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Front Page: What the Early Twins Offseason Rumblings Tell Us

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 07:42 PM

Outside of Jake Odorizzi accepting his qualifying offer, and thereby filling one of several 2020 rotation vacancies, the first month of Minnesota's offseason was quiet – at least, in terms of real action. But there's been no shortage of reported rumors involving the Twins.

Let's read between the lines and see if we can find substantive takeaways behind these rumblings, as well as developing storylines elsewhere.Here are five conclusions I've drawn based on signals rising from the offseason landscape.

1: The Twins will need to pay a hefty premium to sign Zack Wheeler

The team's interest in Wheeler is no secret. It's also clear they have company in this regard.



The appeal of Wheeler heading into this offseason was easy enough to see: He's got rotation-fronting ability, but it never fully manifested in New York for various reasons. In seven seasons with the Mets he never threw 200 innings, while totaling a 3.71 FIP and 100 ERA+. In other words, his overall performance was almost exactly average.

This backdrop set the stage for a team to acquire the 29-year-old's untapped potential at a relative discount, but when virtually every other front office has the same idea, the whole "discount" proposition goes out the window. To wit: Dan Hayes of The Athletic is hearing Wheeler could land something in the range of five years at $20-22 million per.



That seems astounding for a guy with Wheeler's track record, but it reflects something we're seeing elsewhere on this offseason's pitching market, and more broadly as well: front offices are paying for the future, not the past. It sounds obvious, but has hardly been the norm throughout the history of free agency. Players got paid based on their accomplishments. It's basically what makes the service-time system work – to the extent it does.

We're seeing a clear shift though. It's evident when Drew Pomeranz, owner of a 4-16 record and 5.36 ERA over the past two seasons, signs with San Diego for four years and $34 million guaranteed. It's evident when Kyle Gibson, who possesses a 4.52 career ERA and torpedoed late in a turbulent 2019 campaign with Minnesota, scores a $30 million payday with Texas (a team that previously executed similar plans with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor, with great success).

And it's evident in the relative buzz around Wheeler, compared to other second-tier options like Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jun Ryu. Bumgarner is a four-time All-Star, a former World Series MVP, and fourth among active pitchers in ERA. Ryu finished second in NL Cy Young balloting this year, led the league in ERA, and owns a 2.98 career mark. Both hurlers have ample postseason experience.

Wheeler is lacking in all of these credentials, but nevertheless, the preference of teams around the league seemingly aligns with that of Twins Daily's Twitter following:



So if the Twins want to add Wheeler, they're surely going to have to go well beyond the "bargain" realm. And if they truly believe in his ability to be that linchpin force atop the rotation, they should be comfortable doing just that.

2: The Twins aren't dead-set on bringing back Jason Castro

If they were, they would've already done it. At least, that's my read.

The free agent catching market has been active early, and another name came off the market last week with Yan Gomes re-upping in Washington. Castro is still out there, and a reunion remains very much in play, but the more time passes, the more likely it seems that both sides are seriously exploring other options.

Given how well he fits, as a lefty-swinging veteran presence with strong defensive chops and a built-in rapport, I figured the Twins might just lock Castro down quickly and check that need off the list. Instead, they're taking their time.

3: More projects are coming to the bullpen

As much as I'd love to see the Twins take an aggressive approach in powering up an already-potent bullpen, it always seemed more likely they'd focus the majority of available resources on the rotation. Uncovering hidden gems and converting previous starters has been the recipe for building this current unit into an asset, so why not stick with it?

The claim of left-hander Matt Wisler, a former starter who saw his K/9 rate skyrocket to 11.5 as a reliever this year, fits that bill. As does the more recent addition of Mitch Horacek, who is himself finding his way in the minors as a hard-throwing reliever, after transitioning from a previous starting role.

Blaine Hardy, signed to a minors deal last week alongside Horacek, brings another lefty arm to the mix with MLB experience and depressed stock.



The Twins are piling up "maybes" in a way that might negate their need to spend on ostensible "sure things." I'd still like to see at least one clear high-impact acquisition for the back end of the bullpen, though. I find myself wondering if the Twins fancy Blake Treinen, who's reportedly being made very available by the A's, as an opportunistic addition in that realm. The Yankees are said to be moving in.

4: Moving Miguel Sano to first base is on the table

The Twins face a fairly important deadline on Monday, when they must make decisions on all of their arbitration-eligible players. The biggest question mark among that group is C.J. Cron, who was a key piece of their lineup in the first half, largely a nonfactor in the second half, and is now coming off thumb surgery. The possibility of sliding Sano, who was generally a negative with the glove at third base, across the diamond has been broached by fans often, and it does appear to be something the team is considering.



The idea of pairing Donaldson with Sano at the infield corners is beyond tantalizing. Mike Moustakas would also be a good fit in this capacity. (Todd Frazier though? Eh.)

5: The White Sox mean business. (And the Indians might not?)

