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What Happens if the Twins Can't Sign Yu Darvish?

When viewed individually, it's easy to see the logic behind all the moves the Twins have made this offseason. These are smart, low-risk investments in guys who should help the team improve next season. If you zoom out and judge the offseason as a whole, however, I can’t help but be unimpressed. Yes, it's important to keep in mind that we’re looking at an incomplete picture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take stock of what’s happened so far and try to speculate about which direction the team might be headed.
Image courtesy of Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Every team in baseball has to do a little re-tooling each offseason, but as it stands right now, the Twins will have a number of big decisions to make at the end of 2018. Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar are all due to become free agents while Ervin Santana has a $14 million option. It seems like an easy decision for the team to pick up that option today, but a lot can change in a year.

The front office has taken some small measures to shore things up beyond this year, signing Michael Pineda to a two-year deal and securing a modest 2019 team option in Fernando Rodney’s contract, but the fact remains that not much is certain beyond 2018. Who knows if Pineda can regain his old form, and even though Rodney’s in tremendous shape, it seems like you’re asking a lot to expect a guy to be a big contributor in what would be his age 42 season in 2019.

What I see right now is a team that is trying to give itself a chance in 2018, but one that is also falling behind other contenders in the American League. At the same time, they've done virtually nothing to increase their odds of improving beyond next season.

I think everybody (myself included) is hoping the team can land Yu Darvish, but would that move even make sense? It’s hard to answer that question. He certainly makes the team better, but how much would he really improve their chances of going deep into the playoffs? Is that worth giving him a potentially disastrous deal?

Even if it doesn’t make the most sense from a purely baseball operations standpoint, I believe that it would be in the team’s best interest to make a big splash. I've been thinking this for a long time now. But what happens if the Twins fail to land that big fish they're after?

If there’s one thing the Twins have, it’s flexibility. There is very little money tied up beyond next season, and the farm system is as healthy as it’s been in years. If the front office fails to sign Darvish or trade for a top-end pitcher who’s controllable for the future, then what? I figure they’ve got three options …

1. Lower their aim.

Darvish is an awfully high target. If the Twins can’t keep up with the competition, they could always turn to the other top-tier free agents that are still available: Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. The same thing could be said about the trade market. If the Twins can’t land a big fish (Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer seem to be the two guys most talked about), they could pivot to pitchers in the next tier down like Jake Odorizzi and Dan Straily. Both of those guys have some future control (Odorizzi through 2020 and Straily 2021) and would help improve the depth of the rotation.

2. Go into sell mode.

They could always revisit the idea of trading Dozier, Ervin or whoever else has value for pieces who are more likely to help in 2019/20. This would obviously make the Twins worse in 2018, but is it inconceivable that they could still be competitive? There are plenty of infield variations the Twins could assemble between Jorge Polanco, Escobar, Ehire Adrianza and even Nick Gordon. They could add a veteran free agent on a one-year or minor league deal into that mix for added security.

In the rotation, maybe Trevor May could pick up the slack or they could catch lighting in a bottle with one of the rookies like Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. My point is I don’t think the Twins would be completely hopeless in 2018 without Dozier and/or Ervin. It would be a huge blow, and turn this upcoming season into more of a building year, but it’s likely the return in those trades could improve the outlook for the near future.

3. Keep building for 2018, but maintain future flexibility.

I hate the idea of staying in the middle ground, but this is actually starting to make a lot of sense to me. There are a lot of players rumored to be floating around on the trade market who will be free agents at this time next season. On the downside, those guys are only going to help you out in 2018. On the plus side, they’re not going to be nearly as costly to trade for as a guy like Cole or Archer. Which players am I talking about?

Pie In The Sky: Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado and Cole Hamels (who has an option for 2019).

More Realistic Targets: Andrew McCutchen, Nelson Cruz, Patrick Corbin, Brad Brach and Kelvin Herrera.

I’d have a really difficult time seeing the Twins pursuing any of those pie in the sky guys, but it’s always important to keep in mind that we still really don’t know this front office. What if asking prices drop and/or this group doesn’t value one of its prospects like the rest of the market does? It could happen, but let's move on to more realistic options.

Cutch and Cruz are both lefty killers and patient hitters who could really push this offense to the next level. You’d be potentially creating some playing time issues by adding one of these guys. Getting Cruz would certainly mean Robbie Grossman and/or Kennys Vargas would be gone and you’d be counting on Miguel Sano being able to play third base every day. McCutchen would allow for some more flexibility, making it possible to form some kind of a corner outfield/DH platoon.

