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Constructing Pitching Staff Will Become a Numbers Game

The Twins have addressed their two biggest needs on the position-player side, adding C.J. Cron at first base and Jonathan Schoop at second. They are reportedly still monitoring the DH market, and might add another catcher yet, but now the front office is turning its attention to the pitching staff.

It's obvious that Minnesota could stand to add multiple impact arms. But circumstances will make this a more complicated undertaking than it appears.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today
Here in mid-December, the Twins have the following pitchers written onto next year's Opening Day roster in ink, more or less: Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Addison Reed. I would consider Trevor Hildenberger close to a lock, so long as he doesn't look like a total mess in spring training. That's eight members of a 12-man (possibly 13-man) staff.

So the mission here seems clear, right? Add four more pitchers via free agency or trade – probably one starter and three relievers – and you're all set.

It's not quite that simple.

While I certainly think the Twins need to add more, and will, there are a few considerations that should be kept in mind as they attack the open market.

* The 40-man roster is full. Any new addition on a major-league contract will require the Twins to drop one of their existing players. You might argue that's not the biggest deterrent, considering there are a number candidates for removal on the current roster (I marked nine that I would consider to be "at-risk" below) but it's something to note.

Attached Image: 40manatrisk1216.png


* Adalberto Mejia is out of options next year. So is Matt Magill, but I don't think the Twins are too concerned about losing him. Mejia is the kind of arm a rebuilding team needs to hold onto. In 2017 he threw fairly well for Minnesota as a rookie, posting a 4.50 ERA in 21 starts (he also put up a 2.83 ERA in six starts at Rochester). This year he was hampered by injuries but still turned in a 2.01 ERA in five outings for the Twins, and 3.27 over 63 innings at Triple-A.

The left-hander has consistently performed since coming over to the Twins, with solid stuff to match. He doesn't turn 26 until next June. I'd go so far as to say that Mejia should be assured a spot as much as the "locks" I listed above, and if you're open to using him as a starter (or perhaps more fittingly a primary), then boom, you've got your rotation completed.

* Fernando Romero deserves his shot. He isn't out of options yet, but will be in 2020, so the Twins need to get him settled in a big-league role. You could send him back to Triple-A to start the year but it feels kinda pointless – Romero showed he belonged during an MLB debut this year, and offers more upside than almost anyone else in the mix. I've argued that it might be best to bring him along as a multi-inning fireman reliever.

* Andrew Vasquez decimates left-handed hitters. You might feel inclined to find a lefty specialist on the open market, with top bullpen southpaw Taylor Rogers serving in more of a matchup-agnostic setup role. But then again, you might already have that piece on hand in Vasquez, who was added to the 40-man roster during the season in advance of his Rule 5 eligibility, getting a taste of the majors in September.

In 69 total innings last year Vasquez held left hitters to a .196/.274/.235 line over 114 PA, with a 38% strikeout rate. The prior year, same-sided batters went .200/.297/.200 against him, managing zero extra-base hits in 75 PA.

There's always risk in going with a relatively untested and inexperienced option, but Vasquez is the kind of effective, inexpensive role-filler that can really be an asset to a team like the Twins.

* Pitching staffs are fundamentally transforming. Like it or not, the rigid designations of "starter" and "reliever" are fading in today's game. Using openers, and piggybacking starters, should both be concepts in play as you assemble the staff – as should flexibility in the ninth inning.

This can help guide your strategy. For instance, if you do end up going with a rotation featuring five right-handers, you might want an extra southpaw reliever that you could plug in for the first inning against a lefty-heavy lineup. Or maybe you want to plan on trying to get 3-4 innings apiece from Mejia and Kohl Stewart every fifth day. With an open-minded approach, there are a lot of options and possibilities.

* The rotation lacks continuity going forward. Three of Minnesota's expected starters – Gibson, Odorizzi and Pineda, will be free agents after next season. In terms of rotation members that the Twins can comfortably count on past 2019, Berrios pretty much starts and ends the list. So the quest for rotation help this offseason shouldn't necessarily be limited to short-term commitments. A multi-year deal would make a lot of sense... if it's the right guy.

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71 Comments

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tarheeltwinsfan
Dec 16 2018 08:46 PM

I remember much weaker Twins pitching staffs in the last 5 years, Reading this article about 2019's available choices for the Twins pitching staff makes me optimistic. As "the hardest working man in show business"said: "I Feel Good!"

    • Nick Nelson, birdwatcher, Dman and 4 others like this
I'd like to see another Pineda-type signing this year, since there will probably be three more rotation spots available in 2020.
    • birdwatcher, Major League Ready and howieramone2 like this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Dec 16 2018 09:23 PM

You are right to say pitching staffs are fundamentally being transformed. But some of that transformation will depend on existing pitchers. If you have a dominant starter (or four) you would be less inclined to go with an opener, for example. If you have several dominant relievers and few dominant starters, you would be more inclined to go with openers, and to not have specific roles to specific pitchers.  

 

So for the Twins, it's a matter of quality first; after that you look for the best way to use your pitchers to win each game.. 

