Offseason Blueprint: Generics Over Brand Names
Image courtesy of © Andy Marlin-USA TODAY SportsMuch like at the supermarket, there are also name brands and generics on the free agent and trade markets this winter. I’m going to be identifying a number of players who represent the plain generic bottle that does just as good a job at a greatly reduced price.
*cue cheesy infomercial music*
This is a similar line of thinking I explored in my piece for the 2020 Twins Offseason Handbook, which you can download at whatever price you’d like (including $0). Now that’s the ultimate deal.
I’ll be referencing Kiley McDaniel’s contract projections from FanGraphs. I don’t have a great reason behind picking those in particular, I just wanted to keep things consistent.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (2Y, $32M) over Zack Wheeler (4Y, $68M) and Madison Bumgarner (4Y, $64M)
It’s difficult to paint the defending ERA champ as a generic alternative, but I think the shoe fits in this scenario. What am I missing here? Ryu is the best pitcher of this trio. The big divider seems to surround durability concerns, but Ryu did manage to throw 182 2/3 innings in 2019 and is still only 32-years-old.
Ryu is unlikely to provide 30+ starts, sure, but that’s fine with me as long as he’s good to go in October. Though he’s coming at a similar AAV to Wheeler and Bumgarner, the shorter commitment to Ryu appeals to me. Less potential for disaster.
We’ll split the difference and say that’s about $34 million saved, plus a draft pick. Wheeler and Bumgarner both rejected qualifying offers, meaning any team that signs them forfeits a pick.
Some outlets have very different figures on these projected contracts. MLB Trade Rumors has Wheeler at five years and $100 million, MadBum at four and $72 million with Ryu at three years and $54 million.
Matthew Boyd as a trade target over Noah Syndergaard
It’s amazing what pitching in New York, having a cool nickname and topping out at 100 mph can do for your reputation. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Thor in a Twins uniform, but Boyd was actually a more dominant pitcher in 2019.
Boyd had a 30.2 K% and 14.1% swinging-strike rate while Syndergaard was at 24.5% and 12.5%, respectively. Boyd also bested Syndergaard in ERA-, xFIP- and SIERA. Just imagine what he could do with someone other than Rick Anderson as his pitching coach!
Baseball Trade Values has its flaws (Jake Cave is valued higher than Jordan Balazovic, for example), but it also appears to be the best tool at our disposal. They estimate Syndergaard has twice as much trade value as Boyd ($75.7M vs. $37.7M), despite the fact that Boyd has an additional year of team control. He won’t be a free agent until 2023.
A package of Trevor Larnach and Ryan Jeffers does the trick for Boyd, per their trade simulator. To get Syndergaard, they project you’d need to add Brusdar Graterol to that package. Pass.
Michael Pineda (1Y, $12.1) over Dallas Keuchel (3Y, $45M)
That figure listed above for Pineda is his projected $16 million deal prorated with the remaining 39 games of his suspension factored in.
Both of these pitchers can play the rust card in regard to their 2019 seasons, Pineda due to injuries and Keuchel due to silly qualifying offer stuff. That’s about all they have in common. Keuchel is a lefty ground ball wizard who essentially pitches to contact while Pineda is a right-handed flyball pitcher who posted a swinging-strike rate comfortably above league average (12.5 vs. 10.8).
I’ll take Pineda and save another $32.9 million. For what it’s worth, MLB Trade Rumors had Pineda tabbed for a two-year, $22 million contract and Keuchel at three years and $39 million.
Here's the rotation. Since you only need four starters early in the season, covering the rest of the suspension shouldn’t be much trouble.
Chris Martin (2Y, $12M) over Will Smith (3Y, $40M)
Yup, I’m pitting a guy you’ve (probably) never heard of against the guy who was the top free agent reliever on the market.
Martin edged Smith in xFIP, SIERA and was the only pitcher to post a better K:BB ratio than Taylor Rogers (min. 40 IP). In 55 2/3 innings, Martin struck out 65 batters and walked just five. Both Martin’s average fastball velocity (95.6 mph) and average exit velocity (88.7 mph) also bested Smith’s.
