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Front Page: Do the Twins Really Need to Add Another Starter?

randy dobnak lewis thorpe brusdar graterol devin smeltzer josh donaldson
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#21 laloesch



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Posted 16 January 2020 - 08:17 AM


The 2019 Minnesota Twins offense put up some historic numbers. On Tuesday, we learned that the team had added one of the best hitters over the last dozen years to the already-strong lineup. Twins fans got excited, thinking about the offensive numbers the team could produce. At the same time, many quickly jumped back to asking if the team still needs to add more pitching.Clearly the Twins went into the offseason hoping to add a top starting pitcher. Use the word “impact” if you like. The two impact starters on the free agent market weren’t coming here (Cole, Strasburg). Two of the free agent starters who fit in that next tier (Bumgarner and Wheeler) went elsewhere for non-baseball and non-dollar reasons. And it appears that the Twins just didn’t (understandably) want to give Hyun-Jin Ryu a fourth year.

With that, they shifted their attention to adding to an already-great offense. They gave Josh Donaldson a guaranteed $92 million over the next four years, and an option for 2024 that makes it pretty likely he is retained.

I am often told by Twins fans to expect the offense and several of its hitters to regress in 2020. First, my assumption is that something will be done with the baseball, which may reduce some offensive numbers, but that will be across the board, for all teams. And yes, teams will have more data points to develop a way to attack the Twins hitters. So, regression for some and for the whole, is certainly possible.

However, much of the Twins offense is made up of a core of players between 22-year-old Luis Arraez and 29-year-old Silver Slugger Mitch Garver. And none of them had seasons that were so far out of the realm of their potential that makes you think that any regression would have to be major. Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler all had strong seasons, but none of them outside of what we thought they could do when they were prospects.

Silver Slugger Nelson Cruz is going to turn 40 during the season. It’s silly to expect him to put up the same kind of numbers he put up in 2019, but his approach and his strength should still produce really good numbers in the middle of a lineup. Josh Donaldson replaces CJ Cron in the lineup. While he is older, he’s been one of the greatest hitters in baseball. If healthy, he should continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

Injuries? Yes, injuries happen and they aren’t necessarily easy or possible to predict. But, there is one good way to alleviate some of those concerns. The first is simply to have depth. The Twins have depth. Simply in the form of Marwin Gonzalez there is depth. He can play the corner infield and corner outfield spots. LaMonte Wade and Jake Cave can man the outfield spots when needed. Ehire Adrianza is a terrific utility infielder. Alex Avila is the backup catcher. And there are prospects, high-caliber prospects at each position, who are close to MLB-ready.

The Twins were able to keep Jake Odorizzi away from free agency for one more year by offering him the $17.8 million Qualifying Offer (and him accepting it). They also retained the services of right-hander Michael Pineda for the next two years. He will finish the final 39 games of his suspension and rejoin the team in mid-May.

Jose Berrios is entering his Age-26 season. He will need to figure out August, but there’s a lot to be excited about it, and there is potential for him to find another level. Jake Odorizzi found his next level in 2019. Michael Pineda, at the time he was suspended, was being talked about as a possible Game 1 starter in the playoffs. That’s a solid first three.

Homer Bailey? No, not exciting, but he has certainly had his moments. And, he was really good in the second half of 2019.

Rich Hill? Man, if only he could stay healthy. Over the last five years, he has been a top 10-15 starting pitcher in baseball. Of course, he won’t be back until at least June after elbow surgery. There is no way to know how that recovery and rehab will go with 100% confidence. But they got him for a great contract and even if he’s back by the end of July, and can get close to what he’s been in recent years, that’s a nice pitcher to have in August, September and October. Can the Twins get the best out of him?

With Hill and Pineda unable to start the season on the active list, the rotation will contain Berrios, Odorizzi, Bailey and…

Well, for right now, that answer comes down to about four options; Brusdar Graterol, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer. Yes, Blaine Hardy will be at spring training. Jhoan Duran is on the 40-man roster, so he’ll be at big-league spring training for a while. There may be other names mentioned early in spring training. But for all intents and purposes, it comes down to those four pitchers.

All four pitched in the big leagues in 2019.

Randy Dobnak: He was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2019 when he pitched in Ft. Myers, Pensacola, Rochester and ended the season with the Twins, pitching well enough in September to earn a Game 2 start in the playoffs. It didn’t go well, but it shouldn’t minimize how much he grew and improved over the course of the season. And, in addition to being a good story, he’s a good pitcher too.

