Getting an “Ace” Easier Said Than Done
Image courtesy of © Tommy Gilligan - USA TODAY SportsFirst, the most realistic and highly-coveted starter in Minnesota’s crosshairs, Zack Wheeler, signed a larger than expected $118 million deal with Philadelphia and turned down an even higher offer from the White Sox because he wanted to remain near his fiance’s home in New Jersey. And although the Twins never appeared to have a realistic chance of signing Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, their record-setting contracts have proved beyond a doubt that this is a pitcher’s market.
Of the starter’s left, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Dallas Keuchel have been linked with the Twins. Bumgarner and Keuchel were once both considered “aces” but are probably more mid-rotation starters at this point. Ryu was great in 2019 but has significant injury concerns and is already 32-years-old. Keuchel is a ground ball pitcher who may want a better infield defense backing him up.
Of course, no one wants to hear excuses at this time of year, but the fact that all three of these pitchers have their warts, may not want to pitch in Minnesota, and could end up getting paid significantly more than they are worth, point to a very realistic chance that the Twins will not end up with a “top-of-the-rotation” starter.
Trading for a starter is another possibility that has been floating around, but this presents some problems as well. For one, as the size of contracts being handed out right now points to, teams are willing to pay a heavy price for front-end starters. This could make a trade more expensive in terms of prospects, and the front office seems unlikely to pay a heavy price. Plus, the veteran starters being brought up in the rumor mill are expensive and far from sure things. Guys like David Price and Yu Darvish are expensive and haven’t been all that effective, and Chris Sale had a down year and was injured (he’s also expensive). All are getting older and may not be worth the risk.
A trade for a young starter would be great, but teams are generally loath to give up young pitching, so again, easier said than done. Additionally, with so many teams interested, the price will also likely be high.
Luckily, Minnesota already got two of the best pitching values this offseason. Michael Pineda was a steal at two years and $20 million, and the Twins were very fortunate that Jake Odorizzi agreed to forgo the market and accept the $17.8 million qualifying offer. The way the market has heated up, he surely could have done better. Although they are retreads, they have the potential to be the best signings outside of Strasburg and Cole (For more on Pineda’s upside, checkout Nick Nelson’s recent article).
While Minnesota in unlikely to be finished adding starting pitching this offseason, it’s looking more and more likely that whoever is added won’t be anyone fans are dreaming of. It has been a surprisingly robust market and things have not conspired in the Twins favor. However, like life, baseball is full of uncertainty. A year from now, we may be thankful that Bumgarner, Ryu, and Keuchel are not donning Twins jerseys (or unhappy that they are). And hey, there’s always the trade deadline!
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