Arms Race: The Search For Young Starters
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA TodayFulmer, who the Twins will be lucky enough to avoid this week, has gone 10-4 with a league-leading 2.58 ERA in 20 starts since joining Detroit's rotation at the end of April. The Tigers got him back from the Mets in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes at last year's deadline. Boyd was acquired a day earlier, as part of the package that netted the Blue Jays David Price.
Detroit made four straight postseason runs before spiraling to fifth place in 2015. They used the opportunity to bring in more young impact pitching talent than the Twins have during five years of futility, and now the Tigers are back in the playoff race again. Astonishing, really.
Granted, it's not every day you have high-caliber rentals like Price and Cespedes to dangle. But neither Fulmer nor Boyd was an elite prospect. General manager Al Avila and his front office simply targeted the right guys.
In order to get their woeful staff back on the track, the Twins must absolutely do the same.
They may have found something in Adalberto Mejia, who came over from San Francisco in the Eduardo Nunez trade last month. But they need to keep adding to their pipeline in order to enhance their chances at striking.
Watching Minnesota's pitchers get clubbed around on a regular basis, it feels like a return to respectability is far away. But the Tigers are showing that a turnaround can happen rather quickly. The Twins themselves have shown this, jumping from 15th in runs allowed in 2014 to eighth last year before falling back off a cliff.
Run production is not a problem for this team. For a third straight season, they are at or above the league average in scoring. Preventing runs is the hold-up, and needs to be the primary focus heading into 2017. Pressure is growing with the postseason drought extending and the youthful offensive core gaining traction.
Some of the improvement will need to come internally, of course. They can't really count on Phil Hughes coming off shoulder surgery but he's a possible factor. It sounds like Trevor May will get another shot at starting. Kyle Gibson ought to rebound from this strangely dismal season. Most importantly, Jose Berrios will hopefully find his way and become a force to be reckoned with.
But relying solely upon those pieces to form a quality rotation around Ervin Santana is not an option. If the Twins actually have aspirations of returning to contention next year – and I truly believe they do – they need to add at least one more arm with high-end potential. They subtracted one, albeit one with fleeting appeal, when they sent Alex Meyer to the Angels.
So, where to find such an arm? Free agency is probably not the answer. Even with some spending flexibility and Ricky Nolasco off the books, there just isn't a single name on the upcoming market that pops out.
I would suggest that the best approach is following the same path the Tigers did to acquire Boyd and Fulmer, and the same one the Twins did with Meyer: trading established MLB players for fast-tracked minor-league pitching with sizable upside.
There are a few different assets that could be considered for such a move, but when it comes to making a transformative splash, only one solution makes sense. That would be shopping Brian Dozier.
While sitting in as co-host on the Gleeman and the Geek podcast on Sunday, I discussed the notion of dealing Dozier extensively with Aaron. I recommend clicking here and giving it a listen, if you haven't. But the bottom line is that, as a power-hitting second baseman who is under 30 with a favorable contract, Dozier is extremely valuable. He hit his 30th home run on Wednesday night and is enjoying a career year. This would be the definition of selling high.
And as it happens, the Twins are equipped to replace him. Second base is Jorge Polanco's best position. While losing Dozier would obviously hurt, it's the kind of major shakeup that is warranted at the conclusion of another disastrous 90-loss season. Given the relatively lopsided nature of the offense and pitching staff at this point, it only makes sense to draw from one to help the other.
Yet, this idea is contingent on targeting the right guys. Otherwise, it's a catastrophe in the making. If the Twins don't trust Rob Antony to do it, they need to find someone they do. The stakes are high.
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