in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Oswaldo Arcia and Josmil Pinto, two Venezuelan signings, are able hit the ball a long way, even if their defense isn't there yet. Aaron Hicks is a good defensive player, but needs to be able to hit better in the major leagues.

Brian Dozier, considered a failed shortstop last season, broke out with 18 home runs this year while playing well at second base.

There's something to work with on the hitting side of things.

With pitching it gets a little trickier.

There are a lot of No. 3, 4 and 5 pitchers on the roster, but few guys that can be considered part of a one-two punch.

Kyle Gibson is a first-rounder who shot up the ranks right after leaving Missouri University, but underwent Tommy John surgery before reaching the majors and was inconsistent at best last year. Alex Meyer came over in the Denard Span trade with the Washington Nationals and has shown potential of being a high-end starter. At the very least, he hasn't struggled like Trevor May, who came over in the Ben Revere trade with the Philadelphia Phillies and didn't get out of Double-A. J.O. Berrios throws the ball in the high-90s, but needs to work on his off-speed stuff.

Gibson, Meyer, Berrios and even May could become part of a one-two punch one day, but the fans needs a pitcher they can rally around, an arm that will infuse life into Target Field once again.

Home runs hit by Plouffe, Arcia, Pinto and Co. will do that to some extent, but they won't matter if the starting pitcher is chased after the fourth inning. People need someone they go to the park to see.

General manager Terry Ryan recently told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that no player is safe from a trade, but to deal a top prospect like Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano, who are considered by Sports Illustrated to be the next Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, would be foolish. Put in a lineup with Joe Mauer and a strong supporting cast, both players could bring a championship to Minnesota in the future.

Minnesota needs to go international to acquire an ace pitcher. I'm talking a guy like Masahiro Tanaka, who Sports on Earth's Jack Gallagher called Japan's next big name. The 24-year-old went 22-0 with a 1.23 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94 in Nippon Professional Baseball.

People are going to freak out because the Tsuyoshi Nishioka experiment failed, but that should mean the team has to shy away from international players altogether -- that would be foolish.

The cardinal sin with Nishioka is that the team traded J.J. Hardy for Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey-two pitchers that never made it out of the minors. Hardy went on to hit 30 homers for the Baltimore Orioles and Nishioka ended up back in Japan.

The Twins shouldn't have to give up anything for Tanaka. It's not like they have to cut Gibson or Meyer to add an international player. All they have to do is put up the money, and, trust me, no Twins fan is going to complain about that after seeing payroll drop from an all-time high of $113 million in 2011 to $82 million last year. No fan wants to see money spent foolishly, but it would be foolish not to spend on pitching.

Baseball fans in Minnesota have been loyal to a fault, showing up to Target Field in droves when the team was long out of contention. Their loyalty should be rewarded by giving them a reason to show up to the ballpark next year -- even if it's only once every five days.

Tom Schreier has been credentialed to Twins games for the past three years. He previously covered Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report. Followed him on Twitter @tschreier3.

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