Ryu To Sign with Toronto. Now What?
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsLast night it was reported that Ryu will sign with the Blue Jays. He is the last of five “impact” pitchers on the free agent market, none of whom signed with the Twins. Those stories were also Twins news.
That’s because the Twins had a clear objective this offseason, and they had set themselves up well to do it. They needed starting pitching that could hold up in the postseason. The free agent class for that particular skill was as strong as it had been in a decade. Plus, the Twins had managed their payroll so that they had lots of money to spend, even without asking for a serious increase in budget. All the pieces were there.
Those pieces ended up completing other teams' puzzles. Turns out, a whole lot of other teams had the same idea, and between some aggressive crazy bidding and individual player preferences, the Twins were unable to sign any of the impact pitchers on the free agent market. What’s worse, while they were waiting for decisions from Ryu and Madison Bumgarner, the second and third tier of free agent pitchers have also been mostly snapped up.
It’s not a complete disaster. Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda will rejoin Jose Berrios in the rotation, which brings back the top three starters of a rotation that finished fifth in the AL in ERA and third in innings pitched. But unless there is a trade, they are unlikely to start the season with a better rotation this year than they started last year. It’s arguable if any of the remaining available free agents are better than the departed Kyle Gibson, which shows just how shallow the remaining market is.
Plus, of course, getting nominally better was never really the goal. So now what? At a high level, there are three options:
Trade. For the most part, the trade market for starting pitching has been waiting for the free agent market to settle. There is a reason for that: the teams that lost out on free agents now need to get serious about trades.
Reportedly, as many as five other teams missed out on Ryu, so the Twins now get to compete with them to try to pry away David Price or put together a mega-deal for Noah Syndergaard. There are also a number of other options that are a step below that, but could still make the rotation better. You’ll be seeing a lot of coverage of those options on Twins Daily.
Pivot. Instead of trying to solve the pitching problem, they could sign an impact player on offense to make up the runs they’ll give up. This weekend’s rumors that the Twins are willing to give former-MVP third baseman Josh Donaldson a four-year deal suggest that they’re at least willing to explore in that direction. Signing Donaldson would improve the team considerably, even if he can’t take the mound in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Keep the Powder Dry. This is another way of saying “do nothing.” It sounds better because it implies that they will do something later, perhaps by the trade deadline, when the time is right. Logically, conserving resources until a better opportunity comes along makes sense, but after failing to acquire any impact pitching both last offseason and the last trade deadline, and having a payroll about $15 million lower than they did last year, it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.
So the news is that there is no news, and that might not seem like a dramatic error. But then again, not saying “hi” to that girl at the party isn’t such a dramatic moment either. That’s the trap. There's no drama, because it’s not a risky path. Just the opposite. It keeps you on a familiar and comfortable path.
A familiar comfortable path you have been down several time before, and now are assured to travel again: going home alone.
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