At first glance, Happ’s addition feels like the kind of boring move that is necessary for contending teams to make. He’s not making national headlines, but he’ll slide right into the fourth spot in the rotation and he’ll get a lot of important outs throughout the year as long as he stays healthy. With the addition, the rotation looks as follows:
- The other of Maeda/Berrios
That’s all well and good. That’s a high-level American League rotation. The eight million feels a little steep and Happ wasn’t on many of our radars, but you can’t be too mad at a hole getting filled.
It’s certainly still possible that the Twins still spend on another starter to get closer to a 2011 Phillies-esque “Four Aces” roster construction, but I just don’t see it. The rotation is seemingly set and there are bigger holes elsewhere. While Trevor Bauer was probably always going to be too spendy, guys like Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton no longer seem like possibilities for the Twins. Of course, Jake Odorizzi could come back into the fold and push Pineda and Happ down to the four and five slots respectively. But I think Dobnak and a number of capable arms in the Twins system would hold down that five spot pretty well, so I would argue that there’s more upside in leaving Odo on the market and spending money elsewhere.
So, now that starting pitching is no longer much of a target position, the Twins’ intentions for the rest of the free agency period become a little bit clearer. We’ve been hearing about and hoping for the possibility of big moves in the coming weeks and months, and now we know better where the money will be spent. Before today, the holes in the roster were primarily at shortstop (or utility), DH, the four spot in the rotation, and in the bullpen. Falvey and Levine just filled the hole in the rotation with a somewhat cheap one-year deal. This limited commitment to the starting rotation suggests that the front office is saving money for big moves elsewhere. And it seems that any big commitments from the Twins’ will be made at short, DH or in the bullpen.
At DH, the Twins are in position to bring back Nelson Cruz for one more ride or for a big multi-year investment in Marcell Ozuna. There are options at short too, such as Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, or blue-chip trade options Trevor Story or Javier Báez. They could also go out and get top relievers like Trevor Rosenthal and Brad Hand, but filling out the pen with cheap signings and homegrown talent is more Minnesota’s style. We could also see the club sprinkle money in a lot of places at once, signing a bunch of mid-level guys instead of one big-ticket player.
There is, of course, a chance that the Twins remain pretty inactive, and rely on guys currently in the organization to make another playoff run. For most Twins fans, this would be a worst-case scenario and, as the days go on, our collective worries grow. For the most pessimistic fans, this signing will provide little comfort. J.A. Happ isn’t a big signing. But for me, he fills a hole that allows the Twins more flexibility to pursue the bigger fish in the free agency sea. And, they will make those big signings eventually…we hope.