Lewis Thorpe: He was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2018. He spent most of 2019 in Rochester but came up a couple of times. He made a few starts and also pitched out of the bullpen. He had some good games and some not-so-good games, but what he did well is miss bats.

Devin Smeltzer: He moved back into a starting role in 2019 and started in Pensacola. A month later he was in Rochester, and before the end of May, he made his major-league debut and it went very well. He was a frequent guest on the Rochester-to-Minneapolis travel list but experienced success in a variety of roles in the big leagues.

Brusdar Graterol: He came up for September and worked out of the bullpen. He was off to a good start last year in AA, but he missed nearly three months in the middle of the season with a shoulder injury. He came back in the bullpen so that he could be called up and his triple-digit fastball could help the Twins late. He will be on some sort of innings plan, but most would think that it’d be ideal for him to continue developing as a starter. Could that be as a ‘Primary’ pitcher, or could he just be a regular starter until Pineda comes back, or until Hill returns?

Derek Falvey is often given a lot of credit for the pitching development in Cleveland. We have seen them continue to develop a pipeline of quality starters. Several of their current pitchers were not top prospects when they came up but certainly have developed into that status. Corey Kluber might just be the best example of that development plan and process, though he will be with the Rangers in 2020.

So, should we believe in Derek Falvey’s track record? Should we trust the processes that have been initiated by Falvey along with pitching guru Josh Kalk and minor league pitching coordinator Paul Maki, and each of the minor league coaches and coordinators brought in? How about their utilization of technologies in recent years? Why not give these guys a chance?

Herein lies the question from today’s title, Do the Twins need to add another starter?

In my opinion, the answer is obvious. No, they don’t NEED to add another starter. With this offense, the team will win a lot of games. Their top two pitchers (Berrios, Odorizzi) are good. Bailey certainly can be good. And, four young pitchers who got time in 2019 are certainly capable of being solid, and a few of them have the potential to be pretty good. Having that offensive support should certainly encourage them to throw a lot of strikes. Pineda will be back. Hill should be back a little later.

But, it isn’t that simple. While they don’t NEED to add another starter, Falvey and Thad Levine should continue to monitor the starting pitcher trade market. I don’t think Jon Gray or German Marquez are going to be available this offseason, but those are the caliber of pitcher that the team should show interest in. Y’all know I’m not at all high on Matt Boyd, but if the Twins research and development crew says that he could be a pitcher of the Berrios/Odorizzi/Pineda quality in 2020, maybe try that. There may be names that we haven’t even thought of that they could get.

But don’t just add any more pitchers just to add more pitchers. If they’re going to make a move, make it a good one. Get a pitcher as good as Odorizzi, or better.
If not, take your chances with a strong offense and a pretty solid starting rotation (and a pretty solid bullpen too, mind you). Continue to evaluate and teach those inexperienced pitchers, Get Pineda back. Get Hill back…

And keep an eye on the phone, always looking to make a big addition in July… or June… or May!

For much more on Brusdar Graterol, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer, along with Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic and about 90 other Twins minor league pitchers, order a copy of the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It is available in paperback or PDF ebook.

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No question about it that they need one more GOOD starter at least.

#22 Number3


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 08:35 AM

Here is another rhetorical question. What team would not like to add another QUALITY, PROVEN starting pitcher? Just asking.

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#23 Possumlad


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 09:09 AM

Post-Donaldson signing, the Twins are in the envious position of knowing exactly where the roster needs work. For the next 2-3 years (at least), they can basically just ignore the offense & focus all their front office efforts on the rotation & bullpen.


That's a great spot to be.

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#24 bighat


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 09:27 AM

If they are going to use Graterol as a starter, then no, they don't need someone else.


If the Twins are going to treat Graterol with kids gloves and use him as a mop-up guy, then yeah they should add someone else.

#25 Dman


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 09:47 AM

Sure the Twins could use another top of the rotation starter all teams could.I think the questions should be do we have that top of the rotation starter in the system ready for this year?Thorpe and Dbnak seem to the only two that appear to have innings and stuff to make it the whole year so you would be depending on them to step into that role.I just don't know enough about Poppen to know if he has top of the rotation stuff or not.Graterol and Duran might have ace type stuff but they don't have the innings to last through the year.