The only left-handed starter penciled in to the Twins rotation at this point is Adalberto Mejia, so Corbin could help even things out in that regard. He’s also pretty good. Corbin posted a 4.08 FIP and 2.54 K:BB for Arizona last season. Those marks were better than Ervin, Cobb and Lynn all posted last season.

Brach has a 2.74 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 as a right-handed setup man for the Orioles over the past four years. They lost closer Zach Britton to an injury. On one hand, they may opt to keep Brach to fill that opening, but on the other hand, Baltimore’s chances at being competitive seem pretty bleak.

Herrera is coming off his worst year with the Royals, but he would represent a high-octane option for the Twins bullpen. Could moving him back into a setup role result in a return to form?

Adding these one-year commitment guys would cost you some mid-level prospects that would hurt the system. They would also create further havoc for next offseason, but if this front office is as good as a lot of us here think, they should be able to play jazz. Why can't they just make it up as they go every offseason?

Committing big money to aging players rarely works out. Plus, this plan builds in further flexibility. If the Twins got off to a bad start and were out of contention by the deadline, they’d have a bunch of the most attractive rental pieces to market. At the same time, if the young players like Gonsalves, Romero or any number of the relievers that are still in the system emerge, you've got some built-in turnover to create openings in 2019.

Assuming the Twins lose out on Yu Darvish, what should they do? Feel free to offer up any other options I haven't detailed here. I'm sure there are a lot more than three directions they could go.

  • Cory Engelhardt, Sssuperdave, h2oface and 2 others like this

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107 Comments

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ClubhouseDanceParty
Dec 27 2017 02:57 PM

Great write up Tom. I agree the Twins need to make a spash. Outside of Mauer/Morneau's contracts the team does have a perception of being cheap. Rightfully or not that is the perception. This signing would drive interest. Darvish would instantly be the best picture on the roster since we had some other guy with the last name Santana. Our core is starting to mature. Our division is weak. Carpe Diem!

    • glunn, Riverbrian, mikelink45 and 1 other like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Dec 27 2017 03:11 PM
If the Twins don't sign Darvish then they need to try to grow the pitching staff organically, as they have with the position players. It has been at least a generation since the Twins have built a home grown pitching staff, now is the time for the Boy Wonders to earn their keep and promote from within. Going into sell mode is frightening for the average Twins fan. The Twins have rarely (if ever) sold valuable assets with an eye to building a team long term or even 'flipping' valuable assets to bolster the chance for a title today. Not to mention, we all have David Ortiz in the back of our minds so trading a player like Sano gives us the cold sweats. My preference is to roll with the talent we have today and add a top notch pitcher and let's see where this new generation of talent will lead us.
    • glunn, gil4, mikelink45 and 1 other like this
I see no good coming from giving up prospects for one year rentals. Not given their current roster. I also dont get worrying about flexibility if you never spend your money.

It is way early to be worried about starting pitching yet, imo.
    • Monkeypaws, Vanimal46, Broker and 2 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Dec 27 2017 03:17 PM

I hope they're not wasting time on this when they could be signing better bargains like Lynn or Cobb.

    • gil4, mikelink45, laloesch and 2 others like this

Am I the only one, or are others also real uneasy with giving Darvish lots of years and dollars?I probably shouldn't form an opinion based on a couple games in the World Series, but he really was awful.  

 

Hopefully, there was something ailing him and they know why he wasn't at least competitive.  

 

I would prefer they go with someone like Cobb or Lynn, who I view as Plan B candidates.

    • gil4, mikelink45, Platoon and 1 other like this
Cobb needs to get his ego in check before he signs. 20 million per season expectation is about to cost him a spot in Chicagos rotation.

There are plenty of options and time to oull off a signing or trade if Darvish doesnt sign. I think if you connect dots the Twins include Sano in a trade for Archer, then sign Napoli to replace power lost, let Escobar handle 3B or sign one. .....
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
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Sssuperdave
Dec 27 2017 03:40 PM

Sano, Buxton, Kepler,and Rosario are under team Control through 2021, with Berrios and Polanco under team control through 2022. All six of those guys are still very young and progressing up the learning curve, which in my mind gives the Twins a 3-year window of opportunity of 2019 - 2021. You've also got Romero, Gonsalves, and Gordon in the minors that could meaningfully contribute during that window.

