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The Time to Trade José Berríos is Now


Lost in the bottom of the standings with postseason odds in the single digits, the Minnesota Twins have no choice but to be sellers at the deadline. Most of the moveable names are obvious, but José Berríos is more controversial. The time to trade the Twins’ ace is now.

When a baseball team deems itself a seller at the trade deadline, the names that most often pop up are the players who are on expiring contracts. For the Twins, those names are Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, J.A. Happ and Hansel Robles, among others. Those players will undoubtedly be in trade rumors all trade season, as they are bound for free agency at the end of the year anyways. While it makes a ton of sense to trade expiring players, the lack of team control that comes with those players suppresses the return that can be expected in those trades. Greater assets can be had when players are traded who bring with them multiple years of team control such as Minnesota Twins’ team ace, José Berríos. Berríos has this year and next of arbitration before becoming a free agent after the 2022 season.

Already there is national speculation that Berríos could be dealt, as Jon Morosi from MLB Network tweeted yesterday that he could be a name for which the Twins field offers.

Over each of the past few offseasons, the Minnesota Twins have worked with Berríos to get an extension done to keep him in Minnesota past 2022, but Berríos and his camp have turned down those team-friendly deals in favor of working Berríos toward free agency. With his free agency now just 18 months away, the odds of getting an extension done with the right hander are next to nothing. Berríos is now already making serious money in arbitration, and his free agency is so close that the Twins no longer hold any type of leverage over José. This will leave the Minnesota Twins in a situation where they will be bidding against 29 other teams for the right to sign Berríos, where realistically they will likely get outbid and lose out on their 2-time all-star.

Operating under the above assumption, that means that the Minnesota Twins have a year and a half left of Berríos’s services. The 2021 season for the Twins is already a lost cause, leaving only the 2022 season for Berríos to bring value to this club. The only reason that the Twins would hang onto Berríos at this point is if they truly believe that 2021 is an outlier and that they expect to compete for a division title and World Series in 2022. How realistic is that, though? After all, the Twins have the worst record in Major League Baseball with the 5th worst run differential. The Twins have the second worst pitching staff in the American League, and after the season the Twins will lose 3/5 of their rotation, their home run leader, their starting shortstop and their second best bullpen arm to free agency. There are reasons to think that with better luck and injury fortune things could get better, but acting as if everything will turn around in 2022 when the numbers suggest that this isn’t a good team, could be detrimental. That is what happened with the 2011 team, and it led into a 8-year rebuild featuring some of the worst Minnesota Twins teams in team history (Aaron Gleeman wrote an excellent piece about this a couple of weeks ago).

On the flipside, the Minnesota Twins could take advantage of this opportunity where they have a true asset with massive trade value that they could flip to bring back a big return, fueling the Minnesota Twins’ next run in 2023, 2024 and beyond. This 2021 season has shown that the Twins have legit young talent joining the fold in Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, with pitching prospects soon to come. Gaining more future assets to pair along with the young core the Twins have could lead into their next competitive window, not far off.

The Morosi tweet above mentions the Toronto Blue Jays, who boast a top-10 farm system in all of baseball with massive prospect names such as Nate Pearson, Austin Martin and Nate Groshans. Whether it’s the Blue Jays or another team, Berríos possesses the talent and the years of control that should bring back a top-100 prospect (and then some) in return. That return could be what gives the Twins their next ace, cleanup hitter, or gives them the trade ammunition to make a veteran deal down the line. Next deadline, Berríos could be struggling or injured, and his team control of just 3 months at that point will hugely suppress the return that he will bring should the Twins decide to play things out. The difference in trade return between now and then could set the Twins back years. Berríos’ trade value is as high as it is ever going to be until he becomes a free agent and the Twins are as low as they have been in a while, with no guarantee they will claw themselves back anytime soon.

The Time to Trade José Berríos is Now.

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I like the idea of trading assets that will bring back substantial return. The caveat I would add is that there has to be a reasonable chance that the asset can be replaced. I'm not sure that a top of the line pitcher can ever really be replaced, but I honestly don't think Berrios is that guy. He's a good, durable pitcher. 

Other assets to consider moving IMHO are Polanco and Kepler. Polanco, Kepler and Berrios are all in their twenties but seem to have plateaued if not regressed. The Twins have other second basemen and left handed hitting corner outfielders. 

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I agree with this.  Look no further than the team at the top of the Division Standings that has beat our brains in this year (combined score of the 6 games is White Sox 48-23, an average of 8-4).  In the 2016/2017 offseason, the White Sox traded Sale and Eaton for Giolito, Moncada, Lopez, Dunning, and Kopech (Dunning was turned into Lance Lynn).  Add in the 2017 mid-season trade of Quintana that netted Jimenez and Cease, and the White Sox added 6 key contributors to their current team by moving assets when it was clear the team's upside was gone.