If I remember correctly Dobank isn't that hard of a thrower and his K9 isn't real high so the odss of him being better than number 4 seem remote but his results so far seem to defy that theory at least so far.Other than the playoff game he has a very nice ERA and WHIP so maybe if you squint he can be a three.Thorpe appears to have the stuff the K9 needed to be an ace but he has been quite hittable and given a few too many free passes in his SSS of work.He might make it to a number three but again seems a stretch.



So I am not sure if we have guys that are better than Berrios, Pineda and Odo in the system but I guess we won't know until we see what those guys can do.I do agree with Seth that if they trade for someone it needs to be a pitcher as good or better than our top three guys.If they can find that guy for the right price this offseason I am all for it, but I am also fine seeing what we have and waiting for teams to realize they are out of it and need to make a trade. Maybe just maybe we get lucky like Cleveland and find two very good home grown pitchers that help us through the playoffs.

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#26 jud6312


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 09:52 AM

The fact that we're still pushing these "trust us, guys, Randy is really, really good" and "Homer's second half negates everything back to 2013" narratives is astounding.


Of course this team needs to add another arm or two.


What if Jose is what he is and he's plateaued? Cool, he's still a 2 or 3.


What if the 2018 Odo is the real Odo rather than the 2019 version. Cool, he's still a 3 or 4 (since he doesn't pitch deep into games).


Do we honestly think Pineda will finally stay healthy for a full season?


Do we honestly think "Porcelain Rick" will finally stay healthy for half of a season?


Are Randy and Smeltzer legitimate big league pieces or are they good stories with stuff the league will catch up with sooner rather than later?


Can Lewis miss bats at the major league level?


Can Brusdar's stuff translate to the MLB rotation or is he more on a bullpen arm?


Are Duran and Balazovic ready to make the jump if all of the above fail?


There's depth, yes, but it's back-end depth.


"Raising the floor" is a fun way of saying "we've got a bunch of guys that are of the same average ability."


No matter now good this offense is, they can't win every game 21-14.


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#27 Mike Sixel

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:03 AM

Isn't signing Bailey signing a pitcher just to sign a pitcher?

Not one person has argued sign someone just to sign someone. Why do people keep throwing up straw men?

What track record is there in Minnesota, in three plus years, at this point? I mean, it could all work out, which is pretty much the OPs argument.... Or it might not, which doesn't seem acknowledged.
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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 

#28 TFRazor


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:18 AM

You can always use another starter. Injuries do happen

#29 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:23 AM

Need as in have to have to contend/win the division? No. Need as in need another top end guy to have a realistic chance of a post-season run? Absolutely. The answer to the question is all in how you define the question. 


Let's be honest, we need a "true" No.1 or strong 2 to go with Berrios, Odo and Pineda/Hill as a 4 man postseason rotation. It seems very unlikely that Homer Bailey or one of the many young arms will be that guy THIS YEAR. Maybe over time, but we're now built to win this year and next with Cruz and Donaldson as the heart of the batting order.


So I say that assuming the goal is to contend for a WS spot THIS YEAR (which it should be) we absolutely need another top end starter. Having said that, the depth we have does us one favor. I don't think we need that guy NOW; we can wait until the Trade Deadline if the FO thinks that's a better time. History tells us that it very well may be. Good depth and a bad division makes it possible to stay in contention until then. Not a bad place to be. 

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#30 Seth Stohs

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:27 AM


I would go to the minor league and start seeing who has it and who does't.Why is Caleb Thielbar still Rochester, he is 32.Bring him up give him one last chance and move on.I have always felt like the Twins keep players in the minor leagues too long.There are 3 others over 30 in AAA.Give them one last shot and be done and let then next group move up to AAA.Bring the 25+ guys from AA to AAA and give them 1-2 more years and then be done with them.


Thielbar hasn't been "kept for too long." He hasn't been in the organization for years... 1.) He's left-handed. 2.) he's breathing. 3.) He found some velocity last year. 4.) He's always had a good breaking ball. 


He's a lefty-reliever. While it's more fun to call up younger guys, all organizations keep veterans who can come up for a short period when needed and not be overwhelmed, and when they go back, they can get DFAd right away. Probably won't lose them, but if not, oh well. 