 

So, I think you start with that group of 6 - 9 and then look at how to build around them to optimize 2019-2021. Darvish would fit the bill perfectly, but if you don't get him then I think you go in to a light sell mode for 2018, where the assets you are selling are assets that won't be in their prime in 2019-2021. I think that includes Dozier and Santana as well as prospects like Royce Lewis and Wander Javier. In return, you need to get a very good pitcher that will be hitting his prime in that window. Perhaps a package with one of Dozier/Santana and one of Lewis/Javier could bring back a top notch young starter?

 

I could actually see combining this light sell with Tom's option 1 of "lower their aim". Cobb and Lynn are young enough that they could be part of the '19-'21 window, so you could sign one of them along with selling some assets I laid out above.

 

You don't want to completely mortgage the farm, but you do need to give up something to get something, and you need to be realistic about who the Twins are. I don't think they are ever going to be perennial contenders over a 8-10 year stretch, so they need to make the most of the windows they have while hopefully avoiding enormous dry spells like we experienced from '11-'16.

 

 

 

I see no good coming from giving up prospects for one year rentals. Not given their current roster. I also dont get worrying about flexibility if you never spend your money.

It is way early to be worried about starting pitching yet, imo.

 

How would you feel if the Twins got a decent arm for Burdi and Bard last off-season?

 

Prospects have their expiration dates unfortunately, and they are not always as good as advertised.Ask Delmon Young.

    • USAFChief, Riverbrian, tarheeltwinsfan and 4 others like this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Dec 27 2017 04:04 PM

If the Twins cannot sign Darvish, I would ignore the next level (Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn) as all three would mean losing a second round draft pick. 

 

I'd set my sights on Jason Vargas. A lefty, with the Royals last year, he won 18 games, even though his ERA was above 4.00.  The Royals paid him $32 m over 4 years; entering his age 35 season, we could get him maybe for three years for $18 m?

 

Not as big a splash as landing Darvish, but it would help. The Twins should want a top pitcher like Darvish, but if they cannot land him, they should keep looking. There are other good fish in the MLB sea.

 

 

 

 

    • h2oface, blindeke, laloesch and 2 others like this
You sign Lynn or Cobb. Period! They are the same relative age, or younger. They might not be as good, but they are good. They are also less expensive and STILL move the needle for a better rotation, a better staff, and thus, a stronger team overall.

This is an absolute no brainer to me. You shoot for the stars and settle for the moon if you have to. But you still got off the ground and past the atmosphere to fly higher than you have in some time.
    • brvama, tarheeltwinsfan and SF Twins Fan like this
Also...i see the FO really wanting to go the FA route and hold on to the farm as much as possible. For now. I feel they are hoarding with the idea of development and promotion, as well as future trades this season and next while stockpiling ammunition.
    • brvama and SF Twins Fan like this

I've though all along that Cobb should have been plan A. I would have offered him 48 mil for 3 years the day they were able to.Look at their (Cobb and Darvish)careers and most recent year and the fact that Cobb was very effective in his first full year after surgery and only looks to get better. I am not one of those that favors strikeout rates over run prevention.Cobb would look great in the rotation and if they got him I would be fine if they were done for the off season. Of course Darvish would be great but you know how many other team's fan posting sites are talking about getting him the same way we have been?

No offense Tom, but I still laugh every time I see how all our competitors have gotten so much better and how the Twins remain stagnant. I've been seeing that same sentiment every year for at least 16 years and in that time we have 6 division titles, a game 163 and a wild card. Instead of 4 last place finishes in that time, we would have at least a dozen judging by how our fans rate the off seasons.There was very little difference in the personnel between 2016 and 2017. The difference in how they played was night and day. I see plenty of room for improvement with batters developing and with Gonsalves, Mejia and May replacing Colon, Santiago and Hughes. I want Cobb or Darvish but the 91 Twins went into the season with Tapani, Erickson and Knoblach as question marks.I don't mind going in with a few question marks as long as there is potential there and I think there is. I guess if we don't get Darvish, Lynn or Cobb I pick option 3 and feel just fine about it. 

    • gil4 and TL like this

Am I the only one, or are others also real uneasy with giving Darvish lots of years and dollars? I probably shouldn't form an opinion based on a couple games in the World Series, but he really was awful.

