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Article: Best Remaining No-Risk Starters on the Free Agent Market

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 09:24 PM

As we march into mid-January, with spring training suddenly only weeks away, the Twins' roster is coming into focus. Through various avenues, they've supplemented both the offense and the bullpen.

If they are to address the rotation, it's looking less likely they'll do so through a major-league contract. That doesn't necessarily rule out an interesting addition though.The Twins haven't signed a starting pitcher of note this offseason, and haven't really been connected to any via rumors. It's becoming apparent the front office is comfortable with a rotation of Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Adalberto Mejia. That's rational. The first four are clearly viable, and Mejia's out of options. (I wouldn't be surprised if Mejia operated as a "primary pitcher" behind an opener. In fact, it'd surprise me if he didn't.)

What's needed now is depth. They've got some with Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Chase De Jong and others. But they need experience behind the top five. And the way to get it, without having to commit a 40-man spot or guaranteed salary, is a minor-league contract plus spring training invite.

With a sizable pool of free agents remaining, and serious question marks attached to many of them, plenty of starters should be available on non-guaranteed deals. The Twins are in good position to attract such players, offering ample opportunity (Mejia's grip on the fifth job isn't exactly ironclad).

Here are six starting pitchers who may end up having to settle for minor-league contracts, and look like potential good fits for the Twins:

Clay Buchholz, RHP (34)
Buchholz is, to me, exactly the type of pitcher Minnesota should be targeting. He's a talented arm whose only risk point is health. Granted, it's a considerable risk point – he's thrown only 105 total innings over the past two years, and his 2018 ended with a worrisome flexor strain – but before he went down he had a 2.01 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 16 starts for Arizona, and his career numbers are rock solid. If he comes into camp healthy and looking good, he's probably the team's best fifth starter option. If he proves to be damaged goods, nothing hurt.

Marco Estrada, RHP (35)
From 2015-16, Estrada was a fantastic pitcher, posting a 3.30 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 357 innings in the power-packed AL East. In each season he was one of the stingiest starters in the league when it came to allowing hits. He's fallen off over the past two years (5.27 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) and is hitting the market with his stock way down after posting a 7.17 post-break ERA in 2018. While not always healthy, he's been durable enough to throw 128+ innings every year since 2012. Estrada would be nice to have around in the event of a spring training injury in the rotation.

Drew Hutchison, RHP (28)
Once upon a time, Hutchison was considered a premier young pitching talent in the game, debuting at age 21 for Toronto after rocketing through the minors. The righty has snuffed out most of his own intrigue through many seasons of poor performance and injuries, but preserved enough to get chances with three different teams in 2018. He's only 28 and would be an interesting low-risk camp project for new pitching coach Wes Johnson.

Chris Tillman, RHP (30)
Similar deal here. Tillman hasn't shown many promising signs over the past two seasons (8.42 ERA in 120 innings) but from 2012 through 2016 he put up a 3.81 ERA for the Orioles while rarely missing a start. He might be cooked, but what if he's not? What if Wes could help him turn it around?

Josh Tomlin, RHP (34)
Ken Rosenthal reported last week that the Mets were interested in Tomlin on a non-roster deal, but nothing has come to fruition as of yet. If he doesn't go to New York he'd be a logical target for Minnesota, given the Derek Falvey connection (Tomlin has spent the last nine years in Cleveland). The right-hander was brutal last year, and at his best he's merely an average MLB starter, but as a strike-throwing fly ball pitcher he could benefit from the Twins defense.

Ervin Santana, RHP (36)
Reunion? Red Sox reporter Chris Cotillo relayed a month ago that Santana was "drawing widespread interest" but "more likely to sign when he feels he is fully healthy later in winter." Presumably he'll put on a showcase within the next month, and if he looks good he might get a big-league deal. If not, he'd make sense for Minnesota. His 2018 was a loss, but we saw how good Santana could be during the balance of his time here. He would infuse veteran familiarity. Then again, this bridge might be burnt after sourness emerged toward the front office late last season.

There are plenty of other starters on the market who could land on minor-league deals, including Bartolo Colon, Yovani Gallardo, James Shields and Martin Perez. Any of these names interest you? Or do you still feel the club should aim higher on a guaranteed big-league contract?

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#2 TheLeviathan


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Posted 10 January 2019 - 09:54 PM


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#3 Danchat


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Posted 10 January 2019 - 09:59 PM

Buchholz is an intriguing option, but the rest of the guys are the types where you cross your fingers and hope they pitch well. No thanks. If they want to add a starter, I'd look towards the trade market for somebody like Sonny Gray. But methinks the Twins won't be adding a starter until the trade deadline... if they're looking to add pieces, that is.

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#4 Kirbek


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Posted 10 January 2019 - 10:58 PM

I agree with Danchat.Buch is the only option I would like to consider.With payroll so low, go get someone with a high floor.


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#5 darin617


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Posted 10 January 2019 - 11:28 PM

If we have to dumpster dive for a SP why not Wade Miley?