The Red Wings have more young players on their roster than most teams do. The Yankees and some other AAA rosters are basically all 29 or older. 

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#31 dex8425


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:28 AM


I completely agree with Seth.The Twins currently have enough young pitchers that deserve a legitimate chance to show they are ready for the show AND we need to determine if they can contribute in 2021!The Twins are trying to build a team that has a real chance to compete for a World Series ring yearly and that requires building a pitching pipeline.  


That being said, to compete for a World Series ring in 2020 we most likely need to pick up a SP better than Odo at the trade deadline.

Agreed. I could see a scenario where we pick up a half a season SP rental at the trade deadline. Like Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman or Robbie Ray. The Reds and Blue Jays think they will be competitive in 2020 but I think not. 


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#32 diehardtwinsfan



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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:28 AM


The Twins needed to add to the top of the rotation when the offseason started.

They havent.

The answer seems self evident.




Nothing quite like hoping that your 40 year old pitcher that cannot stay healthy will somehow be ready when he comes off of elbow surgery or hoping that they other guy you signed figured something out more than just having a hot second half of 2019. 


They need a top of the rotation pitcher or two to complement the lineup. Instead we're counting on rookies for 2 of the 5 spots and hoping there are no setbacks with Hill or Pineda.


I don't like this plan... Donaldson or not. Odds are real good we're going to be hurting for pitching and that we won't have the good enough pitching should we make the playoffs again.

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#33 Seth Stohs

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:30 AM


Isn't signing Bailey signing a pitcher just to sign a pitcher?

Not one person has argued sign someone just to sign someone. Why do people keep throwing up straw men?

What track record is there in Minnesota, in three plus years, at this point? I mean, it could all work out, which is pretty much the OPs argument.... Or it might not, which doesn't seem acknowledged.


I think there is some hope in Bailey. He's shown enough at various times, including recently. He's a #4 at best, probably, and he makes them better than what Gibson or Perez was in 2018. 


I agree that we all agree that they don't need to sign the Ivan Nova's of the world. Again, my point is to give the 24, 25 years olds a shot to be just as good... and gain some confidence thanks to a strong offense. 


And no one is saying everything will go perfect. I pointed that out multiple times throughout the article. It's also OK to give guys opportunities when you have given yourself some great depth. 



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#34 Seth Stohs

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:33 AM

2019 Twins Playoff Rotation:


1.) Berrios, 2.) Odorizzi, 3.) Dobnak, 4.) Bullpen game.


2020 projected playoff rotation:


1.) Berrios, 2.) Odorizzi, 3.) Hill, 4.) Pineda... with Bailey, Graterol, Dobnak, Thorpe, etc. at the ready. 


Will it play out perfectly? Probably not. Lots can happen. Including July trades. 


My main point would be just that they don't have to give up the farm for a guy at this time. As it relates to trades, which is what we're down to, there's likely to be more available in June and July than right now. 

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#35 Darius


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:45 AM

Do they need one to win the division? No.

If they want to advance past the divisional round in the playoffs, they need another starter.

Berrios is the only guy I can run out there that can take over a game and win it for you. I think Odorizzi is close, I’m just not sure his stuff gets to the same level. Pineda is fine, but misses too much time to be counted on a playoff rotation stalwart.

Guys like Smeltzer and Dobnak are nice filler/swing guys. But, in no way should they be the primary in a playoff game against the Yankees or Astros. They are overmatched. Graterol has the talent, but doesn’t have the innings track record.

The wildcards are Hill and Bailey. I don’t think Hill can be counted on to stay healthy, or Bailey be counted on to be good enough.

Could things work out with status quo as we speak? Sure, theoretically. Is it likely? Of course not. It’s a prayer, and nothing more. Add a third legitimate starter and you enter the conversation as a “serious” contender. We saw it again last year, pitching is king in the playoffs. The two best rotations in baseball outlasted everyone.

At the end of the day, I’ve done a 180 on this off-season. It’s gone from awful to great with the addition of one of the best position players in baseball. But, if you’re going “all-in,” why not actually go all-in? If you go get a guy like Blake Snell, or even John Gray, you’re no longer “a great offense; but.....” club. Certainly, there is no hurry at this point. The trade deadline gives plenty of time to evaluate things.
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#36 South Dakota Tom

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:48 AM

The reason I would advocate for standing pat at this point is two-fold (and largely already addressed):


1. We have a plethora of starters, when you include the additional four of Smeltzer, Dobnak, Graterol and Thorpe.  Everyone says on one hand that they want to give the rising players a shot, and this is a locked-in way to do it.  Further, leaving room with players who have options in that rotation allows transportation up and down from Rochester.  Once Pineda and Hill join the rotation, we have five guaranteed contracts on the books already and a much better idea by mid-summer of who the top five might be and just how good (or bad).