Hopefully, there was something ailing him and they know why he wasn't at least competitive.


FWIW, Darvish was great in the NLDS and NLCS, so I am not sure his WS performance should be too concerning. And 2017 was his first full year back from Tommy John, so it makes some sense that he could fade at the very end. And as a divisional opponent, the Astros had seen him a lot the past few years, so they were in perhaps the best position to take advantage.

Darvish has been very good vs the Yankees in his career, which is nice. No guarantee we face them in the playoffs every year, but it would be more comforting to have Yu take the hill in such a situation than Ervin.
    • Carole Keller, USAFChief, Mike Sixel and 4 others like this

Cobb needs to get his ego in check before he signs. 20 million per season expectation is about to cost him a spot in Chicagos rotation.


Keep in mind Ervin initially asked for $20 mil per year too, and a guy like Mike Leake has actually gotten $16 mil annually, Samardzija $18 mil. Probably not outlandish for Cobb to be asking for $20 mil at this point, he can come down a bit when he finds a reasonable match with a willing partner. No sense lowering his demands if teams aren't even prepared to commit, waiting out Darvish.
    • markos and Sconnie like this

I'm ok with lowering our aim if we can't land Darvish (which admittedly will be tough, the competition is significant)...just not too far. I'm not all that excited about spending on depth guys for the rotation. If we can't improve the top end of our staff through free agency/trade, I'd rather stay internal next year and give some of our guys in the minors a shot rather than get a veteran back-end guy. Honestly...we have a few of those. (The Tease, aka Kyle Gibson, Mejia, Hughes...that's enough options for the back-end right there along with possibly May, Gonsalves, Jorge, and/or Romero competing for a slot. Heck, we could still bring back Santiago.)

 

I'm not interested in sell mode. We've got 2 young stars already in the every day lineup (Buxton & Sano) and other young pieces around them (Kepler & Rosario) that could take another step forward. We have veterans with value around them as well (Dozier, Mauer, Castro) which makes for a potent offense and quality defense. Selling off Ervin or Dozier would have to bring a bonanza with players ready to step in almost immediately, and I don't see anyone likely to make that offer. Other teams have tried to lowball us on Dozier before, and with him closer to free agency his perceived value will drop even further. We're much better off keeping him.

 

Now, making a deal that pushes Robbie Grossman aside? I can live with that. he was a nice find offensively off the scrap heap, but let's not pretend he's a quality starter. I'm not holding a spot worrying about getting Grossman some playing time and if we can get a guy like Cruz, who would be a big offensive boost (even if he probably can't play OF unless it's interleague), I'd explore the heck out of it. McCutchen would be even better, letting us mix & match in the OF but the haul required to get him out of Pittsburgh might be too high; they'll overvalue him based on past performance and his popularity with the fan base, something I can understand. If we can get him for a couple of mid-level prospects, though? I'd go for it in a heartbeat and platoon him at RF & DH for 140-150 games and hope the extra rest keeps his bat fresh.

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jorgenswest
Dec 27 2017 05:29 PM
From 2015-2017 Lance Lynn has an xFIP of 4.34 and Alex Cobb has an xFIP of 4.26. Kyle Gibson has an xFIP of 4.24 from 2015-2017.

Proceed with caution particularly on Lance Lynn who throws mostly fastballs. He can’t afford any decline in velocity as he ages through this contract.
    • Thrylos, gil4, beckmt and 7 others like this

FWIW, Darvish was great in the NLDS and NLCS, so I am not sure his WS performance should be too concerning. And 2017 was his first full year back from Tommy John, so it makes some sense that he could fade at the very end. And as a divisional opponent, the Astros had seen him a lot the past few years, so they were in perhaps the best position to take advantage.

Darvish has been very good vs the Yankees in his career, which is nice. No guarantee we face them in the playoffs every year, but it would be more comforting to have Yu take the hill in such a situation than Ervin.

Also, rumor has it Darvish was tipping his pitches in the world series that the Astros picked up on.

I value his overall numbers over the recency bias of his last 2 starts.
    • beckmt, Oldgoat_MN, Sconnie and 2 others like this

From 2015-2017 Lance Lynn has an xFIP of 4.34 and Alex Cobb has an xFIP of 4.26. Kyle Gibson has an xFIP of 4.24 from 2015-2017

Well, Cobb and Lynn have histories of ERAs over-performing their FIPs, while Gibson has done the reverse. And of course in each of 2013 and 2014, Cobb and Lynn matched or bettered Gibson's career best season, so ignoring those years skews your sample.

