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Minnesota Twins Looking at Ervin Santana, Bronson Arroyo and Others as Free-Agent Pitching Targets

Twins' Rotation Has Been Awful Past Three Seasons, but the Team Is Hitting Free-Agent Market Hard to Solve Their Issues

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COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins have one of the worst starting pitching stables in Major League Baseball. Over the past three seasons, they've finished toward the bottom of the league in rotation ERA, which includes a last-place finish in 2013.

The Twins usually try to solve their flaws by tapping into their minor league system, but the cupboard has been stripped bare after the disastrous Bill Smith era and years of poor scouting. Even though the team does have a couple prospects capable of eventually helping, they're several years away from making their major league debut.

There's always the possibility of a trade, but the Twins don't have many assets that teams desire. To complicate matters, those assets that would be suitable for trade are key pieces to the Twins' rebuilding process.

This means that general manager Terry Ryan must dive into the free-agent market to find help in 2014.

The free-agent market has been the monster under the bed for the Twins in recent years. While they have made several acquisitions, none of them have been able to amount to much. This is to be expected when scraping the bottom of the barrel due to high costs.

However, it appears that this winter the Twins are taking a different approach. Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 AM tweeted earlier this week that the team is looking into Ervin Santana, who resurrected his career with the Kansas City Royals last season.

Santana has been maddeningly inconsistent during his career, but he went 9-10 with a career-low 3.24 ERA after coming over from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He throws harder than anybody currently in the Twins' rotation and can be the upper-half starter they desperately need.

The issue with Santana may be the price tag. According to MLBTradeRumors.com's Steve Adams, it's possible that Santana could command a five-year, $75 million contract after the San Francisco Giants set the market incredibly high with the Tim Lincecum extension.

It's more likely that the Twins will decide to spread that wealth and acquire several lower-tier arms instead. It just won't be the lower-tier that fans have grown accustomed to.

According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Twins have put Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes and Jason Vargas on their radar.

Arroyo would meet Ryan's annual desire for someone who can eat innings. In the last nine seasons, he has thrown at least 199 innings while averaging 13.2 wins with the Cincinnati Reds. He'll turn 37 next February, but could at least serve as a credible stop gap while Alex Meyer and Kyle Gibson develop in the minors.

A possible signing of Hughes would be intriguing as well. He's a fly-ball pitcher that has struggled mightily in the new Yankee Stadium, but has settled down in opposing ballparks.

Hughes 4.10 ERA on the road looks more appetizing than the 4.92 he's posted in "The House That Jeter Built," but it's increasingly delicious when you see that he's gone 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA in three career starts at Target Field. He could be a sneaky good signing as an upper-half starter.

Vargas fits the Twins pitch-to-contact mode and has been able to thrive pitching in the pitchers' paradise known as Safeco Field. In his career, he's averaged 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings and he allows roughly a hit per inning while limiting the damage.

Out of the three potential targets, he might be the best bet to sign because of his strategy the mound, which compares to former Twin Carlos Silva.

There will be more targets to come before pitchers and catchers report next spring, but it's clear that the Twins know they need to do something. Adding just one starting pitcher may be enough to make their staff better for 2014 and that could be enough to take a positive step in the right direction.

Chris Schad is a lifelong Twins follower that has spent a majority of his life cheering the Twins on through the dark '90s and success of five American League Central championships in the 2000s. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.

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