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Article: Twins Need To Be Buyers Next Winter

jake arrieta yu darvish johnny cueto masahiro tanaka
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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:05 PM

The Gophers are (correction, were) in the Big Dance, the Wild are Stanley Cup contenders, even the Timberwolves are fighting for a playoff berth and 35,000 fans recently attended the first Major League Soccer game in Minnesota.

The Twins, meanwhile, have averaged 94 losses the past six seasons, haven't won a single playoff game since 2004 and are expected to post another losing record in the season ahead. Opening Day is right around the corner, and they're essentially an afterthought in the Minnesota sports scene.Something drastic will need to be done in order to keep this team relevant. The front office turnover made some waves, but it was followed by a typically quiet offseason for the Twins. To be fair, with a free agent pitching class "headlined" by Rich Hill and Ivan Nova, this wasn't the winter to make a huge signing.

Next offseason it'll be a different story, however, and the Twins should be in a great position to make a big splash. Can't imagine the Pohlad's approving a marquee signing? Well, they have very little money tied up beyond 2018, so there should be plenty of room in the budget. The only guys signed through the 2019 season are Phil Hughes ($13.2M), Jason Castro ($8M) and ByungHo Park ($3M).



So without further ado, let's play my favorite game: Spend the Pohlad Family's Money!

MLB Trade Rumors released its top 10 free agents for the 2017-18 off season this week, and the class looks to be flush with starting pitching. The list is topped by Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Johnny Cueto and Masahiro Tanaka. It's worth noting that both Cueto and Tanaka would have to opt out of their current contracts to become free agents, and it's possible between now and then one of those top guys signs an extension.

None of those big four free agents has even turned 32 yet, with 28-year-old Tanaka being the youngest. Arrieta was a Cy Young winner in 2015 and both Darvish (2013) and Cueto (2014) have a runner-up finish for the award. I'm drooling just at the thought of any one of these guys in a Twins jersey, but each of them will command a hefty salary and all have some questions to answer in 2017.

Arrieta looked human from June on last season, posting a 4.05 ERA, then had a 3.63 ERA in the playoffs. There are some durability concerns with both of the Japanese imports, but at least we know Darvish's UCL has been repaired. Tanaka had an elbow injury in 2014, but he elected to forego surgery. Seems to have worked out for him, but that arm could be a ticking time bomb. Cueto has been a workhorse, but his underwhelming run with Kansas City in 2015 may cause AL teams to shy away.

But even beyond that impressive foursome, is yet another group of less tantalizing, yet still intriguing names. Chris Tillman, Micheal Pineda and Alex Cobb are among that next tier, and could dramatically improve their stock this season. Here's a quick look at the numbers:

LAST THREE SEASONS
Arrieta: 2.42 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 2.55 BB/9
Darvish: 3.20 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 11.55 K/9, 2.94 BB/9
Cueto: 2.80 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.21 K/9, 2.08 BB/9
Tanaka: 3.12 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 8.18 K/9, 1.54 BB/9
Tillman: 3.99 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.68 K/9, 3.19 BB/9
Pineda: 4.10 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 1.77 BB/9
Cobb: 3.54 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 2.58 BB/9

Assuming the 2017 Twins put the worst season in franchise history behind them and look to be playoff contenders in 2018, which of these guys would you prefer? Would you pay top dollar, or wait out the market to see if there's a bargain? Or do you avoid free agency all together?

Is it too early to be speculating on such things? Absolutely, but c'mon, let's have some fun.

The guy I'd personally most like to see would be Darvish, and perhaps having Thad Levine around could be helpful in landing the strikeout machine. Levine was with the Rangers when they signed Darvish out of Japan, so he likely knows a thing or two about what makes the big righty tick.

Even if the Twins can scrounge up the $150 or so million it'll cost to sign one of the top flight guys like Darvish, will they even want to come to Minnesota, or take less to play for a World Series contender?

That's where Derek Falvey is going to have to earn his salary. Between now and next winter, he will need to get the franchise in good enough shape to be able to convincingly tell free agents "this team will be in the playoffs next season."

The front office was apparently unable to deliver that message to Mike Napoli, who took less money and a shorter commitment to play for the Rangers. Continuing failure to attract free agents is going to result in a continuing failure to attract fan interest.

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#2 Linus

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:16 PM

I would be the GM that TD hates. I would rarely if ever spend big money on a free agent. Instead I would plow that money into scouting and international signings. Scott Bowman kept the Canadiens dynasty alive by trading popular productive players before they hit their decline. Free agency is mostly fools gold.

#3 Tom Froemming

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:43 PM

 

I would be the GM that TD hates. I would rarely if ever spend big money on a free agent. Instead I would plow that money into scouting and international signings. Scott Bowman kept the Canadiens dynasty alive by trading popular productive players before they hit their decline. Free agency is mostly fools gold.