(And while "last 3" seems a logical recent sample, it is unfair to Cobb who missed virtually all of 2015 and 2016. It is basically a one season sample for him -- not clear whether the higher FIP than his career rate is really a trend or just a blip. It is certainly not a trend supported by 3 seasons worth of data yet.)
    • Mike Sixel, gil4 and SF Twins Fan like this

 

How would you feel if the Twins got a decent arm for Burdi and Bard last off-season?

 

Prospects have their expiration dates unfortunately, and they are not always as good as advertised.Ask Delmon Young.

 

I would have been opposed to that. Trading prospects for 1 year rentals when coming off a terrible season, is awful strategy. 

    • mikelink45 likes this

 

Sano, Buxton, Kepler,and Rosario are under team Control through 2021, with Berrios and Polanco under team control through 2022. All six of those guys are still very young and progressing up the learning curve, which in my mind gives the Twins a 3-year window of opportunity of 2019 - 2021. You've also got Romero, Gonsalves, and Gordon in the minors that could meaningfully contribute during that window.

The Twins could and should extend a number of those players soon. The window can grow.

    • howieramone2, SF Twins Fan and caninatl04 like this

 

If the Twins cannot sign Darvish, I would ignore the next level (Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn) as all three would mean losing a second round draft pick. 

 

A pick like a Kohl Stewart, or Levi Michael, or Alex Wimmer, or Tyler Jay, or Klye Cody! (some were even first rounders!) Such important picks. I think the draft pick is the least of the concerns in regard to getting a good MLB pitcher that is desperately needed. Much less risk in a MLB proven pitcher than hoping that some pick will ever make it.

    • Mike Sixel, Sconnie, kellyvance and 5 others like this

 

I think if you connect dots the Twins include Sano in a trade for Archer, then sign Napoli to replace power lost, let Escobar handle 3B or sign one. .....

Why would the Twins do this? If we were going to trade Sano (which i'm quite certain we aren't), I'm pretty sure we'd be putting together a package to get someone better than Archer. You really want to trade Sano for a 28 year old pitcher who has put up a 4 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and was worth 3 WAR combined over the last two years?

I don't understand people talking about a rebuild.Five of our eight every day starters are young, very young.The core of a team is in place for a long time.Yes, we need to add some parts around it, but starting a rebuild just doesn't make sense.

    • Riverbrian, adjacent, KGB and 6 others like this
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jorgenswest
Dec 27 2017 07:25 PM

Well, Cobb and Lynn have histories of ERAs over-performing their FIPs, while Gibson has done the reverse. And of course in each of 2013 and 2014, Cobb and Lynn matched or bettered Gibson's career best season, so ignoring those years skews your sample.
(And while "last 3" seems a logical recent sample, it is unfair to Cobb who missed virtually all of 2015 and 2016. It is basically a one season sample for him -- not clear whether the higher FIP than his career rate is really a trend or just a blip. It is certainly not a trend supported by 3 seasons worth of data yet.)

2013-2014 is a long time ago to try to project a pitcher’s 2018-2021. I wonder how much weight the Twins should give those seasons. It isn’t about fairness to Cobb. His significant injury shouldn’t be a positive in projecting forward. You really only have his 2017 that is useful.

As for Lynn, entering 2017 his FIP and ERA were essentially identical over his career previous to the injury. His xFIP was greater than his ERA but not significantly greater. It was 2017 data that caused the imbalance. Since it was 2017, an organization has to at least wonder whether his skill level post injury is closer to his ERA or peripherals. Teams going beyond 4/50 are really gambling that ERA is the better projector for the future. That isn’t usually the case.

 

As for Lynn, entering 2017 his FIP and ERA were essentially identical over his career previous to the injury. His xFIP was greater than his ERA but not significantly greater. It was 2017 data that caused the imbalance. Since it was 2017, an organization has to at least wonder whether his skill level post injury is closer to his ERA or peripherals. Teams going beyond 4/50 are really gambling that ERA is the better projector for the future. That isn’t usually the case.

 

There is a reason the Cardinals are making no effort to resign Lynn, and I can't believe it is just $. I trust they know best.

    • beckmt, SF Twins Fan, Tom Froemming and 1 other like this

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