    • ashbury, Steve Lein, beckmt and 4 others like this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Dec 16 2018 09:26 PM

I believe we also need a very good hitter as well, somebody who can get on base. With a full 40-man roster, someone will have to go - and that could be a pitcher, which would change the dynamic.

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Kelly Vance
Dec 16 2018 09:45 PM

Go with a 4 man rotation, ala Ballamore 1969.  

    • dxpavelka likes this

 

I'd like to see another Pineda-type signing this year, since there will probably be three more rotation spots available in 2020.

 

Garrett Richards probably would have been this years version of Michael Pineda, but he was scooped up on a two year deal with the Padres.

 

Would imagine the same plan with him...one season of rehab and then pitch in 2020.

Since Duffey and Mejia are out of options I suppose they could be included in a package for a starter.My guess is the Twins will trade for another starter instead of going the free agent route.

Not a lot of good long term options left, I don't think, in free agency. Somehow they need to find three or four starters in the next two years. Seems daunting.
    • Sconnie and dbminn like this

 

Since Duffey and Mejia are out of options I suppose they could be included in a package for a starter.My guess is the Twins will trade for another starter instead of going the free agent route.

I would DFA Duffey, he has zero value at this point. He's proven he can't be a starter or reliever in the big leagues. Mejia has been a fine back-end starter when healthy, so I'd rather just plop him in the rotation instead of trading him. 

    • birdwatcher, gunnarthor, Twins33 and 11 others like this
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Physics Guy
Dec 16 2018 10:47 PM

 

Not a lot of good long term options left, I don't think, in free agency. Somehow they need to find three or four starters in the next two years. Seems daunting.

I agree that finding 3 starters in one offseason is daunting, but isn't it likely the Twins would want to extend Gibson before the season or sign him as a FA if he has another solid year?

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jorgenswest
Dec 16 2018 10:56 PM
According to roster resource Duffey has 1 option.

https://www.rosterre...innesota-twins/

I am not sure. He was optioned to start the 2016 season but return before the 20th day of the AAA season. He was optioned again at the end August. Maybe an option wasn’t used. If Duffey has an option he could be helpful as a shuttle from AAA to avoid the need for the 13th pitcher.
    • jokin likes this
I am not as worried about our rotation next year. We will have more options from the farm ready to go. Just to name a few:

Slegers
Gonsalves
Romero
Mejia
Thorpe
Tylers Wells
Brusdar Grateral (at some point in 2020)
Littel

And then there are some i dont know as well like Poppin
    • birdwatcher and howieramone2 like this
So next offseason we resign Gibson we should be good. Depending on how the prospects develop we may want 1 other starter but that would be worst case.

Also forgot kohl stewart
    • caninatl04 likes this

 

I agree that finding 3 starters in one offseason is daunting, but isn't it likely the Twins would want to extend Gibson before the season or sign him as a FA if he has another solid year?

 

Probably, but it isn't only up to them. People say all the time FAs don't want to come here, why would Gibson stay, and not test FA?

    • ChrisKnutson, dbminn, SF Twins Fan and 1 other like this

 

Not a lot of good long term options left, I don't think, in free agency. Somehow they need to find three or four starters in the next two years. Seems daunting.

There were only two good long term options to begin with.

    • Twins33 and howieramone2 like this

I think we are going to see something with what I would call 'stacked' starters.Mejia's biggest problem two years ago was getting into or out of the 5th inning.Considering they will be building Romero's innings if he is used as a starter, perhaps something where they each pitch about half a game.Mejia starts and goes thru the 4th and into or thru the 5th.Romero comes in and pitches the remaining 4+ innings.Mejia is a lefty who doesn't throw all that hard.Romero follows up as a hard throwing right hander.Would also give a day off to the rest of the bullpen.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and MN_ExPat like this
Drew Pomeranz interests me on a make good deal with an option year. He is a year removed from a very good season and is only 30.
    • PseudoSABR likes this

The Twins need to start trading 3-4 of these guys for 1 impact guy.

 

.283/.368/.561 and .370 wOBA: Taylor Rogers's RHB opponents in away games.He is ok in his comfort zone at home against righties, but you don't want to pitch him away against them. 

 

Bottom line:For this team to be relevant in this season well into the post season, they need 2 SPs better than Berrios and 2 RP better than May (and Rogers, and Reed.)

 

They have plenty of trade bait.I'd include Odorizzi and Mejia in the trade pile, as well as Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade etc.

 

They should just go get them if they want us to believe that they want to compete...

Because dragging Hildy's sorry league worst WPA for another season will just not cut it...

 

 

    • ChrisKnutson likes this
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Major League Ready
Dec 17 2018 07:28 AM

 

Probably, but it isn't only up to them. People say all the time FAs don't want to come here, why would Gibson stay, and not test FA?

 

Three reasons.

1) MLB Players are habitual creatures and most players prefer to stay if it does not cost them financially.

2) Eliminates the risk associated with injury or poor performance.

3) He just witnessed Dozier's value plummet. 