You're right, the majority of free agent contracts turn out poorly, and if the Twins are going to be a long-term success it'll be by development, not spending. But making a big investment on an established player would be just as much about the Twins trying to gain some credibility as anything else.

 

A ton of casual fans think very strongly that the Pohlads are greedy, and they're frustrated with the lack of talent since Target Field opened. It's going to take a lot to win those fans back. I don't agree with that stance, but the Twins need to realize that perception is out there and do something about it.

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#4 Thrylos

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:47 PM

For sure the Twins will be buyers next off-season.Mainly for front office types and coaches and managers at every level of the organization. Couple of SPs too. Maybe

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#5 SF Twins Fan

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:48 PM

Arrieta: 2.42 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 2.55 BB/9
Darvish: 3.20 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 11.55 K/9, 2.94 BB/9
Cueto: 2.80 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.21 K/9, 2.08 BB/9
Tanaka: 3.12 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 8.18 K/9, 1.54 BB/9
Tillman: 3.99 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.68 K/9, 3.19 BB/9

Pineda: 4.10 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 1.77 BB/9
Cobb: 3.54 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 2.58 BB/9

 

I would target Darvish, Pineda and Cobb.  I'm not a fan of most pitchers who put up great numbers in the NL with zero success in the AL.  Darvish and Pineda both have the K/9 I'd like to see the Twins target and Cobb is intriguing because he had good numbers prior to his injury. 

Edited by SF Twins Fan, 16 March 2017 - 08:51 PM.

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#6 TheLeviathan

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:54 PM

 

I would be the GM that TD hates. I would rarely if ever spend big money on a free agent. Instead I would plow that money into scouting and international signings. Scott Bowman kept the Canadiens dynasty alive by trading popular productive players before they hit their decline. Free agency is mostly fools gold.

 

Yup....this.  I'd spend some in FA, but not the drunken sailor spending that some want.

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#7 D.C Twins

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:54 PM

"Next offseason it'll be a different story, however, and the Twins should be in a great position to make a big splash. Can't imagine the Pohlad's approving a marquee signing? Well, they have very little money tied up beyond 2018, so there should be plenty of room in the budget."

 

Fortunately we have history to guide us. We have had "plenty of room in the budget" in the past (see early years of Target Field) without any big FA signing.

 

Having said that, I actually agree with pumping money into scouting and development to build a foundation for lasting success. 

 

If we are wishing on stars, I also agree with Darvish based on your list

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#8 Blake

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 08:55 PM

Drat, I have to put on my serious hat. Here goes:

 

The Twins only spend in the FA market if they're only a piece or two short of putting together a playoff contender. This is the year a lot of the youngsters need to show they have what it takes to produce in the big leagues.

 

If the Twins pitching falls on its face again, then the solution is not just a pitcher from the FA market. One pitcher does not make a staff.

 

/serious hat off.

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#9 Rosterman

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:02 PM

The big question is where are the Twins heding with offense players like Buxton, Kepler, Polanco, Sano, Rosario plus pitchers like Gonsalves, Berrios, Stewart and whomever else is in the mix. Will ANY of these guys fail, or be a longterm bargain, or do you also ry and trde them. Who is pushing any of these guys for a job. Right now,the Twins even seem to lack trdaing depth in the minor leagues if they wish to depend on growing from within. So the alternative is strictly to spend money, and probably spend big and hope you can move that BIG contract mid-term.

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#10 Pardon My Dinger

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:04 PM

Just me, or at the Darvish numbers inflated a bit by weak AL West opponents. I mean, I've seen him pitch. It's beautiful. Just being cautious.
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#11 Tom Froemming

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:09 PM

 

Drat, I have to put on my serious hat. Here goes:

 

The Twins only spend in the FA market if they're only a piece or two short of putting together a playoff contender. This is the year a lot of the youngsters need to show they have what it takes to produce in the big leagues.w

 

If the Twins pitching falls on its face again, then the solution is not just a pitcher from the FA market. One pitcher does not make a staff.

 

/serious hat off.

If you're only going to spend once you think you have a shot ... you may never get to the point where you think you have a shot. Also, it's not like you're not signing these guys to one-year deals, either. I think we'd all agree that the Twins should have a good window of competition while as all these young guys get into their prime and are still cheap.

 

When the Cubs signed Jon Lester, they'd lost 101, 98 & 89 games the previous three seasons. They felt like at some point over the seven-year deal they would be contenders (think it turned out to be sooner than even they expected). Sometimes it pays off to get started in building up a team a year early, especially if there's a strong market.

