State of the Twins - Pitching Rotation edition
Posted by John Olson , 14 February 2018 · 1,008 views
State of the Twins - Starting Rotation
Baseball is back. Pitchers and catchers have reported to the Twins Spring Training site in Fort Myers, along with a sprinkling of position players - including Joe Mauer, who we can only suspect is in "the best shape of his life" at this point in his career. All jokes aside, the 2018 season is just around the corner and it doesn't come without some question marks, most notably, the state of the starting rotation.
If you're a regular to Twins Daily, or follow the Twins social media outlets, Ervin Santana's injured finger will put him on the shelf for 10-12 weeks and has been widely reported. Santana, 2017 Twins Opening Day starter and All Star, will likely miss the entire opening month of the 2018 season while recovering from this injury. By my estimation, that would put breakout star from the 2017 season Jose Berrios in line for the Opening Day start and the defacto number one starting pitcher to start the year.
With few "locks" in the rotation, Santana, Berrios and Kyle Gibson likely being the only three starters guaranteed a starting spot, that leaves a quandary for the remaining two starting jobs - and in all reality, with Santana's injury, 3 starting jobs.
The Twins entered the post season with the goal of addressing a few areas, starting pitching and the bullpen being of primary concern. While they addressed the bullpen - Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zack Duke being added via free agency this winter, the only starting pitcher add was Michael Pineda. While I love the addition of Pineda - I believe there could be a huge potential for value there, post-Tommy John for the former Yankee/Mariner - he is not projected to be available until late summer, perhaps even September at the earliest. So, for all intents and purposes, his 2 year deal is focused on potential value in the 2019 season and perhaps the 2018 playoffs.
The Twins primary target in this offseason free agent market, Yu Darvish, signed a 6 year/ $126 Million dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs. Reportedly the Twins were not willing to extend an offer past 5 years, and while it hasn't been confirmed (to my knowledge) I assume the AAV offered by the Twins was comparable to what he received from the Cubs. I won't beat a dead horse, at this point Darvish is off the table, and while I personally felt the Twins should have done everything feasible to sign Darvish (including a 6th year, opt out clause, no trade/limited no trade, incentives, etc.) I, obviously, am not privy to the details of what the Twins offered. Read: Twins may have done all of that, Darvish may have just preferred Chicago over everyone else.
So, where does that leave us? Well, there was always an opportunity for in-house competition for the 5th starting pitching spot, we'll start there. Phil Hughes, off of his second rib surgery, will be in the mix, along with a post-Tommy John Trevor May. Among those who had a cup of coffee in the majors last year, Aaron Slegers and probably to a lesser extent Felix Jorge, and exciting young pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero and Zach Littell. Adalbuerto Mejia, who had a fairly up and down 2017, also projects to be competing for a spot - he would be the lone left hander in the rotation, with his experience in 2017 and flashes of ability, I expect him to be among the favorites.
The Twins have expressed interest in a few of the remaining free agent pitchers left on the market, including Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb - and also have been loosely connected to Jake Arrieta, though Lavelle E. Neil reported the chances of signing Arrieta were "remote". I would dare say by remote, he means 'snowballs chance in Hades'. I've been wrong before, though. They have also been reportedly interested in the next tier of free agent pitchers - Jaime Garcia, Jason Hammel, Jason Vargas and (I hope its a 'take a flier' kind of interest...) Chris Tillman.
Any of those starting pitchers would improve the depth of the starting rotation, only Arrieta would truly provide anything more than a "number 3" type pitcher. Even so, Arrieta at this point in his career, mileage on his arm and truly Phil Hughesian decrease in velocity from 2016 to 2017 (both had a decrease in FB velocity of 2 MPH) he slots better as a number 2 starter. Optimally, signing both Lynn and Cobb to free agent contracts would solidify a Twins rotation. Arrieta would likely require as much, or more, money to sign than Lynn and Cobb combined - he reportedly turned down a Cubs offer that matched or close to matching the $126 Million they gave Darvish, also he is represented by Scott Boras. Signing any of the Garcia-Hammel-Vargas tier would be a solid move for depth in the back end of the rotation, all are very capable of being serviceable 4/5's.
Aside from free agency, the Twins offered a formal trade package to the Tampa Bay Rays for Chris Archer. Its hard to say how serious the offer was, or what was included - much speculation had Max Kepler as a primary piece - but Archer is probably the most sought after trade target in baseball. I would suspect any offer the Twins made that didn't include Royce Lewis, Byron Buxton or Jose Berrios was probably a non-starter for the Rays - that said, including any of those names for the Twins would be... well it would be very, very stupid. Jake Odorizzi is also on the Twins radar. I, personally am not excited to part with any highly regarded prospect for Odorizzi, and certainly not for Max Kepler.
Potential targets for the Twins could include pitchers Colin McHugh (Astros), Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays), Julio Teheran (Braves), Sean Manaea (A's), among several others. Stroman is more or less in the same boat as Archer, it would take a very solid offer (and a crowbar) to pry him from the Blue Jays. McHugh, in all fairness this pick was inspired by conversation had by Brandon Warne and Ryan Turnquist on their 'Locked on Twins' podcast, may be the odd man out of the rotation/swing-man situation in Houston - he might be a great under the radar pickup in trade. Fangraphs projections actually have him putting up better ERA/FIP and K/9 numbers in 2018 than all current projected Twins starters. Julio Teheran is another interesting target, and I plan on elaborating more on both him and McHugh in a later article.
Thank you to all who made it to the end, I appreciate every reader. My intention here on Twins Daily is to upload at least one blog article a week on various topics Twins related, and if you have any suggestions, thoughts or comments please feel free to share them! I can also be found on Twitter @four_six_three if you enjoy more Twins related topics!
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