The Minnesota Twins demoted Mike Pelfrey to the bullpen towards the end of spring training and it did not sit well with the veteran.
Pelfrey spent days complaining that his battle for the fifth starter job with Tommy Milone was never a real competition, stating a belief that it had already been decided upon when the team first arrived in Florida to start preparing for the 2015 season. He did have some numbers to back up his talk, sporting a 1.15 ERA through 15.2 innings in spring training stacked up against a 3.60 mark from Milone. Pelfrey was entering a contract year and it’s understandable that he’d want to be a starter, which would allow him to make more money when he became a free agent at the end of the season.
His ranting and complaining was short lived when Ervin Santana got pinned with an 80-game drug ban just days before the regular season began and Ricky Nolasco wound up on the disabled list after just one start. There was now not one, but two spots in the rotation open and Pelfrey was back in the mix before making a single appearance out of the bullpen.
Five and a half months later, Pelfrey has had his best season in years. His 4.09 ERA is his best mark since 2010 when he was with the New York Mets and the second best mark of any of the seven season in which Pelfrey has started at least ten games. After pitching just 196 innings over the past three years due to various injuries, including Tommy John surgery after just three starts in 2012, he has stayed on the field and is now posting the third best WHIP of his career.
The value of Mike Pelfrey seemed to be completely gone when the Twins decided to send him to the bullpen back in spring training but now he’s arguably worth more than ever. When he hit free agency for the first time in his career after the 2012 season, he had only made three starts and couldn’t guarantee teams too much because of his surgery. Minnesota scooped him up on a one-year deal and he went 5-13 with a 5.59 ERA. The Twins brought him back on a two year deal, with him lasting just five starts in 2014.
Heading to the bullpen or having another disastrous season would have crippled his future value, which was probably a big reason why Pelfrey complained so much about the team’s decision.
He probably won’t be back with the Twins in 2016, but there are plenty of teams out there who will give him a nice contract; even if there aren’t too many years on it for the 31 year old. Pelfrey should wind up exceeding the $5.5 million he made this season. This is now the first time in his career when he’s pitched well in a contract year and that really has to excite him and super agent Scott Boras, who represents the former top ten pick.
Pelfrey would be the current ERA leader among qualified pitchers on five teams across the Majors and he’d be one of the top two on many more. He’d be an instant depth boost to most rotations in baseball and could even be a serviceable fourth starter on a lot of baseball’s better rotations.
There might be some competition for his services in the offseason. When the Twins first signed him three years ago, they were a struggling team looking for anything to help boost what was a lackluster rotation; but because Pelfrey has now shown the potential to be a force in the back of the rotation with a playoff contender, a lot of teams might be looking to give him that role.