    • birdwatcher, tarheeltwinsfan, howieramone2 and 1 other like this
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Major League Ready
Dec 17 2018 07:42 AM

 

The Twins need to start trading 3-4 of these guys for 1 impact guy.

 

.283/.368/.561 and .370 wOBA: Taylor Rogers's RHB opponents in away games.He is ok in his comfort zone at home against righties, but you don't want to pitch him away against them. 

 

Bottom line:For this team to be relevant in this season well into the post season, they need 2 SPs better than Berrios and 2 RP better than May (and Rogers, and Reed.)

 

They have plenty of trade bait.I'd include Odorizzi and Mejia in the trade pile, as well as Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade etc.

 

They should just go get them if they want us to believe that they want to compete...

Because dragging Hildy's sorry league worst WPA for another season will just not cut it...

 

Great idea but it seems like the often bantered Brian Dunsing fantasy trade. Can you name a couple trades where established SPs that are/were better than Berrios were traded for numbers of mediocre prospects? I suppose if they have 2 years of control or less that might be possible but that's NOT a good fit at this point. I am not sure I can think of one with even 2 years of control. KC traded the rookie of the year (future AS) and Odorizzi for 1 1/2 years of Shields.

 

I just don't think you can get that type of SP without giving up a high ceiling prospect. Our pitching depth has none of those. If we had such a prospect, the last thing I would want to do right now is trade them.

    • birdwatcher, Kevin, howieramone2 and 3 others like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Dec 17 2018 08:06 AM

 

So next offseason we resign Gibson we should be good. Depending on how the prospects develop we may want 1 other starter but that would be worst case.

Also forgot kohl stewart

Re-sign.

    • jokin and DocBauer like this
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ChrisKnutson
Dec 17 2018 08:19 AM
While it’d be nice if we could acquire a SP who could be controlled beyond 2019, I really don’t see it happening. And even if we were to, it probably be Julio Teheran or Mike Minor. Which is why right now free agency is our best bet. There’s plenty of affordable options left, the problem is whether, or not, the FO is willing to spend.

The only realistic FA starting pitchers for us left are James Shields and Anibal Sanchez, but is it really worth the risk signing either of them to a 2 year deal?? Sanchez is still questionable, even after a bounce back season in Atlanta, while Shields is more of a quantity over quality kinda guy now that he’s older (204.2 IP in 2018).

Derek Holland and Wade Miley are obviously better options, but Holland has stated that he prefers to stay in the NL, while Miley is probably not gonna want to come to a non-contender when teams like the Nats, Brewers, and Reds are pursuing him.

While the FO said they’d like to add another starter, they also said they’d prefer if it were a LH starter, which automatically makes Gio Gonzalez a likely candidate, but after years of pitching for the Nats, Gonzalez has built up quite the nice track record, meaning he ‘might’ cost more than the FO is willing spend.

And then there’s castaways like Drew Pomeranz, Martin Perez, and Shelby Miller. Of those three, Miller is the only one I’d be comfortable with starting games, but even he might have to be moved to the pen at some point, given his recent struggles/health issues. And while Perez might not be on our radar as a SP, as a LHP who’s capable of throwing 95 plus, he could be an interesting option for the bullpen.

Then again, we could always sign Bartolo...
    • mikelink45 likes this

The Twins FO hasn't made any big moves for a FA. Makes no sense to add a veteran SP to fill the 5th rotation spot. I'd rather they:

  • Try to sign Gibson this offseason. If not, trade him for a young, controllable starter. I hope they sign him now. There's no upside to waiting. Either his trade value goes down (whole season v. half), or the Twins have to pay a premium at the end of the year.
  • Put Mejia on the major league roster if he's healthy and in shape. He has four decent pitches and has been okay in limited use. IMO, his upside is a #3 SP on a winning team.
  • Hopefully, Romero makes the Twins roster. He can piggyback with Odo or Mejia. 
  • Have Stewart and Gonsalves as their depth. Thorpe might be ready later in the year.

Falvey has said this is a "wait and see" year because of Buxton and Sano. If that's the case, they might as well do the same for the young SP. 

    • Mike Sixel, Major League Ready, DocBauer and 3 others like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Dec 17 2018 08:39 AM

I'm really not worried about the 2020 rotation just yet. I think for the most part, that will sort itself out. I'll be a bit surprised if Romero isn't a lock to start in 2020, and I think Graterol might force some hands too... worst case would be offering QOs to the guys leaving. I would note that I would be ammendable to a Gibson extension if he was...

 

That said, I'd probably go with Mejia or May as the 5th starter and go out and get an arm or two for the pen. DFAing a guy like Duffey for an impact arm in the bull pen should be a no brainer.

    • jokin, DocBauer, ChrisKnutson and 2 others like this

 

Go with a 4 man rotation, ala Ballamore 1969.  

This isn't a bad idea considering the expectations are shrinking for how many innings a starter is going to pitch each game. 40 starts at 5 innings per start is 200 innings; kind of the bench mark for work load. It's easier to find 4 good arms than 5.


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