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Front Page: Offseason Blueprint: Cheat Off the Champs

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#1 Matthew Lenz

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 07:51 PM

Starting pitching is more important than the bullpen when constructing a World Series contender. I went back to 2016 to prove my assertion. Only once did both World Series teams have top-20 bullpens and on average starting rotations ranked two spots better for postseason teams, per fWAR.More specifically, here are some facts for you regarding teams' starting pitchers accumulating fWAR in the regular season in 2019:
  • The Nationals and Astros were first and fourth, respectively
  • Five of the top 10 and seven of the top 12 were playoff teams
    • The A’s finished 0.1 fWAR outside of the top 10
    • The Yankees, ranked 17th, were without their best starter all season
  • Realistically, the only outlier were the Brewers who ranked 20th.
For at least the next couple of seasons, the Twins have a pretty clear path to Central Division titles but I have put together a blueprint that should bring us into the top echelon of teams and perennial World Series contenders. This if the Twins are willing to spend and can sign the biggest names on the market for 2020. The rationale is simple: let's bring back what worked in 2019 while significantly improving the weakest area of our team which was the starting rotation. Here are my moves:

Tender all arbitration-eligible players
This doesn’t include Dyson, but let's bring back the other nine players. Using the TD Offseason Handbook as my reference, bringing back Sano, Rosario, Cron, Buxton, Adrianza, Berrios, Rogers, May, and Duffey would cost about $39.3 million.

Sign Gerrit Cole to a seven-year, $245 million contract
Yep, he’s part of my picture. At just 29 years old, it’s not crazy to think that Gerrit Cole could be the best pitcher in baseball for the majority, maybe even the entirety, of his contract. If Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander can be two of the best pitchers in their mid- to late 30’s, then why can’t Gerrit Cole? This isn’t the $300+ million contract everyone was talking about, but this makes him the highest paid pitcher in MLB history in both total salary and AAV. That’s what it’s going to take to bring the Cali-kid to the frozen tundra.

Sign Zach Wheeler to a five-year, $100 million contract
Could Zach Wheeler be the next Gerrit Cole? Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but Wheeler’s peripherals suggest that he can be a lot better than he has been. In 2019, Wes Johnson got career years from Berrios and Odorizzi, while getting a very good bounce-back campaign from Pineda before his suspension. What’s to say that his next project can’t be Zach Wheeler and Zach Wheeler can’t become one of the best pitchers in baseball?

Re-sign Jake Odorizzi to a three-year, $45 million contract
Jake Odorizzi had a career year with the Twins in 2019 and is only 29-years-old. It makes sense to bring him back on more than just a one-year qualifying offer type of deal. As suggested by the Offseason Handbook, he has a draft pick tied to him which will drive his cost and market down a tad.

Sign Drew Smyly to a one-year, $3 million contract
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Drew Smyly who could be low-risk, high-reward number five starter for the Twins in 2020. The Twins have the starting depth to take a risk on a guy who can be great when healthy and throwing strikes. He was actually brought in to Philadelphia midseason in 2019 to help with their playoff push and was pretty solid outside of a crazy high HR/FB rate. If he gets hurt or isn’t performing, then you replace him with Dobnak/Stashak/Graterol/etc.

Re-sign Jason Castro to a one-year, $6 million contract
Consistency between pitchers and catchers is important and Castro was a big part of the Twins success in 2019, including helping keep Garver rested. If he’s not willing to come back then I’d offer the same contract to Stephen Vogt who has a profile similar to Castro's, but more positional versatility.

Outside of a possible change in the catcher platoon, I’m keeping the offense as-is. If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, amirite? I’ve said before that I don’t think the Twins will extend any of their young guys this offseason, so we’ll get them on the cheap for another year. The 2020 cost of the offense is about $67.9 million.

Download attachment: Lenz1.png

My big moves were in the starting rotation. My blueprint gives us the best one through four in baseball with the low-risk upside of a very good number five. The 2020 cost of the starting rotation is about $77.5 million.

Download attachment: Lenz2.png

I am relying on our minor league depth to beef up the bottom of the bullpen. If 2019 was any indication Rogers, May, and Duffey will have no problem anchoring the 8th and 9th innings of most games. In 2020, we’ll be relying on the likes of Thorpe, Littell, Dobnak, Stashak, and Smeltzer. I kept Romero and Graterol in the minors to groom them as spot-starters as needed. The 2020 cost of the bullpen is about $10.8 million.

Download attachment: Lenz3.png

Including the Martin Perez $500,000 buyout, this brings our 2020 payroll to a franchise record of $156.7 million. If we were to lose some of our young, cheap players, since so much of our money would be invested in the starting rotation, the depth of our minor league system would allow the offense and bullpen to replenish internally.
What would your blueprint look like for the Twins this winter? Download your copy of the Offseason Handbook and use it to construct a champion. Share your vision for discussion in our Create a Blueprint forum thread. Meanwhile, stay tuned to TD as our writers will be formulating offseason plans from different perspectives all week long.
Check out these other Offseason Blueprints:
Building a Bullpenner
Hooking a Big Fish
Making Big Betts
The Window Just Opened

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#2 sweetmusicviola16


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Posted 14 November 2019 - 09:57 PM

I like this on all counts. I'm all in on signing Cole. Wheeler would make a great #3 behind Cole and Berrios. With the now reupped for 2020 Odorizzi we would have what might be the best rotation in baseball. But if we did want to shell out less money either a trade for Jon Gray or consider a Pineda reigning for 2/23 would work too. But imo its all about Cole.


I'm neither here nor there on bringing Cron back. Maybe see if he'd sign for last seasons salary again?





What I would add to your plan is to use a couple of our prospects to trade for some bullpen help. Ken Giles of Toronto comes quickly to my mind.

#3 TwinVike61


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Posted 14 November 2019 - 10:01 PM

This is awesome. This is exciting. This is within the realm of realistic possibilities. The Twins ownership we all knew is no more. Although the current regime has been risk adverse as it pertains to long-term contracts, it is not infeasable that as this window of contention has opened, so has the willingness to invest in what is truly needed to bring home the World Series rings...quality and depth in the starting pitching realm. Cole. Berrios. Wheeler. Odorizzi. Wow! (and Castro - keep the band together.)

#4 Seansy


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Posted 14 November 2019 - 10:13 PM

I love it! It will almost assuredly never happen but we can always dream right :)

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#5 John Bonnes

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 07:08 AM

Two of the top five free agent starters and three of the top eight, you say! What's not to like? When one increases the payroll by $35M, one can get a lot of really fun players (or one Gerrit Cole.)


I like the idea of signing someone like Smyly for our #5 starter. I suspect it is far more likely someone like that ends up as the Twins #4 starter, but so long as they end the offseason with a top 5 free agent starting pitcher, I could probably be OK with that. 

#6 hybridbear


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Posted 15 November 2019 - 07:55 AM

We can dream, but I don’t think Cole would come to MN without a significant overpayment. 

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#7 Greglw3


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Posted 15 November 2019 - 03:14 PM

I like this sort of plan.  You read my mind!  I think the Twins should boldly and aggressively spend the money and make the trades to build a world Series champion in the image of the 1972-1974 Oakland A’s, who won 3 consecutive world championships.  They were considered to have a dynasty but Free Agency came in and Charley Finley sold Joe Rudi and got rig of just about everyone of value to save money.  Calvin and Charley.


I want to go right after a dynasty, 3 or more World championships in a row.  The window is open.  We should settle for nothing less!!!  Win Twins!!!!