Major League Baseball is no longer played with only 5 starting pitchers, and it hasn’t been for awhile. The importance of depth becomes crucial here as teams know that during a season, they will have to use 8, 9, 10+ starters in a given season.
Anyone else remember when the 2017 Twins used 16 different starters?
With departures of Odorizzi, Hill, and Bailey, the Twins have thus far replaced Hill/Bailey with J.A. Happ. It still feels like they need to add one more SP. I think prospects like Duran and Balazovic are at best not making their debut until later this year.
Here is how the Twins SP group projects in 2021. A total WAR of 12.6 - 13th in baseball.
***This has been updated to reflect the J.A. Happ signing. Previously, the Twins SP group was projected for 12.3 WAR.
The Twins can do better. In fact, they need to do better. It is preferred if Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe are pushed from the 5,6,7 guys in the rotation to the 7,8,9. Dobnak has plenty of value for this team and will be needed plenty as the 6th man. Injuries do happen.
Here are some SP options. I noted how the Twins would benefit in “net WAR” as well as the 2021 estimated salary of each player (via Fangraphs).
“Net WAR” in this scenario is the difference between the Fangraphs Depth Chart projection for each player below and the least valuable option for the SP position on the Twins currently.
For this purpose, we will use the differnece in WAR for Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer who currently project to be the 5/6 starters in the rotation. That difference is .8 WAR for 2021.
For example: Rick Porcello projects 2.1 WAR so to calculate “net WAR” you subtract 2.1 from .8 for a net of +1.3 WAR.
*All WAR projections use Fangraphs Depth Charts
Free Agent SP Options:
Trevor Bauer: +3.4 WAR ($29M)
James Paxton: +2.1 WAR ($15M)
Mashiro Tanaka: +1.9 WAR ($18M)
Jake Odorizzi: +1.3 WAR ($13M)
Chris Archer: +1.3 WAR ($8M)
Garrett Richards: +1.3 WAR ($8M)
Rick Porcello: +1.3 WAR ($11M)
Taijuan Walker: +.8 WAR ($9M)
J.A. Happ: +.6 WAR ($8M)
Adam Wainwright: +.6 WAR($7M)
Rich Hill: +.6 WAR ($8M)
Homer Bailey: +.4 WAR ($5M)
Cole Hamels: +.1 WAR($14M)
Luis Castillo: +3.1 WAR ($4.2M)
German Marquez: +2.9 WAR($7.5M)
Sonny Gray: +2.6 WAR ($10M)
Jon Gray: +1.5 WAR ($6M)
Jameson Taillon: +1.4 WAR ($2.3M)
Chad Kuhl: +.2 WAR ($1.4M)
This is not a perfect formula. There are a lot of moving parts in each of these instances due to how each player added would impact the rest of the team. Especially in this scenario, I am using “net WAR” to show the difference when adding in a starter to the top-6 spots of the rotation only rather than spread out against the entire group.
In any case, there are plenty of opportunities the Twins can pull from to improve their rotation. After going through the exercise, I was actually encouraged at the amount of depth still in the free agent SP market.
I think all fans can agree that Bauer to the Twins is a pipe dream (but wow, would that be fun).
However, I am hopeful that the Twins can add one more SP that is equal to or better than Michael Pineda (2.1 projected WAR) and a second that acts as a veteran depth signing. Someone on a one-year deal that has a record of success and can pitch in the playoffs or a pennant run. ***This was written before J.A. Happ signing. It is clear now that he is the one year veteran depth piece***.
My preferred trade candidate is Sonny Gray. Him and Joe Musgrove had similar value from the site BaseballTradeValues.com. In many circles, the return for Musgrove seemed light, so maybe there is hope the Twins wouldn’t have to give up as much as one would think.
I think any combination of:
Paired with a second addition of:
would make for a well rounded and deep rotation grouping.
In the comments below, let me know who you think the Twins should sign and why!