Mailbag: Stewart's Spot, Win Total, Trading for Starters
Image courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
When it comes to Kohl Stewart, there are no guarantees he will make the club out of spring training. There are certainly some locks when it comes to the starting rotation. Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, and Jake Odorizzi are all but guaranteed a starting spot. Michael Pineda should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and this allows him to slide into the back half of the rotation.
This leaves the fifth rotation spot in question. Adalberto Mejia was off to a strong start last season before he was sidelined with a nerve issue. Other players in consideration for the final starting spot would be Stephen Gonsalves, Chase De Jong, Zack Littell, and recently signed Martin Perez. My guess is Stewart starts the season at Triple-A but he will get some time at the big league level throughout the 2019 campaign.
Predicting win totals can be quite the exercise in futility, especially over the course of a 162-game MLB season. FanGraphs currently has the Twins pegged to finish the season at 82-80. This would place them in seventh place in the American League and second place in the AL Central. At this point in the off-season, I feel like this is a pretty accurate prediction. If everything breaks right, the Twins could pick up a few other wins throughout the year, especially if Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano take the next step. Minnesota should win 80+ games but do they have enough to catch Cleveland? That still remains to be seen.
Minnesota’s payroll has been a hot button issue over the last week or so. The Pohlads run the Twins like a business so they typically spend 50% of their revenues on the payroll. According to Forbes, Minnesota ranks 22nd in MLB team valuations. The club made $261 million in revenue last year and spent $133 million on player expenses. Currently, the Twins are projected to start next season with a payroll around $100 million.
There are a couple schools of thought when it comes to the Twins and their finances. Those that feel that the Twins are spending roughly what they should based on their market size and revenues. Others feel the Twins are spending money very similarly to how they did during the end of the Metrodome era.
A source in the Twins front office told Phil Mackey, “We need to get the nucleus right first. Teams that hit the gas too early wind up mistiming their window. We’ll pounce when the time is right.” Later, he brought up the fact that the Twins market size (19th) and TV revenue rank (20th) also play a factor in their ability to spend.
Aaron Gleeman has been vocal about his frustration with the team’s payroll. When the Twins moved into Target Field, there was a three-year spike in the team’s spending in comparison to the MLB average. After 2012, the club’s relative spending is back to the same level as during the Metrodome years.
Should the Twins payroll be higher for 2019? Yes, but it’s important to make smart financial investments and those players might not currently be available.
Next year’s potential free agent class includes numerous starting pitchers making some significant money in 2018. Some of the players include Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander. Many of these players are projected to be on winning clubs this year so their current clubs are likely to hang on to them through the 2019 season.
Madison Bumgarner and Felix Hernandez might be the most likely trade candidates on this list. Bumgarner had pitched 200 innings or more in six straight seasons before injuries limited him to less than 130 in each of the last two seasons. Hernandez has run into his own struggles in recent years. After posting a career ERA of 3.16 through 2016, he was limited to 86.2 innings in 2017 (4.36 ERA) and his ERA jumped to 5.55 last year.
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