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Thrylos

One Starting Pitcher the Twins should target in a trade

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Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
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A week ago, I looked at the available starting pitchers who are free agents and I distilled the long list to three names who the Twins should target this off-season. The premise is that other than Alex Meyer and maybe Kyle Gibson, the Twins do not have any "sure bets" for the top of their rotation for next season and the near future that will coincide with the coming of age of uber prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. So, in order to compete in 2014 and not to waste that future, the Twins need three starting pitchers better than Kevin Correia and Kyle Gibson (today) who will hold the 2 last spots in the Twins' rotation for 2014. These pitchers should be young enough to be around at least for 3 years, maybe longer. The two other criteria I used to trim the free agent list, in addition to age (31 next season or younger) were characteristics sorely missed by the Twins' rotations since Johan Santana's and Fransisco Liriano's departure and injury and eventual departure: Hard throwing (FB 92 mph or better) and striking people out (K/9 8 or better.) I also excluded pitchers in rehab or mostly in the minors or in foreign leagues in 2013. From the list of 54 free agent pitchers, ended up with an "A" list of five names who meet the criteria and a "B" list of four names who meet some of the criteria.

However it is unlikely that the Twins will get 3 free agent pitchers and there is a good opportunity to acquire a pitcher who would had been in the A list (and fairly on the top of the list), were he a free agent. There have been thoughts ranging from rumors to dreams about the Twins trading with the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello (who potentially is available, and is young enough, but his fastball is too slow and does not strike enough people out to even make the "B" list) or with the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey (who has enough characteristics to make the "A" list, but likely will cost someone like Alex Meyer to acquire, which defeats the purpose) or even with the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price (who would like will cost the farm, and a bit more.)

Who is the mystery pitcher and what would it take for the Twins to acquire him?

The Twins need to start thinking about selling high (without destroying the team) and buying low. Unfortunately this front office has not been utilizing the practice well recently, from the Willingham non-trade after a career season, to the clearance sale of Frasisco Liriano (who was an ace for the Pirates last season) to the giving up of Delmon Young, Kevin Slowey and Jim Thome (whom the Philies eventually "flipped" to the Orioles for 2 C prospects.)

The proposed trade is Brian Dozier, Casey Fien and Darin Mastroianni to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija.

Why would the Twins want this trade?

Samardzija is 29 years old, listed at 6'5" and 225 lbs, is arbitration eligible and under team control for the next 2 years (estimated 2014 award and affordable $5 million), has top of the rotation stuff (94 mph FB average and K/9 around or higher than 9 the past 3 seasons; as far as our criteria go) is durable (175 and 214 IP the last 2 seasons) and (the buy low part) has a negative W-L ratio and ERA in the 4s, which is not top of the rotation results. Given that his xFIP is about a full point lower than his ERA, his SIERA is 3.60 and his xPE (19.8) in the number 2 starter range, his actual results are lower than his potential and were likely influenced by the Cubs' bad defense and their horrible for pitchers ballpark.

Twenty eight year old Brian Dozier is coming from a career season that has cemented him in the minds of many as the Twins' second baseman of the future who should make the Twins move 22 year old Eddie Rosario back to the outfield, but it is unlikely sustainable, thus the sell high. Dozier's season with the bat, even though it seems Ruthian among the Twins' hitters, was a league average .726 OPS, resulting from a .244/.312/.414 slash line, that propelled his OPS to average because of SLG%. His SLG% was influence by a ridiculous HR/FB rate that is not sustainable. Drop is SLG% a conservative 30 points and a .244/.312/.384 (with a .696 OPS) does not look quite Ruthian. Prime candidate for regression. Sell high. Twenty five year old Eduardo Escobar, who quietly had a stellar 2013 AAA campaign and is repeating it in the Venezuela Winter League, can be an immediate replacement with potential shift to short stop when Eddio Rozario is deemed ready (as soon as September of 2014).

Thirty year old Casey Fien who in the mind of some is a prime candidate for the right hand set up man (and Gardenhire used him in that role partially last season), is the poster boy for selling high; his peak was before the All-Star break (and the Twins lost the opportunity to trade him at the deadline before he regressed) but still has some sell high potential. I have explained the reasons to sell high on Fien here then, and they stand, albeit the attractiveness slightly reduced. The Twins have plenty of pitchers including Michael Tonkin who will replace Fien with potentially better results.

Why Mastroianni? Because the 28 year old's future with the Twins as a defensive replacement/pinch runner/fourth outfielder was nulled when the Twins acquired 25 year old Ryan Pressly and might be the sweetener for the deal for the Cubs.

