Tracking Reinforcements for the Twins
Image courtesy of © Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY SportsLooking at how well the lineup has performed, and the depth that should be available to keep a long and dismal slump at bay, pitching is where Minnesota can look to improve. The starting rotation went into the year with a clear ace, but the performances from Martin Perez and Jake Odorizzi have been a welcomed addition. Michael Pineda doesn’t look like a great bet at this point however, and the 5th turn in the rotation could be expanded upon.
In the bullpen Minnesota left themselves open to plenty of criticism. Banking on unknown commodities such as Matt Magill and Ryne Harper, while hanging onto a miscast starter in Adalberto Mejia, there was plenty to worry about. The back end of the pen has been solid, and really the group has stayed afloat. Bringing in a high-level arm that can push everyone down a notch would only strengthen the unit.
On the starting front, here’s who some of those names may be:
Marcus Stroman- Blue Jays 28 years old FA 2021
I’ve been crushing on Stroman’s numbers for years now. He’s routinely put up better peripherals than the ERA suggests, and he’s a guy that’s previously performed at a very high level. Under team control for another season he won’t come cheap, but it’d be in the Blue Jays best interests to move him sooner rather than later. On the season he owns a 2.96 ERA with a 3.09 FIP. His ERA+ sits at 145, or exactly where it was when he finished 8th in Cy Young voting during 2017.
Madison Bumgarner- Giants 29 years old FA 2020
It’s crazy to think Bumgarner is just 29 (almost 30) given how long he’s been around. He’s approaching 2,000 big league innings but pitched at least 200 innings every year from 2011-2016. The velocity has remained consistent over the past four seasons, and his track record speaks for itself. The Giants ace is amid his best season since 2016 and would slot in nicely behind Jose Berrios. Given his impending free agency, this could be a situation in which the Twins operate on a try before you buy model. Miguel Sano to the National League is questionable, but a straight up swap may be enticing for Minnesota.
Mike Minor- Rangers 31 years old FA 2021
The least of the options on this list, Minor has plenty of intrigue in his own right. He’s coming off a mediocre 2018, but his 2019 has seen a nice resurgence. Minor has jumped his whiff rate roughly 2% from 2018, and it’s come on the heels of a career high in changeup usage. Being under team control for another year, he’ll cost a bit more than his numbers may warrant, but as a stabilizing force to round out the rotation he has some appeal.
Relief help has some interesting names as well:
Craig Kimbrel- 31 years old Unsigned
At this point Kimbrel won’t be signed until after the June amateur draft. Without being tied to pick compensation, he may find suitors offering both long-term and one-year pacts. Kimbrel is arguably the best closer in the game, and while he’ll need some ramp up time, he’s coming off a 2.74 ERA and 13.9 K/9 season. Sure, he had some blowups in the postseason, and if you’d like to nitpick, there’re warts here. At the end of the day though, this is an elite talent that costs a team nothing but cash to acquire.
Ken Giles- Blue Jays 28 years old FA 2021
Here’s another guy from Toronto and still under team control for another season. Giles comes with personality questions, as the Houston Astros shipped him out growing tired of his inconsistencies on and off the mound. He’s already on his third big league team, and despite being ultra-talented, he’s proven to be expandable. If that can be vetted out, the Blue Jays are offering a reliever with a 1.65 ERA 1.79 FIP, and 13.8 K/9. Walks have never been much of a problem, strikeouts are aplenty, and velocity is through the roof. He can operate as a closer or setup man, and that would give the Twins some flexibility.
Sean Doolittle- Nationals 32 years old FA 2020 ($6.5MM team option)
An unexpected name on this list given where the Nationals assumed they’d be this season. The reality is that Davey Martinez hasn’t done well taking over for Dusty Baker, and the team is a mess. For the opposition, a guy like Doolittle becoming available would be a massive boost. He’s been one of the best relievers in baseball for nearly a decade, and his numbers in 2019 are equally eye-popping. A lefty with strong strikeout stuff, he’s not a platoon pitcher, and Baldelli could use another Taylor Rogers type in relief.
When it comes to execution on any deals they’ll do, the Twins have some very different options to consider. Miguel Sano could establish himself as an expandable, and valuable piece. They have prospect capital behind the untouchables of Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and Brusdar Graterol. There’s also no reason to believe this club is cash poor, and simply doling out money is a possibility as well.
If it’s up to me, I’d prefer to see Minnesota land a starter they believe can help them in 2019 and beyond. Someone that slides in at the middle of the rotation or higher, and will be around for another run, is a guy I’d give up some pieces for. In relief, choosing the cash route on Kimbrel makes the most sense. I’m not sure you want to part with assets in both areas, but it depends on the names you’d have to give up.
We’re at least a month out from some of these deals potentially coming to fruition, but you can bet plans are in place to make sure the decision is a clear one when the time comes.
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