Minnesota will likely enter the 2020 season as favorites in the AL Central, but they won't have the luxury of three teams making zero meaningful effort to compete. The White Sox registered a statement with their bold signing of Yasmani Grandal to a $73 million contract, and they also reached a new deal with slugger Jose Abreu to keep him at the heart of their lineup for three more years.

Chicago's talent pipeline is about ready to start delivering. Nick Madrigal might be their Opening Day second baseman, with the release of Yolmer Sanchez paving way. Meanwhile, Lucas Giolito is arguably the best starter in the division, and the Sox are reportedly looking to add another piece alongside him atop the rotation:



Potentially offsetting this development: Cleveland sure doesn't seem intent on making a push to retake the division. I haven't heard the Indians connected to any big names, and in fact, they've have been more prominently framed as sellers. Francisco Lindor, two years away from free agency, is apparently drawing interest.



Corey Kluber is on the same timeline (FA after 2021) and his name came up in rumors last winter, so I fully expect to see it happen again. Trading either Lindor or Kluber would signal a pseudo-rebuild for Cleveland.

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#2 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 08:18 PM

It’s good to have an article like this after the long weekend, to get us caught up. Thanks.

I’m not afraid of ChiSox yet, but maybe I should be...
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#3 jrod23

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 09:24 PM

A.) Is Odorizzi better/more proven than Wheeler?I get the QO on Odorizzi, but locking someone up extremely comparable to Odo for $100-$110?I alternate between clapping and cringing.

 

2.) The Sox...They're legit.Just how good is Grandal though?I'm not sold.However, what the heck did Giolito eat/supplement last year?He went from "meh" for almost his entire MLB career to best in the division last year.Wow.Applause necessary.His K rate increase alone is astonishing.I didn't even mention Eloy or Kopech.

 

and D.) I'm excited.A Sox & Twins division race would be like it was in the 00's.  

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#4 gunnarthor

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 10:34 PM

White Sox aren't there yet - their a bit older than i thought, actually. I think they can be .500 and if they can be .500, they can overachieve and push for 90 wins if everything breaks right. But unless the Twins really stumble, or the Sox make another major addition or two, Twins should be expected to win 90.

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#5 Wax off

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 10:42 PM

Bidding for Wheeler might be to high. Go hard after Ryu. I'd go 4 years $80 million. Some might think that's high. I might have until seeing Gibson's contract. Might not be enough.

Then maybe offer Hamels a multi year deal to get him here. He's a lefty who could be still hold valuab as a reliever if he doesn't work out as a starter. With the three batter minimum rule in effect, his starting experience might play well as a left handed reliever used to facing top right-handed talent. Rotation:

Berrios
Odorizzi
Ryu
Hamels
(Smeltzer/Thorpe/Dobnak)/Pineda

I'd prefer Cole or Strasburg at the top of that rotation but I don't have much hope that happens. The upside of this scenario is we wouldn't have to give up a draft pick, and you wouldn't have any 5+ year commitments.
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#6 goulik

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 10:53 PM

Still hoping for a blockbuster trade out of left field that is better than any of our dreams. I still believe It’s the best route for several years of sustainable success.
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#7 Badsmerf

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 11:18 PM

Hate the thought of paying an average 28 year old starting pitcher like Wheeler 100 million. Potential be damned, that is a lot of money to gamble on improvement at that age. Count me out. Find someone else that isn't gathering so much interest. Reminds me of the Kris Benson love back in the day. I'd bet he'd get a nice payday at this point in his career too, only to be remembered mostly for his hot wife now.

Love that they're looking at moving Sano. A short deal for moose or Donald would be a great idea. Big question is if Cron can duplicate first half success. If I want to compete for a world series, the less questions the better.
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#8 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 11:41 PM

 

Bidding for Wheeler might be to high. Go hard after Ryu. I'd go 4 years $80 million. Some might think that's high. I might have until seeing Gibson's contract. Might not be enough.

Woof. You'd rather offer Ryu one less year for the same money than Wheeler?

 

No thanks.

 

I like Ryu, I think he could be a good get for 2/$35m but the dude is old and he isn't the type of pitcher who will age well because guys who are throwing 91mph have no margin for aging.

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#9 Mike Sixel

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 11:59 PM

Hate the thought of paying an average 28 year old starting pitcher like Wheeler 100 million. Potential be damned, that is a lot of money to gamble on improvement at that age. Count me out. Find someone else that isn't gathering so much interest. Reminds me of the Kris Benson love back in the day. I'd bet he'd get a nice payday at this point in his career too, only to be remembered mostly for his hot wife now.

Love that they're looking at moving Sano. A short deal for moose or Donald would be a great idea. Big question is if Cron can duplicate first half success. If I want to compete for a world series, the less questions the better.


Find a better pitcher that no one is interested in? How does that work?

Where do people think these pitchers are going to come from?

If you think a team should wait until it is good to sign free agents, you get the list that is available at that point.... Not some list that doesn't exist.
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#10 Physics Guy

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 12:39 AM

Wheeler is a top 20 bWAR pitcher over the last two years (7.4 total). He is not an average player. He has pitched 50+ more innings than Odorizzi the past two years.Odorizzi will be paid $17.8M next year.Wheeler will take more than that.We need another high end pitcher who also eats innings (377.2 the past two years).It looks like he will get a 5 year deal between $100 and $110M.Who gives a crap if there is some decline the last year or two?The window is open!Now is the time to spend.