Why would the Cubs want the trade?

Samardzija has shown flashed of brilliance but has not really translated the potential and expectations into actual wins. There is pressure to win in Chicago and the clock is winding down for the new Front Office leadership to produce a winner in a division where the Reds, the Cardinals and now the Pirates provide tremendous competition. Thus the Cubs might soon be in "win-now" mode and spending some real money in free agency. Second base was a black hole in production last season. Dozier who will likely sustain his high HR/FB rates in Wrigley will help close that and continue with his stellar defense. The pen was a mess and Casey Fien, with a little bit of continuation of his luck will help them fix. Their outfield, especially centerfield was very inconsistent. Mastroianni can hold down centerfield in late innings for them. Also, last but not least, all 3 players are under club control for 5 years and would cost only about league minimum the first 2, helping the Cubs focus that money towards the acquisition of costly free agents

Is it a fair trade?

On first look, 5 years (2 at minimum wage) of each of Brian Dozier, Darin Mastroianni and Casey Fien for the last 2 arbitration years of Jeff Samardzija seem like a slam dunk for the Cubs. However, the Twins are buying low and selling high, making this a fair trade for both teams

Just in case this happens, for the Twins' fans: The D, Z and I in Samardzija's name (whose nickname is "Shark) are silent, and pronounced Sah-MAR-jah

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Comments

  1. twinsfan34's Avatar
    Cheaper than Price by a mile. I Like Samardzija. But I can't see the Cubs parting with him for less than at least 1 top 30 prospect (Buxton, Sano, Meyer) or 2 in the top 100 (Rosario, Stewart). The Cubs have an awesome farm system, tons of international flyers, and are looking at being a serious contender via the farm system come 2016 and beyond.
    Updated 11-13-2013 at 08:51 AM by twinsfan34
  2. Thrylos's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34
    Cheaper than Price by a mile. I Like Samardzija. But I can't see the Cubs parting with him for less than at least 1 top 30 prospect or 2 in the top 100. The Cubs have an awesome farm system, tons of international flyers, and are looking at being a serious contender via the farm system come 2016 and beyond.
    Here is what I think about this, esp. when comparing Dozier to a top prospect like Rozario as far as trade value goes:

    They both have about the same years of club control. Unlike Rozario, Dozier has proven himself (whatever that means) in the majors and I think he has more value. Those 5 years of club control will coincide with his prime and he will be there for the future. Rozario is an excellent prospect, but still unproven. That's why I think that Dozier is more valuable than a top 30 prospect. He can start at second base tomorrow
  3. twinsin17's Avatar
    If the Cubbies trade Samardzija it would surely require top end pitching prospects in return, effectively ruling the Twins out of the mix. Their issues are similar to our own. I do like the idea of TR doing some wheeling and dealing this winter, though. Personally I feel our best bet to add pitching is signing unremarkable veteran free agent inning eaters to hold us over while drafting high end pitching prospects and developing our solid core of pitchers currently in rookie/low A ball. When TR said "there are no shortcuts" I think this is what he meant.
  4. twinscowboysbulls's Avatar
    I like the Samardzija idea, he and Mauer could throw around the pigskin on off days as well. I think we would have to up the offer a tish to get that done.
  5. twinsfan34's Avatar
    I think your reasoning is right. Love the "whatever that means"...part too.

    Dozier, love the guy. Great clubhouse guy, ethics, leadership, and adds some pop as a 2B.

    874 ABs...he's hit .240. I wonder how many guys after that many at-bats have improved their AVG by even...say .030 pts? (.270) Or what's the likelihood he even gets to .260?

    I almost think the Cubs are more into potential right now. And do they move Castro over with Baez coming up (possible Opening Day Starter to late May call up) or just scrap Castro altogether? The news stories (and the benchings) seem so down on the guy. He's only 23 though.
  6. ashburyjohn's Avatar
    I like this reasoning too, particularly the two throw-ins of the deal. Mastro (though I love him like a son - he was my 2012 TD adoptee ) is barely above waiver-wire fodder and if a team considers him a sweetener I gladly include him. Fien is a guy who, when I think ahead to possible playoff games, doesn't seem like one of the pitchers who drives the other team nuts when you roll out three guys to suffocate their seventh-inning rally.

    You have to give up talent to get talent, and Dozier as the key piece to get a good pitcher is a reasonable choice. And I am all for bundling multiple players to get an upgrade, in contrast to recent Twins history of trading one guy and getting two "maybes" in return.
  7. howieramone's Avatar
    King Theo is a Ryan clone. He'll want Berrios and Thorpe.
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