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I like the idea honestly.  I wonder what the return on him could be compared to past trades of a comparable starter with 1 and a half years left.  But please don't take quantity over quality in return as happens to many times.

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This proved to be an unpopular opinion on Twitter, but I guess I just don't see how the Twins find themselves in contention again by 2023 if they trade an established and good #2 starter like Berrios. This team continues to scrape the bottom of the barrel for the back-end of the rotation, and we're due to lose Big Mike during/after this season as well. This team clearly can't compete effectively without better pitching, and I'm much more optimistic about getting the bullpen turned around in a year or two than I am about the rotation.

Call me pessimistic about this one, but if they trade Berrios this year, I foresee them slipping out of contention for more than a couple of years for no other reason than the hole in the rotation will be too big to fill in a single season.

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So evidently you like Dobnak, Thorpe, Ober, and whoever else gets brought up to toss innings this year! Berrios and Maeda are the only starting pitchers coming back next year, unless Dobnak and Thorpe figure it out at the MLB level. Berrios will not bring back an MLB ready pitcher, nor will Buxton, Maeda or anyone else on this roster. And if you blow up the roster, no FA's will sign here; Simmons, Pineda, Cruz, Happ, Shoemaker, Robles, and probably Colome....all gone after this year. Pretty big turnover already and you want to add one more starting pitcher to the shopping list....

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I guess I hadn't gotten to the point of punting on 2022 and using it as a development year but after reading this article it seems the most likely coarse of action.  The Young pitching is coming soon but probably not in time to make a real difference in 2022.  It seems like the guys we were banking on in Polanco, Kepler and Sano have never really turned into the star players we hoped they would be so probably time to turn to Kirilloff, Larnach and Lewis.  Maybe Miranda and a few of the college bats show up and guys like Celestino and Urbina are ready sooner rather than later for a second run at finding star players..

If they can get some top 100 prospect's in trade for Berrios and or other players that just accelerates the process.  Hate to lose a good pitcher like Berrios but if they can get the right pieces back in trade they probably should do it.  The Twins won't have Happ or Shoemaker or Pineda next year most likely so losing Berrios hurts but it would give the Twins a chance to develop Winder, Canterino, Balzovic and Duran.  Also would have Thorpe, Dobank and Ober as possible 5th starters with Smeltzer and maybe Sands, or Jax as depth pieces.  So the cupboard would not be bare, but would be very, very light on MLB experience.

Sad to think the first window might be shut but I guess that is the way things go sometimes.

 

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13 minutes ago, JensenGregory said:

This proved to be an unpopular opinion on Twitter, but I guess I just don't see how the Twins find themselves in contention again by 2023 if they trade an established and good #2 starter like Berrios. This team continues to scrape the bottom of the barrel for the back-end of the rotation, and we're due to lose Big Mike during/after this season as well. This team clearly can't compete effectively without better pitching, and I'm much more optimistic about getting the bullpen turned around in a year or two than I am about the rotation.

Call me pessimistic about this one, but if they trade Berrios this year, I foresee them slipping out of contention for more than a couple of years for no other reason than the hole in the rotation will be too big to fill in a single season.

They are unlikely to be in contention next year anyways. They already need to find 3 new starters next year. If Maeda doesn't fix himself it might be 4. Berrios is closer to a 3 on a true contender if you look around at their rotations. High-3's ERAs don't usually anchor a playoff staff.

Then you still have to sign him for 2023 and beyond, where he'll probably ask to be paid like a #1 or #2. He'll be valued more by another team as a strong piece to round out a playoff squad rather than anchoring our rebuilding rotation. 

Him and Buxton are both greater than 50% odds to be gone in FA in my estimation. With Buck it's more because agreeing on a value for a guy who's always hurt is going to be impossible. So someone will likely swoop in and take the risk to pay him top dollar if he keeps producing.

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Solid 'on the fence' on this one. There's nothing really wrong with your argument and the  case made. On the other hand, I'm not so sure we need to think rebuild at this point. There is a ton of veteran talent and some impact rookies on the horizon, particularly on offense. The pitching is a mess, but probably a fixable mess. You can look at Berrios as a potential jackpot for a return, or you can look at him like a cheap upper-tier pitcher on a one year deal for 2022. If I didn't believe they could retool and bounce back in 2022, I'd be totally with the idea. But as it stands, I'd rather start thinking about how to fix the staff for next year. With a few tweaks they could be good again and having Berrios would help. 

