As we sit here the night before the first Pitchers and Catchers workout for the Minnesota Twins, the starting rotation is at best...uh, incomplete? Ervin Santana's surprising injury news last week left the Twins with basically only two "locks" to break camp at the end of March. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. As it stands, the last three spots will have to come from a combination of Adalberto Meija, Phil Hughes, Aaron Slegers, Dietrich Enns, Stephen Gonsalves, and Fernando Romero. The latter two have 4 combined starts in AAA. You may be asking yourself: What is a Dietrich Enns? (Twins received him in the Jaime Garcia trade last season). I thought Phil Hughes retired? (I wish). While the thought of a top prospect contributing at the Major League level right away is enticing, the Twins are probably best suited to let them develop.
Adding 1 or better yet, TWO, starters no doubt helps this team try to get back to the postseason in 2018. Yu Darvish signing with the Cubs on Saturday left Twins fans shattered, as their #1 option went off the board. This leaves Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb as the top remaining free agents. While there are many blogs that have speculated on how those three would contribute to the team, I will be focusing on the Twins trade options.
Contract status: Signed thru 2019. Team option in ‘20 & ‘21 (AAV $8.415mil)
162 gm Average: 3.63 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 204 IP, 9.7 K/9, 1.214 WHIP
Immediately after the Darvish news broke over the weekend, Twins fans began clamoring on Twitter to trade for Chris Archer. It is without question Archer would improve this team but at what cost? Thad Levine stated earlier today that "The prospect of kind of weakening one part of your team to strengthen another is not appealing." He was of course speaking in reference to the Major League 25 man roster. As recently as two weeks ago, the Twins offered a trade for Chris Archer. The package was believed to include Max Kepler. With how favorable Archer’s contract is, the prospect of the Rays building a new stadium, and having several young prospects graduating through their system, they are not in any urgency to get rid of him. A package of Kepler, Nick Gordon (#8 prospect via Baseball America), and Gonsalves (#4 prospect) would most likely not be enough to lure him away. Look at as recently as last season’s Chris Sale trade. It took the Red Sox’s #1 prospect (and #1 prospect in all of baseball) Yoan Moncada, plus Michael Kopech (Boston’s #5 prospect) and two others. The bar has been set. If I were the Rays, my price for Archer starts at either Byron Buxton or Royce Lewis. Seeing as those may be untouchable for the Twins front office, a deal for Archer is unlikely...onto the next option.
Contract status: Arb eligible ‘18 & ‘19
162 gm Average: 3.83 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 188 IP, 8.2 K/9, 1.219 WHIP
At 27 years old with two years to go before he is a free agent (2020 season), Odorizzi would be a clear upgrade to this rotation. Most likely slotting in right behind Santana & Berrios. Relying mostly on his low 90’s fastball (thrown 48% of the time) and his splitter (23%) to generate swings and misses, Odorizzi has had plenty of success getting American League hitters out. However, both the fastball and splitter have led to more fly balls due to the way Odorizzi mechanics work. His slight armside run and the way he releases the ball create more backspin than most pitchers. He allowed 30 home runs last year. For a right handed pitcher, he has had good success keeping left handed hitters at bay, something Twins pitchers (especially Jose Berrios) struggled with in 2017. Lefties hit just .210 off him with an OPS of .686. He was much improved over the second half of the year with an ERA of 3.47 (first half of 4.63), a K/9 of 8.3, and only 10 homers allowed (20 allowed in first half). That is encouraging to see. It remains to be seen what the market for Odorizzi will be. With only two years remaining of team control, he should fetch at least 2 solid MLB prospects. Cubs, Yankees, Brewers, and Twins have all been connected to Odorizzi in the last week. As a comparison, Gerrit Cole was traded for MLB ready Joe Musgrove and former first round pick Colin Moran plus two additional minor leaguers. Cole is at a higher level than Odorizzi and to some, gathered an underwhelming return. If that is the bar, maybe it wouldn’t take too much for the Twins to pry Odorizzi away?
Contract status: Arb in ‘18 & ‘19
162 gm Average: 3.70 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 195 innings, 8.4 K/9, 1.253 WHIP
Like Odorizzi, McHugh would likely slot behind Big Erv and Berrios in the Twins rotation. A serviceable and reliable starting pitcher who threw healthy workloads for the Astros from 2014-16. Last year, he dealt with some arm issues that limited him to 63 innings. A “posterior impingement of his right elbow” led to shutting him down before the season even began. He rebounded for a solid campaign over 12 starts with a 3.55 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. He only threw 6 innings out of the bullpen last year for the World Champion, Houston Astros. With the addition of Gerrit Cole, the Astros have a bit of a logjam in their rotation. McHugh might be the odd-man out. He has already been rumored in trade discussions, notably with the Orioles. McHugh throws a low 90’s fastball and relies heavily on his curveball (thrown 20% of the time) and in 2017 developed a slider which he used 17% of the time. His slider clocks in at at 83mph and was very successful in a short period of time. Opposing hitters only batted .138 off it, with one homer allowed. A kudos to Astros pitching coach, Brent Storm for the help with that one. What this new pitch means for 2018, only time will tell. It’s hard to see McHugh taking another step at the age of 30. At this point he is what he is. With the Astros seemingly OK entering 2018 with McHugh in their bullpen and an emergency option for the rotation, there isn’t a lot of urgency to move him. If the Twins were willing, I am sure a solid low level prospect (Lewis Thorpe?) combined with a mid-tier minor league player would be enough to get a deal completed.
With the Twins internal options less than ideal, it seems the best option will be 1) Sign a free agent and 2) trade for one of these three pitchers. The best case scenario would be a combination of both.
There is not doubt Odorizzi and McHugh plus Cobb/Lynn help this team immensely in 2018 and give them a great opportunity to close the gap with the Cleveland Indians in the AL central. There is the issue however that adding two new pitchers could have an effect on the 2019 season. The Twins will add Michael Pineda to the mix. Additionally, Gonsalves/Romero should be ready. Plus don’t forget about Trevor May. None of those are a given and “too many starting pitchers” is never a bad problem to have.
But the focus right now is the present. Without a real “ace” the Twins will have to rely on several #2 and #3 starters to get the job done. Already possessing a top 10 offense, upgraded bullpen and above average defense, the Twins would be poised to make a run back to the playoffs. Not making an addition is inexcusable. I do think the Twins do something, but how far do they go?
So let me hear you Twins fans: What are your opinions on trading for a starter?