2.The pickings are wickedly slim right now.  Not only don't we know for certain that we need someone else, but adding a guaranteed contract right now puts us in a horrible position for flexibility.  Sign someone now and then what do you do if Graterol blossoms, Dobnak stands tall, Thorpe keeps missing bats, and Alcala/Balazovic forces our hand?  I know, I know, good problem to have, but a problem.  No one wants to "waste" the first month of the season or treat it like old September when you could bring up a bunch of minor league guys and test them out.  I don't feel like our 4-5 starters fall into that category (and maybe that's where we differ most).  Plus, the number of teams designated for tanking in February, and the number of teams out of it in June/July are wildly different and if we are to find a solid trade of a frontline starter for prospects, I just don't see that happening now.

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#37 Darius


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 10:54 AM

I think there is some hope in Bailey. He's shown enough at various times, including recently. He's a #4 at best, probably, and he makes them better than what Gibson or Perez was in 2018.

I agree that we all agree that they don't need to sign the Ivan Nova's of the world. Again, my point is to give the 24, 25 years olds a shot to be just as good... and gain some confidence thanks to a strong offense.

And no one is saying everything will go perfect. I pointed that out multiple times throughout the article. It's also OK to give guys opportunities when you have given yourself some great depth.

I agree on Bailey. I think it’s a great signing. I think he’s an upgrade over Perez, and possibly Gibson (I still contend that Gibson is a really good pitcher when he’s healthy and confident, which hasn’t been often).

I don’t want him starting a playoff game in Yankee Stadium, though. James Paxton v Homer Bailey in game 3-4 isn’t likely to turn out well for the Twins.

Have to remember what we’re up against, here. You’re looking at an offense equally as dangerous (Yankees), with Cole, Severino, Tanaka, Paxton. If you’re running out Dobnak, Bailey, etc, you’re losing that series 9 times out of 10.
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#38 Kummel


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 11:09 AM

Looking ahead to the post season, the Yankees SP rotation looks like it could include Cole, Severino, Paxton, Tanaka, and German. To be competitive at that level this year, we need more depth in the rotation. Could we make up some of that ground if a younger pitcher really comes into his own?Sure.But it would be nice to also have another tried and true starter. 


It will be a fun season with our offense, regardless.  

#39 MMMordabito


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 11:10 AM

Buxton - 3 years

Kepler - 5 years

Donaldson - 5 years

Polanco - 6 years

Arraez - 5 years

Sano - 4 years

Garver - 4 years


Until 2023, the Twins need to replace three "starters" on offense.Rosario and Cruz are actual starters, and I am including Gonzalez.It's better if the team has a Gonzalez type.  


Raley, Larnach, Rooker, Kirilloff, Lewis, Gordon, Blankenhorn and Celestino aren't all going to find spots on this team barring catastrophe.At least half of them need to be moved.Only Lewis and Blankehorn might profile as a Gonzalez type, and I'm sure that would look on the surface as a failure for Lewis.It might not be the worst way for him to start his career though. I'm not sure that Blankenhorn will have the defensive chops to be a super-sub.


They should really sell from this ridiculous outfield depth and get some pitching.I definitely have a tendency to say to myself, "No, no, not my precious Kirilloff!" However, max value via trade needs to occur.  


I would let them start their MiLB seasons and hope that a couple take off and then move them as soon as max value can be had. 


Unless a prospect is projected to take his turn on the mound every five games, he shouldn't be having the "untouchable" label at this point.Balazovic may be the only guy in that category right now.

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#40 bunsen82


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Posted 16 January 2020 - 11:11 AM

My stance is this, the advantage the Twins have now is they don't have to do anything.They can stand pat.However, I will laud management that they always do look at ways to improve the team.If an opportunity arose for a player they deem to be a top 10 pitcher, whether that has been their history or the analytics say the pitcher can be a top 10 pitcher, they can do that trade. Or they can wait until the deadline to see what is available. 

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