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#11 HrbieFan

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 07:02 AM

Odo is a 5.5 IP per game guy, Wheeler can get you 7+ with more regularity.

#12 USAFChief

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 07:19 AM

Compounding the urgency for adding pitching this winter is the poor FA class next winter. Things can look different a year out, but as of right now, there's not much help available next winter.

 

 

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#13 mikelink45

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 07:59 AM

Love the speculation and thought provoking article.I just do not know if Wheeler is as good as team offers look, but at 28 his next four years could be his best and if so, sign him up!What are we saving our money for?Grabbing Bumgartner would be my second choice. 

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#14 Wax off

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:06 AM

Woof. You'd rather offer Ryu one less year for the same money than Wheeler?


Why not? First off, he's a better pitcher. Wheeler might take two more years commitment. He might never be as good as Ryu over the course of a longer contract.

One thing that might not be as important to you as it is to me, Ryu has no QO attached to him.

#15 Dantes929

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:06 AM

 

Find a better pitcher that no one is interested in? How does that work?

Where do people think these pitchers are going to come from?

If you think a team should wait until it is good to sign free agents, you get the list that is available at that point.... Not some list that doesn't exist.

Pineda?Downside is the 60 game suspension but for the most part losing Pineda and gaining Wheeler would be a zero sum to me. 

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#16 strumdatjaguar

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:11 AM

In an environment where Kyle Gibson gets $30 Million over 3 years, probably this is a year to stay out of the bidding wars on the top and 2nd tier free agents. Re-sign Pineda, and go with Odorizzi and Berríos as the top 3. Then let the rest of the Twins roster fight for the last two spots Graterol, Dobnak, Thorpe, Romero, Smeltzer and others can try to prove themselves. Or the Twins should look to make a trade for x starter. Otherwise, the Twins pay big bucks for Wheeler based on potential more than past performance, or pay big bucks for aging and likely declining pitchers like Ryu and Mad-Bum.

#17 strumdatjaguar

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:13 AM

And I understand Pineda has a few games remaining on his suspension.

#18 Wax off

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:22 AM

I like Ryu, I think he could be a good get for 2/$35m but the dude is old and he isn't the type of pitcher who will age well because guys who are throwing 91mph have no margin for aging.


2/35?! That doesn't seem a realistic assessment for a guy with a 2.96 era prior year. Did you see what Gibson got?!

Yeah, he's 33. Kyle Gibson is 32 and had a much worse 2019 than Ryu.... 3 years 30 million.

I think it's a sign that this year's free agent pitchers are gonna make a killing. You wanna pay Wheeler 110 million, well would you wanna pay more than that? Just saying, look at that Gibson contract. We might need to throw out the guesstimates.
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#19 SomeGuy

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:24 AM

 

A.) Is Odorizzi better/more proven than Wheeler?I get the QO on Odorizzi, but locking someone up extremely comparable to Odo for $100-$110?I alternate between clapping and cringing.

 

2.) The Sox...They're legit.Just how good is Grandal though?I'm not sold.However, what the heck did Giolito eat/supplement last year?He went from "meh" for almost his entire MLB career to best in the division last year.Wow.Applause necessary.His K rate increase alone is astonishing.I didn't even mention Eloy or Kopech.

 

and D.) I'm excited.A Sox & Twins division race would be like it was in the 00's.  

Giolito only has one other full season to compare last season to. He was drafted 16th overall (called the best pitcher of his draft but had a recent injury) and was once the #3 prospect in MLB. He hasn't been meh his entire career, he just had a minor adjustment period. Ace has always been his projection.

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#20 twinkiesfan11

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:32 AM

The window is wide open, the White Sox are charging hard and Cleveland proved they are still very formidable. Falvey and Levine need to make every effort to at least secure a seat at the negotiating tables for Cole and Strasburg which you have to kind of wonder if they are with the reports that they’ve yet to make an offer on Wheeler. I highly doubt either of them could be swayed to come to MN but as an organization that wants to be taken seriously and with a clear need for a premium starting pitcher they need to at least make the effort. Either of these two would be game changers.

They need to come out of this offseason with one of Cole, Strasburg, Wheeler, Bumgarner, I guess Ryu (though hopefully on a much shorter term deal) or an equivalent talent via trade.The payroll situation is in great shape so there is no excuse, they can afford the risk of one potential bad contract on the books. If they fail to upgrade this rotation the offseason is a failure no matter what else they do.

As a fan the only other things I hope to see them accomplish is adding an infield bat (don’t care which position) and a backup catcher. I love Astudillo but believe his value is in his versatility and he’s a perfect 26th man. Would love to see Castro back or Chirinos, Russell Martin, Austin Romine, Maldonado or Lucroy. Romo or another bargain veteran bullpen addition would be nice but not a priority.
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