Twins Should Plunder the Pirates' Sinking Ship
Image courtesy of © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY SportsWhen Cherington sent Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a pair of 19-year-olds, any questions regarding Pittsburgh’s intent were clearly answered. This team is bordering on a payroll lower than Mike Trout’s 2020 salary (sitting at roughly $43MM). In grabbing such young prospects in return, there’s a nice ceiling to dream of, but competition won’t be happening anytime soon. Still reeling from the Chris Archer deal with Tampa this is a club that Cherington needs to resurrect.
So, with the major leaguer roster having more holes than a cannonballed Schooner, the former Twins bench coach might as well be given a complete rebuild to orchestrate. If that’s going to happen then names like Josh Bell, Gregory Polanco, Chris Archer, and Joe Musgrove should be on their way to the plank also. The Twins outfield is set, and first base is now covered, but those last two are guys they likely checked in on previously and could now grab as desirable booty.
Chris Archer remains more name than ability at this point in his career. He hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015, and while the FIP (save for 2019) was always strong, the results didn’t follow. Last year the Pirates hurler hopped back into the double-digit K/9 realm but did so while issuing a whopping 4.1 BB/9. It wasn’t there that he got burned however but instead, the longball hurt him to the tune of a 1.9 HR/9.
Still sitting in the mid-90’s with his fastball velocity, Archer can remain a power pitcher at 31-years-old. He’s missing as many bats as he ever has, and his chase rates are on par with career averages. The 40% hard hit rate was a career worst, but it’s in line with an increase he’s survived in each of the previous two seasons. Where the numbers jump off the page is just how many fly balls left the yard. Generating ground balls over 44% of the time during his career, dropping all the way down to 36% last season and seeing the HR/FB rise all the way up to 20% did him in.
Having an $11MM team option for 2021 and a $9MM salary in the year ahead, it’s a very comparable compensation assumption to what Arizona took on in Marte. Minnesota has some 19-year-olds of their own that could be added to the Pirates harbor.
The more enticing option here however is Joe Musgrove. Just 27-years-old and not scheduled to hit free agency until 2023, the price tag will also be heftier. Pittsburgh certainly shouldn’t be overly motivated to move the former Houston Astro, but he doesn’t exactly fit into their window of competitiveness either. Nabbing some high-level prospects to cash in during the future may help make up for the loss of Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, or Shane Baz.
What’s there to like about Musgrove, a guy with a 4.37 career ERA and on his third organization? Well, everything. His FIP has generally outperformed his ERA, and he’s shown a strong ability to both command and control his pitchers. Although not a dominant strikeout guy, he racked up 157 in his first full year starting last season.
Working in the low-to-mid-90’s Musgrove sees success predominantly as a fastball-slider guy. Last season his 12% whiff rat was a new career high, and he’s forced opposing batters to expand the zone over one-third of the time through his big-league career. Even in the juiced ball season that was, he largely avoided home run damage, and there wasn’t much of a spike in hard hit rate.
Allowing yourself to dream on Musgrove is also betting on current infrastructure. You aren’t ponying up the pieces to get what he is today, as much as you are under the belief in what he could become. Twins Daily’s Nash Walker points out some similarities in numbers between Musgrove and Gerrit Cole over their last two seasons with the Pirates. Being of the belief that Minnesota, Wes Johnson, and the Derek Falvey brain trust could work their magic, this is some clay that could be worth molding.
At the end of the day it still seems logical that the Twins make a trade for pitching. They were going to be hard pressed on the free agent market for that position anyway, and they have the assets to acquire almost anyone in the game. If Josh Kalk believes in Archer from his Tampa days, they could go that route. If Musgrove is a piece viewed as being on the cusp, he makes a good deal of sense. Maybe it’s neither and a different organization entirely. All I know is the Pirates have some booty, and you don’t even need to board the ship for them to be willing to pass it out.
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