#6 travkro


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Posted 10 January 2019 - 11:50 PM

No thanks...I'd rather roll with one of the young arms and see what they have.

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#7 Otwins


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 12:03 AM

I think the Twins are in a perfect spot to take a chance on one of these guys. Mejia could go to the bullpen for awhile and help there while keeping his innings lower. Give the flyer a chance to prove if he has anything left and if not then Mejia is the fifth starter. Low risk move that the front office seems to like.I would be surprised if it did not happen. And I think it should. Buchholz stands out on this list.I am thinking he may get a major league deal with a lower guarantee and incentives for games or innings.

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#8 Nick Nelson

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 12:31 AM


If we have to dumpster dive for a SP why not Wade Miley?

I believe Miley will require a major-league contract to sign. I'm looking for guys that won't require any commitment – no guaranteed deal, no 40-man roster spot required. All upside, no downside. 


If the Twins aren't getting Keuchel (and let's be honest, they're not), I'm not sure I wanna guarantee anyone else on the market a job over Mejia or Romero. 



No thanks...I'd rather roll with one of the young arms and see what they have.

This isn't an alternative to that. It's about having depth and creating competition for jobs. You want these young guys to earn it, right? Mejia did so over Vogelsong in 2017. Similar concept, except I think these players listed all have more legitimate upside than Vogelsong did. 



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#9 baumannmd


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 06:25 AM

My biggest concern in this rotation, without a pitch being thrown yet, is whether Pineda is healthy and whether he can pitch anything like he did before he got hurt.

The cups of coffee that Romero, Gonsalves, and Stewart got last season were intriguing between ups and downs, but I’m confident we’ve got enough talent there to find someone capable of stepping up.

With all of that in mind, pitchers get hurt. Pitchers struggle. We need to add to this depth, so I think Nick’s options here make sense. Not as your go-to 5th man, but as an insurance policy on Pineda and the rest of the minor league replacements. Obviously, Bucholz looks like the best option of those proposed with a steep drop off after, but these are depth moves. If one of these guys is willing to come to Fort Myers on a minor league deal next month, it’s worth the investment.

Everyone (including myself) laughed at and dismissed Anibal Sanchez’s deal last spring and look what he did.
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#10 wabene



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Posted 11 January 2019 - 07:23 AM

What I don't want to see is a long leash for anybody. That's why this might not be a bad option. Only bring the guy up if he's dealing in AAA. Then if they falter... next.

#11 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 07:26 AM

There is always downside.
He measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.
- J. L. Borges

#12 rdehring


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 08:07 AM

I like Mejia as #5.But rather than using an opener, why not give the bullpen the day off and stack Romero with him.Let Mejia go 4-5 and bring in Romero to close the game with another 4-5.Would keep Romero's innings down to say 130-140 which works with previous year's work loads.

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#13 mikelink45


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 08:08 AM

Romero over Mejia - that is where the upside is.These pitchers are just fillers and if we had a weak rotation in Rochester they would be okay, but we have DeJong, Gonsalves, Littell, Thorpe, and Stewart with Grandal coming up quickly - we do not need fillers. 

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#14 funoka


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 08:29 AM

I would like to see the Twins go after Gio Gonzalez -- Gio usually gives his team a chance to win the game.  

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#15 caninatl04


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 08:33 AM

Sign 'em to a one year contract with a team option.Then trade 'em for prospects.


Yup. Sign all of 'em.Swallow salary and hope two of 'em bring back prospects.


I must admit, I enjoyed typing "'em."


My true opinion is that, as many of you concur, use the 5th starting spot to determine the rotation in '20 and beyond.Any screeching sound associated with pulling dollars from the Pohlad's wallet should be for a quality reliever. 

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#16 Tom Froemming

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 08:35 AM

Ervin Santana on a no-risk, nothing promised deal sounds better and better to me all the time. Give him a modest deal, if the finger is still a problem and the velocity is still down, you just cut him loose. Lots of potential upside there.


The big reason I could see the Twins not being interested is they seem to be motivated to turnover the leadership. Ervin had some not so professional things to say around the deadline, especially coming from a veteran guy who was hurt the majority of the season. They might not want to saddle Rocco & Co. with any more baggage from the previous year.

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#17 Tomj14


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:10 AM

I would be willing to take a flyer on Clay, he had 10 QS in 16 starts last year and averaged over 6 innings a start.

I don't expect that kind of production out of anybody besides Jose and Kyle.


#18 bobs


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:18 AM

Yuck.Can only wonder if any of these guys would be effective as an "opener" or if a guy like Bucholz would be able to be effective out of the 'pen.Otherwise, no thank you.

#19 SomeGuy


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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:27 AM

Mejia is a viable option when healthy.I like him better than any of these options.


Grab a closer instead.

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#20 diehardtwinsfan



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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:32 AM



You and I have different opinions on what constitutes no risk.