Why a Julio Teheran Trade Makes Sense for the Twins
Posted by Andrew Thares , 06 February 2018 · 2,285 views
rounding third julio teheran
It is no question that the Twins top priority this offseason remains on signing free agent Yu Darvish. However, as the season nears, they may need to shift their focus towards an alternative option to fill an open spot in their rotation, especially now that Ervin Santana is expected to miss the first month of the season after having surgery on the middle finger on his right hand.
There is a lot of speculation that the Twins will sign one of the other remaining free agent starters if they fail to land Darvish. While many of the available starters are quality pitchers, there isn’t a lot of long term upside to any of them, as they are all on the wrong side of 30.
Another option that the Twins have to bolster their rotation would be through a trade. One pitcher many people have speculated about this offseason is Chris Archer. While Archer would be a great addition for the Twins, he will cost them a fortune in terms of prospects. However, there are other pitchers out there on the trade market that the Twins could go after, and one very intriguing pitcher that nobody has been talking about this winter is Atlanta Braves starter Julio Teheran.
Teheran has spent parts of seven seasons pitching for the Braves, but despite that, he just turned 27 in January. On his contract, Teheran still has 2 years and $19M guaranteed, with a third-year team option for $12M. This means that if the Twins trade for Teheran, they will control him during his prime for a lot less money than it would take to sign either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn.
Even though Teheran hasn’t been seriously linked to any trade discussions this offseason, there was a lot of talk before the trade deadline last July about the Braves interest in trading him. Moving Teheran would make a lot of sense for Atlanta, as they are a team that is still a year or two away from contention and could add to their already deep farm system.
For the Twins, Julio Teheran would be an ideal candidate to slide into their rotation. Teheran has shown that he is durable, as he has pitched at least 185 innings in every season since he became a full-time starter in 2013. He has done this all to the tune of a career 3.59 ERA.
One down side to Teheran is he is coming off a bad 2017, where he posted a career worst 4.49 ERA, and a disheartening 4.96 xFIP. The biggest reason for this drop in performance was his increased walk rate, which jumped up to 3.44 BB/9. From the chart below, you can see that Teheran’s control seems to be the driving factor in his production.
As you can see, if Teheran can control his walk rate he has the ability to be a front of the rotation starter for the Twins. One promising note is, despite the high walk rate, Teheran’s strike percentage didn’t seem to drop off all that much in 2017, as it did in 2015. This is a good sign that perhaps Teheran hasn’t suddenly lost his command, and that he could easily bounce back to form in 2018.
When diving into Teheran’s Statcast numbers, there is some more reason to be optimistic that he will bounce back in 2018. Teheran did a good job last season at not allowing hard contact, by posting an average exit velocity against of 86.3 MPH. This ranked just ahead of pitchers like Chris Sale, Zack Greinke and Carlos Martinez who were all at 86.4 MPH.
In 2017, Teheran fell victim to pitching in front of the terrible Atlanta Braves defense. Last season, the Braves ranked 27th in Major League Baseball with -43 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). A move to the Twins, who had +17 DRS last year, would be a big upgrade for Teheran.
A big portion of that upgrade would be in the outfield, where the Braves finished 2017 with -7 Outs Above Average (OAA), while the Twins finished with +31 OAA. This plays right into Teheran’s hands, as he had the 14th highest flyball rate among qualified starters last season.
This poor defense by the Braves goes a long way in explaining why Julio Teheran allowed a 0.334 wOBA last season (0.321 was MLB average), despite his xwOBA (Expected Weighted On-Base Average) of 0.318.
With Teheran coming off of a down season, the Twins will have an opportunity to buy low on a pitcher that has the upside to become the Twins #2 starter, just as he is entering his prime. If he is not able to return to his pre-2017 form, and continues his struggles with his command, Teheran will most likely slot somewhere in the middle or back of the Twins’ rotation.
In either scenario, Teheran would bring the Twins an element of much needed depth to the starting rotation, and could potentially prevent the front office from being forced into calling up one of the prospects before they feel that they are ready.
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