 

There's also an outside possibility Japanese ace Sho Otani gets posted next offseason, so it could be completely bonkers it terms of pitching talent (or everyone could sign extensions between then and now, who knows).

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#12 beckmt

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:12 PM

That is why I have advocated finding out what the youngsters have.From the list I like Cobb. I feel Darvish will cost too much, and too much downside in the backend of the contract.

Top end will cost too much so think Twins will take a pass. 

Twins staff should improve going forward, so thinking it will fall on its face in an error, unless the staff that starts this year in the majors does.

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#13 ThejacKmp

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:17 PM

This is a complete and utter aside. Want to admit that from the front. but . . .

 

I've heard people talk about "the Twins not winning a playoff games since 2004" before and it bothers me. It is just too negative for my taste. Those Twins teams in the mid oughts may not have won a game but they were super competitive in those series. They played the Yanks and A's super close and lost games in heartbreaking fashion. Those weren't bad teams indicative of fluke success - they were teams that ended up on the negative side of postseason luck.

 

We live in a wild card era where teams not winning a playoff game is more indicative of not really being a postseason team. The Twins teams from 2007-2009 were true playoff caliber teams and deserve to be recognized as such.

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#14 ThejacKmp

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:25 PM

Also the Timberwolves are fighting for a playoff berth the way Leonardo DiCaprio was gambling for a seat on the Titanic. They're 4 games out with 15 to go and even if they got a good hand and made the playoffs, they'd be slaughtered by the iceberg (Golden State/San Antonio). More accurately, they're 11/15 in the West.

 

You can rip on the Twins success all you want but using the Timberwolves as proof is ridiculous. The Twins have been to the playoffs more recently than the Timberwolves and the Wolves play in a league where 53% (16/30) teams make the playoffs compared to 33% (10/30) in MLB. The Twins have also come closer (2015) than the Wolves have since Ricky Rubio was 18 and playing in Spain.

 

And that 2015 year (when the Twins narrowly missed the playoffs) was closer to a World Series championship than EVERY SINGLE YEAR the Timberwolves have played except 2003. No other Timberwolves team had even the smallest of chances of reaching the Western Conference Finals, let alone the Big Dance. MLB playoffs are as random as anything this side of who's-goalie-is-hotter hockey.

 

Baseball is a different beast than basketball. Let's not compare sports.

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#15 snepp

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:27 PM

 

Just me, or at the Darvish numbers inflated a bit by weak AL West opponents. I mean, I've seen him pitch. It's beautiful. Just being cautious.

 

Most of his worst numbers are against the A's and Mariners, while some of his best are against the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays.

 

fwiw

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#16 ThejacKmp

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:29 PM

The track record of pitchers signing 5+ year deals at 30 is ridiculous. Twins Daily should riot if the Twins make that kind of a choice at the end of 2016. This is not a team with a 2 year window, this is a team that is 2 years from having a 5 year window. This offseason we should be taking gambles on the next Arrieta, not paying up the wazoo for the current Arrieta. 

 

Could not disagree more with this "spending spree".

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#17 Brandon Warne

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:37 PM

Rather they really go crazy in two offseasons for Machado or Harper. Position players....!

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#18 ThejacKmp

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:40 PM

 

When the Cubs signed Jon Lester, they'd lost 101, 98 & 89 games the previous three seasons. They felt like at some point over the seven-year deal they would be contenders (think it turned out to be sooner than even they expected). Sometimes it pays off to get started in building up a team a year early, especially if there's a strong market.

 

The Cubs were a totally different team. They had a braintrust that had spent those past three years (not three months, three YEARS) specifically accumulating position player talent (including the ballsy-at-the-time drafting of Schwarber, a guy without a position who could hit like hell). They knew they had a market that could support 2-3 long contracts on free agent starting pitchers so they explicitly eschewed drafting pitching (the most volatile of stocks) to draft projectable position players. Arrieta was a gamble that extended their window and made their current budget less stretched but they were a team that planned on buying pitching at some point. Very little of their pitching is homegrown, it's a benefit for being in a big market,

 

That's just not the Twins. They're a different market of team with very different priorities. Let's recognize the stratum of MLB franchises -- the Cubs are closer to the Yankees than they are to the Twins. Ugh.

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#19 USAFChief

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 10:08 PM

I think refusing to compete for the best ML free agents is a mistake. No different than chosing not to pursue other talent, such as trades or int'l free agents. It's self limiting and short sighted.
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#20 S.

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 10:46 PM

Don't forget about Shohei Otani, who may be coming to the MLB in 2018. Granted, I don't really expect us to be in play on him, but if we're going to discuss the possibility of really opening up that checkbook, he's definitely worth including in the conversation.

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