4 Corey Kluber Alternatives for the Twins
Image courtesy of © John David Mercer-USA TODAY SportsAll the variables pointed to the Minnesota Twins being a very likely destination for Corey Kuber in 2021. The Cleveland connection with President Derek Falvey, the stated interest, and the Twins need to add quality depth behind their top three starters made it seem very possible. While Kluber has had a rough couple of seasons, the glimmer of upside made him an interesting option.
All that meant nothing once Kluber agreed to sign on the dotted line with the Yankees for $11 million. Kluber not coming to the Twins seemed to cut deep for the fanbase. The reasons are likely many. Ranging from the continuation of a slow offseason, that it feels like yet another loss at the hands of the Yankees, or Kluber was viewed as someone who could really bolster this staff.
If the reasoning is the final of those, the good news is there are other starters similar to Kluber still available in this season's market. Kluber isn’t the only one with accolades (two Cy-Young Awards, three All-Star appearances) and has sat around a matchable 26-28% K-rate and a 5-8% BB-rate for most of his career.
What probably made those of us rooting for the Twins most excited about Kluber is we remember his second Cy-Young award winning season in 2017 when he turned in a 34.1% K-rate and a 4.6% BB-rate. Outside of that season, his performances are much more reachable by some other free agent starters looking to bounce back.
At 32, Paxton is one of many injury question marks that line the starting pitching free agent market. His performances when healthy were good enough to land him in New York via trade, but the injuries have prevented him from gaining the hardware like Kluber who now replaces him in the Bronx.
Paxton generally sits at 92 mph with his fastball and has sat around 28-29% K-rate for his career and a 7-8% BB-rate. He is more of a flyball pitcher and can as evidenced in his K-rate get swings and misses with his four-seam fastball.
Aside from injury concerns, it is worth wondering if the Twins want to add a struggling lefty into a league that is home to some of the best lineups at hitting left-handed pitching. If they chose too, he could be even more than a #4 in their rotation.
Just how long now have we tried to match the two-time All Star Archer to the Twins? Out of all the names that will run in this list, Archer feels like the biggest lottery ticket. First, he is coming off of thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Secondly, while he has put together some great statistical seasons back to his time with the Rays, his peripherals just haven’t told the same story.
I personally am not a huge fan of Archer and you would know that if you want to subject yourself to my Twitter account. Archer has gotten hit harder as his career has gone on and has lost velocity as well. Two bad trends for a one time Cy-Young candidate. He still throws the hardest out of all the pitchers on this list at 94 mph and his fastball-slider mix makes him seem almost like a perfect match for the Twins and Wes Johnson.
While I personally don’t like him, he does sort of seem like a match in Minnesota.
Arrieta joins Kluber as the Cy-Young award winners mentioned in this post. Since arriving in Philadelphia in 2018, Arrieta hasn’t been the same pitcher that he was in Chicago. HIs K-rate dropped significantly and his HR/9 took a jump. Maybe a move to Minnesota could work some magic like his move from Baltimore to Chicago.
This is all about reclamation, and if the Twins could help Arrieta return to a 23% K-rate (his best was two seasons of around 27% right after joining the Cubs) and like Kenta Maeda bring his BB% rate down. That would make Arrieta a much more respectable starter once again. And as Lucas Seehafer highlighted, there are some positive signs when exploring his spin rate.
After being a reliable starter through age 35, Hamels and age 36 did not get along well. Shoulder issues led to tricep tendonitis and ruined his chances to help the Atlanta Braves in their postseason run. Now looking at an age 37 season, Hamels is the oldest of this bunch but if he returns healthy is a strong bounce back candidate for 2021.
Hamels is a 4-time All-Star and has the postseason experience with a World Series MVP to show for it. He doesn’t throw as hard as he once did and as of 2019 was settling into the 91-92 mph range. His K-rate has sat around 23-24 for his career and his BB-rate in the 7-9% range.
Each of these starters first and foremost will battle health. If they hit the mound, they have the chance to help out their teams. If the Twins can help any of them improve like they did Maeda last season, even greater are the possibilities. If you would like an idea of where each of these pitchers sit when compared to the entirety of the starting pitching market check this out.
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