Two years of Martin for less than the cost of one season of Smith? Yes please. There’s another $28 million saved. Of course, Smith has already signed with the Braves at this point, but this was just too good a thrift to delete.
Sergio Romo (1Y, $3M) over Daniel Hudson (1Y, $6M)
Romo had a better fWAR, FIP, xFIP, K-BB% and SIERA than Hudson, who enters the market after a solid postseason showing. It’s too bad Sergio doesn’t have October success on his resume. Oh, wait ...
Romo isn’t listed on either of the top 50 free agent lists, but I’d bet $3 million plus some incentives in which he can earn GameStop gift certificates would get the deal done. I’ll count that as another $3 million saved, though MLB Trade Rumors has Hudson projected for a more lucrative two-year, $12 million contract.
Brusdar Graterol and Zack Littell Return to the Rotation
Even with a few starting pitchers added, I’m still redirecting more resources to the rotation. The staff was remarkably healthy last year, as the team’s primary quintet accounted for 90% of the team’s starts. I’m not banking on that again in 2020.
I want to keep Graterol on a track to develop into a stud starting pitcher. His ceiling is enticing, but there’s still work to be done. Some guys fail as starters or were always better suited for a bullpen role, but I don’t see Littell in that light.
Think about it, if you could go back in time and convert Taylor Rogers back into a starting pitcher earlier in his career, would you do it? C’mon, you’d at least think about it.
Keeping all that starting pitching depth in the minor leagues at the onset of the season also opens the door for guys who are out of options, like Fernando Romero and Matt Wisler, to find spots in the bullpen. If they don’t work out, it’s a lot easier to convert one of the Littell/Graterol/Dobnak/Smeltzer/Thorpe types into relievers than it would be to stretch them back out in the event rotation help was needed.
Miguel Sano to First Base, C.J. Cron Non-Tendered ($7.7M)
I’m ready to accept the fact that the Twins can no longer get away with both Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco on the left side of the infield. Sano is swinging over to first base while Marwin Gonzalez takes over as the primary third baseman.
The Rays cut ties with Cron last winter after he posted a 123 wRC+ and 2.2 WAR, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Twins move on after a 101 wRC+ and 0.3 WAR. This decision has more to do with shifting Sano to first base than anything in particular with Cron, but it does also add another $7.7 million saved (projected arbitration salary per MLB Trade Rumors).
Sign Martin Maldonado (1Y, $3M)
The only bat I’m bringing in is actually a guy I’m more interested in because of his glove. I don’t expect Robinson Chirinos or even Jason Castro, both of whom I’d prefer, would sign with the Twins. They’re good enough to get starting gigs..
What about Eddie Rosario? I think he’s more valuable on the 2020 Twins roster than he’d be in a trade, so he stays.
Here’s the starting lineup and bench:
This is a good ballclub with plenty of talent still waiting in the wings. The payroll gets stretched to a franchise-record $132.5 million, higher than I originally intended. Jake Odorizzi accepting the qualifying offer added $10.8 million to my original plan. I explained how that would have worked out in a YouTube video, if you’re interested.
Still, thrifty shopping saved a total of $97.9 million in cash, Brusdar Graterol (by targeting Boyd instead of Syndergaard) and a draft pick (by signing Ryu over Wheeler or Bumgarner). Oh, and another $7.7 million was saved by non-tendering Cron.
Yes, I admit it, this offseason blueprint is also to be included as part of my application to become a member of the Minnesota Twins front office. Ya got me.
I hear they’re looking for an Assistant to the Regional Manager of Comparative Sciences and Dumb Jokes (A2RMCS&DJ for those of you familiar with the inner workings of an MLB front office). I guess part of the exam is to build a 2020 roster that protects the Pohlads' pockets but still appeases Twins Territory.
Can I put you down as a reference?
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Spending Every Penny | Cooper Carlson
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