Twins Need To Be Buyers Next Winter
Image courtesy of Matt Kartozian, USA TodaySomething drastic will need to be done in order to keep this team relevant. The front office turnover made some waves, but it was followed by a typically quiet offseason for the Twins. To be fair, with a free agent pitching class "headlined" by Rich Hill and Ivan Nova, this wasn't the winter to make a huge signing.
Next offseason it'll be a different story, however, and the Twins should be in a great position to make a big splash. Can't imagine the Pohlad's approving a marquee signing? Well, they have very little money tied up beyond 2018, so there should be plenty of room in the budget. The only guys signed through the 2019 season are Phil Hughes ($13.2M), Jason Castro ($8M) and ByungHo Park ($3M).
So without further ado, let's play my favorite game: Spend the Pohlad Family's Money!
MLB Trade Rumors released its top 10 free agents for the 2017-18 off season this week, and the class looks to be flush with starting pitching. The list is topped by Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Johnny Cueto and Masahiro Tanaka. It's worth noting that both Cueto and Tanaka would have to opt out of their current contracts to become free agents, and it's possible between now and then one of those top guys signs an extension.
None of those big four free agents has even turned 32 yet, with 28-year-old Tanaka being the youngest. Arrieta was a Cy Young winner in 2015 and both Darvish (2013) and Cueto (2014) have a runner-up finish for the award. I'm drooling just at the thought of any one of these guys in a Twins jersey, but each of them will command a hefty salary and all have some questions to answer in 2017.
Arrieta looked human from June on last season, posting a 4.05 ERA, then had a 3.63 ERA in the playoffs. There are some durability concerns with both of the Japanese imports, but at least we know Darvish's UCL has been repaired. Tanaka had an elbow injury in 2014, but he elected to forego surgery. Seems to have worked out for him, but that arm could be a ticking time bomb. Cueto has been a workhorse, but his underwhelming run with Kansas City in 2015 may cause AL teams to shy away.
But even beyond that impressive foursome, is yet another group of less tantalizing, yet still intriguing names. Chris Tillman, Micheal Pineda and Alex Cobb are among that next tier, and could dramatically improve their stock this season. Here's a quick look at the numbers:
LAST THREE SEASONS
Arrieta: 2.42 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 2.55 BB/9
Darvish: 3.20 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 11.55 K/9, 2.94 BB/9
Cueto: 2.80 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.21 K/9, 2.08 BB/9
Tanaka: 3.12 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 8.18 K/9, 1.54 BB/9
Tillman: 3.99 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.68 K/9, 3.19 BB/9
Pineda: 4.10 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 1.77 BB/9
Cobb: 3.54 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 2.58 BB/9
Assuming the 2017 Twins put the worst season in franchise history behind them and look to be playoff contenders in 2018, which of these guys would you prefer? Would you pay top dollar, or wait out the market to see if there's a bargain? Or do you avoid free agency all together?
Is it too early to be speculating on such things? Absolutely, but c'mon, let's have some fun.
The guy I'd personally most like to see would be Darvish, and perhaps having Thad Levine around could be helpful in landing the strikeout machine. Levine was with the Rangers when they signed Darvish out of Japan, so he likely knows a thing or two about what makes the big righty tick.
Even if the Twins can scrounge up the $150 or so million it'll cost to sign one of the top flight guys like Darvish, will they even want to come to Minnesota, or take less to play for a World Series contender?
That's where Derek Falvey is going to have to earn his salary. Between now and next winter, he will need to get the franchise in good enough shape to be able to convincingly tell free agents "this team will be in the playoffs next season."
The front office was apparently unable to deliver that message to Mike Napoli, who took less money and a shorter commitment to play for the Rangers. Continuing failure to attract free agents is going to result in a continuing failure to attract fan interest.
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