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Matthew made a good point that Berrios in likely gone after next season. Berrios has the most trade value now. Instead of holding on to him and still having an average to below average team-get some pieces for the future. If Twins hold on to Berrios will not get much when he leaves.

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About 45 days early with this piece, Matt.

Between now and then, the Twins FO must sit down with Berrios' agent and discuss whether he will consider an extension, even one more expensive than they would like.  Let's admit it, Jose hasn't taken that last step to become a true ACE, yet, he is awfully good and worthy of near ACE money.

If the answer is yes, they have to get it signed by July.  If no, or hell no, then you hit it right on the head...move on this summer.  Trading him to a team in the hunt for a championship this year should get them a top starting pitching prospect who is close to being MLB ready and at least one more very good starting pitching prospect.  Say a pitcher who could become as good as Berrios was when he was moving up from AA to AAA ball and another prospect similar to say Winder or Canterino today.  They have to walk away with potentially one and a half future starters with one being at least a future #2 and the other a solid #3 or #4, albeit a couple years away.

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Berrios has never made the jump from good to great. If you can trade him this season and get a sizable return, absolutely do it 100%. There is no guarantee he will remain durable throughout his career. Extending him at a premium for the pitcher the Twins hope he becomes but may never turn into would be a financial mistake they do not have the luxury of making.

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I'm highly conflicted. Clearly, if his side says they won't sign here long term, you deal him, and I think you deal him this year. If there is a chance to realistically keep him, I try to sign him by July. If that doesn't get done, I likely deal him. This team looks very far away right now. ZERO starting pitchers in AAA that look like even number 4/5 types. Who knows about AA and health......

The big issue is their unwillingness to pay top dollar for great pitching, so Berrios might be the best they can hope for anytime soon (and, so far, their inability to develop even a decent starter). If you deal him, where does pitching come from?

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I take exception - getting a good pitcher is one of the most expensive and difficult challenges for any team.  Without Berrios we are without a pitcher that ranks higher than a number 3.  Who do we get for him?  I know it is going to cost - that is how the market works, but for now Berrios is the best we have and the best we can project.  

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If you can sign Berrios and or Buxton, you have to do it, and it will hurt. Maybe Jim will have to up the budget or we get closer to Tampa Bay mode and that mode does work.  If both Buxton and Berrios cannot be signed and give you no hope they both have to be dealt.  If Buxton returns and can hit again, he can bring the pieces.  Start with Padres and ask for Gore in a Buxton trade, doubt the Dodgers will pay that much for him, but maybe Toronto will and put a lot of pressure on Boston and the Yankees to get involved.   Will have to see when Buxton returns, and how he hits.

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Yep, been advocating for his for awhile now on various threads.

It's not about if we want Berrios, it's about understanding that he WILL be gone for many reasons to include money and not liking the Twins FO actions for the most part.

So... the question is what we want in our return. Trading him sometime before the trade deadline will maximize that return.

It's just that disappointingly simple

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7 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

I agree with this.  Look no further than the team at the top of the Division Standings that has beat our brains in this year (combined score of the 6 games is White Sox 48-23, an average of 8-4).  In the 2016/2017 offseason, the White Sox traded Sale and Eaton for Giolito, Moncada, Lopez, Dunning, and Kopech (Dunning was turned into Lance Lynn).  Add in the 2017 mid-season trade of Quintana that netted Jimenez and Cease, and the White Sox added 6 key contributors to their current team by moving assets when it was clear the team's upside was gone.

This just needed to be repeated :)

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17 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

Apparently Gore can't throw strokes anymore for some reason....

Gore was just a suggestion.  Would want a top prospect (pitching hopefully to trade Buxton), and should be able to get it from a hungry world series contender.

One more note, we don't know what a new CBA will look like, and may get nothing if they walk at the end of 2022.

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8 hours ago, stringer bell said:

I like the idea of trading assets that will bring back substantial return. The caveat I would add is that there has to be a reasonable chance that the asset can be replaced. I'm not sure that a top of the line pitcher can ever really be replaced, but I honestly don't think Berrios is that guy. He's a good, durable pitcher. 

Other assets to consider moving IMHO are Polanco and Kepler. Polanco, Kepler and Berrios are all in their twenties but seem to have plateaued if not regressed. The Twins have other second basemen and left handed hitting corner outfielders. 

I agree if the Twins become sellers then they have to consider as potential assets to move: Berrios, Kepler, Polanco and I would add Sano and Garver. Wouldn't trade Buxton, Arraez and the young LH hitters.

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I think Berrios is going to find himself sadly disappointed in the actual market he thinks is waiting for him. However, I don't think this helps the Twins. Some team will offer $1 - $2 million more to have him as a third starter then the Twins will be able to offer to bring him back.

