Two Veteran Free Agents The Twins Could Target
Image courtesy of Gary A. Vasquez and Brad Mills, USA TodayJohn Lackey "intends to pitch in 2018," according to Jon Heyman. He's 39 and has thrown almost 3,000 innings in the major leagues. When we last saw him on the mound, it wasn't pretty; the right-hander was roughed up in three relief appearances during the NLDS. And in general, it was a trying season for him, as he posted his worst ERA in five years while allowing a league-high 36 home runs.
But outside of the long ball troubles, Lackey pitched fairly well. His 1.28 WHIP would've ranked third among Twins starters and his 20.4% K-rate would have ranked second. From 2013 through 2016, he posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with an excellent record of durability while pitching for teams that made the postseason every year (Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs). He took home rings in 2013 and 2016.
Lackey is a capable starter with tons of experience, and he's accustomed to winning. He'll also be surely be available on a one-year deal, leaving the front office with plenty of long-term flexibility if they were to sign him.
The other name I'll be tracking is not a pitcher, but a hitter. Jayson Werth, 38, plans to keep playing and might look very nice on the Twins bench next season.
Like Lackey, he's coming off an inauspicious campaign, having hit .226/.332/.393 in the final year of a fairly disastrous $126 million contract with the Nationals. He was limited to 70 games this year by a bone bruise in his left foot. Werth hasn't had much success lately in general with a sub par .724 OPS over his past three seasons.
As a guy making $21 million and expected to serve as a regular in the outfield, Werth was a major liability. FanGraphs pegged him at -0.3 WAR in 2017.
But what if he were making a fraction of that on a one-year deal, being used more sparingly and more to his strengths? Werth posted an .820 OPS and 10/9 K/BB ratio against left-handed pitchers this year, but made less than 20% of his plate appearances against them. In his career, he has hit .293/.393/.538 against southpaws.
With the Twins, he could spend much of his time at DH while occasionally spelling Max Kepler or Eddie Rosario in the outfield corners against left-handers (though preferably not often as he'd be a huge step down defensively).
As a young team looking to build upon its success and return to the postseason, the Twins will surely have a keen interest in players that fit the veteran leader prototype. As it happens, two of the most experienced players on the free agent market look like pretty solid fits, given their needs. I wouldn't be surprised to soon hear Minnesota connected to one, or both.
Have you gotten your copy of the Offseason Handbook yet? You can read about these names and dozens of other Twins targets. Download yours now and dig in:
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