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I think we first of all need to be realistic about Berrios as a pitcher.  He is not an ace level starting pitcher and probably will never be one.  He has a career ERA just above 4.00, he strikes out about 1 per inning pitched, and he has a career WHIP of 1.26.  I think we may have a skewed view because the rest of the rotation (aside from maybe Pineda) has been so putrid this year.  With that said, he would make a solid #2 or #3 on many teams or round out the rotation of a really good team.  If you are in the playoff hunt and maybe need a starting pitcher to get you over the hump, Berrios might be your guy.

I like the idea of asking him and his agent what he wants to be paid or what he is expecting in terms of a contract.  If they are looking for something in the range of 5 yr/$75M, that would seem fair and reasonable to me.  The question then becomes can the Twins build a team around him over the next five years.  If they are looking at 5 yr/$150M (ace money), no way. 

Now if someone like the Blue Jays really blows the Twins away with an offer, why not make the deal?  If the Jays would be willing to part with a couple top prospects for a season and a half of Berrios, it would seem like a no-brainer to me.

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6 hours ago, roger said:

About 45 days early with this piece, Matt.

Between now and then, the Twins FO must sit down with Berrios' agent and discuss whether he will consider an extension, even one more expensive than they would like.  Let's admit it, Jose hasn't taken that last step to become a true ACE, yet, he is awfully good and worthy of near ACE money.

If the answer is yes, they have to get it signed by July.  If no, or hell no, then you hit it right on the head...move on this summer.  Trading him to a team in the hunt for a championship this year should get them a top starting pitching prospect who is close to being MLB ready and at least one more very good starting pitching prospect.  Say a pitcher who could become as good as Berrios was when he was moving up from AA to AAA ball and another prospect similar to say Winder or Canterino today.  They have to walk away with potentially one and a half future starters with one being at least a future #2 and the other a solid #3 or #4, albeit a couple years away.

Absolutely agree with your analysis on this issue.  Time to let this play out over the next 6-8 weeks. IMO, if Berrios can pitch to his recent past numbers AND he stymies management on agreeing to an extenstion, then you find the best trade partner possible.

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Hate to say it, but Matt Taylor makes sense. Trade Berrios now, while his apparent value is rising, before something goes wrong beyond this wasted season. Get a young starting prospect of approximately equal projection. 

From Jose's perspective, he could be motivated. Finally he could go to a serious contender, see how that sharpens his command.

Meanwhile, '21 and '22 will become testing years for Duran, Balasovic, and all the other top pitching prospects. Let them get their feet wet at the mlb level, learn what pitches go over the fence, how to make adjustments the second and third times through the order, etc. By the way, for that reason alone the Twins should hang onto at least one good veteran, like Maeda, Happ or Shoemaker, just to help the kids learn the daily habits of a professional pitcher.

At the same time, if we're talking about unloading players that won't be around for the next championship run... Trade Kepler, and maybe Sano. Again, it's not because they're not good enough, but because they'll become free agents that the team can't compete for, and because of the logjam of young players coming up. Donaldson and Simmons are short-term rentals. Unload them both at the end of this season, then bring up the kids. 

If your team isn't making the playoffs, then you should be constantly experimenting with fresh faces. Keep the revolving door between the minors and the club as open as the rules allow. That way, at least us long-suffering fans will feel like the organization is looking for ways to win. 

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Berrios is a good pitcher but he is not an "ace" or even a "1".  On a roster with real world series chances he is a "2" at most, and ideally a "3".   Think of matching up Verlander/ DeGrom/ Cole/ Kershaw/ Scherzer/ Beiber vs Berrios, then think of matching Bauer/ Snell/ Buehler/ Darvish/ Strasburg vs him.

Berrios to me is more in the Stroman/ Wheeler category.  Big market teams can make the Berrios/ Stroman/ Wheeler types 20 mil offers to be the 2/3, the Twins can't.

It hurts but I am ok with trading him, preferably for the best pitching prospect you can get.  The system lacks big upside arms, if you can turn over paying Berrios into a chance at a real top of the rotation arm its a win.

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If/when Buxton comes back, I would give him one last shot and being able to play healthy the rest of the season. If he ends up again on the IL, then I think the Twins have little choice but to move our most exciting player. He is of no use to us when he can't play...which unfortunately is way too much. A sad situation for sure. Berrios is really not our 'ace'. He can't string together solid outings...rarely pitches deep into games, and when he starts to 'lose it', he goes downhill quickly. We all keep waiting for him to be our ace, but it doesn't look that will ever happen. I really wonder how much he would yield on the trade market?

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