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5 Free Agent Options for the Minnesota Twins to Replace José Berríos


With José Berríos now north of the border, the Minnesota Twins are faced with an extremely difficult task: replacing their ace of the past five years. There are five impending free agents who could be candidates for the Twins to replace their right hander.

When the Minnesota Twins traded away José Berríos they gave away their most durable, consistent and talented pitcher they’ve had since Johan Santana. While the Twins will look to their farm system to fill in the gaps of the depleted rotation that Berríos left behind, they should also look to free agency to replace as much of the consistent, veteran arm of Berríos that they can. 

When looking for a replacement for José Berríos, the Minnesota Twins will need to look for a pitcher who mirrors the age and upside of José Berríos. The Twins should be targeting a pitcher better than impending free agent names like Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Sanchez, but at the same time avoiding aging stars that do not fit the Twins’ timeline such as Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer.

In looking at replacements for Berríos, let’s look at pitchers aged 30 or younger who have shown flashes of excellence. Acquiring a pitcher in this mold would ideally allow the Twins to replace ~85% of Berríos’s production on a cheaper contract than the Puerto Rican right hander will command after the 2022 season. Let’s get to the list...

Marcus Stroman
RHP
30 years old
2019 - 2021: 306.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 7.6 K/9

Marcus Stroman was a name that many Twins fans wanted Minnesota to sign at the 2019 trade deadline and again in free agency last offseason. Stroman ended up being traded to the Mets in 2019 and then signed the qualifying offer last offseason, but will finally be a fully unrestricted free agent this winter. Stroman is currently having the best season of his young career with a 2.80 ERA in 122 innings with the Mets. Stroman is not a lights-out pitcher with top-notch velocity, but he limits damage extremely well with pinpoint control and a sinker that induces ground balls more than 50% of the time.

Stroman is still only 30 years old and has the type of profile that figures to age well. Stroman will command some big-time offers in free agency but with numbers similar to José Berríos, the Twins have a unique opportunity to replace their former ace with a new one.

 

Kevin Gausman
RHP
30 years old
2019 - 2021: 288.1 IP, 3.81 ERA, 10.7K/9

Kevin Gausman was another name that Twins fans were looking at as a potential free agent option last offseason, only to miss out on him via the qualifying offer. Similar to Stroman, Gausman is in the midst of the best season of his career, with a 2.35 ERA and a 10.6 K/9. Gausman has a nasty pitch arsenal and the type of stuff that could play over the life of a 5 year contract.

 

Noah Syndergaard

RHP
28 years old
2019 - 2021: 197.2 IP, 4.28 ERA, 9.2 K/9

Another name that was once linked to the Minnesota Twins, Syndergaard was talked about as a potential trade return for Byron Buxton when the Twins were looking for a starting pitcher at the 2019 trade deadline. Now a free agent, Syndergaard figures to be a name that will draw interest from many clubs. Syndergaard has elite stuff, highlighted by his fastball that can reach triple digits. What has held “Thor” back is injury, as he is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery he underwent at the end of the 2019 season. When healthy, Syndergaard can be one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball, and while his injury presents risk, it could also present an opportunity to get value on a potential contract.

 

Eduardo Rodriguez

LHP
28 years old
2019 - 2021: 303.0 IP, 4.40 ERA, 9.9 K/9

Moving to the southpaws, Eduardo Rodriguez has been an underrated starting pitcher with the Boston Red Sox over the past number of years. Rodriguez is having a tough 2021 season, with an ERA of 5.60, but his underlying statistics show that he has been pitching much better than that. Rodriguez would bring a left handed pitcher to a rotation and farm system full of righties, and at just 28-years-old it’s fair to wonder if the Minnesota Twins could add some MPH to his low-90s fastball and unlock even more from the promising lefty. 

 

Robbie Ray

LHP
29 years old
2019 - 2021: 350.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 11.7 K/9

After a miserable 2020 season, Robbie Ray has rebounded in 2021 and is having a career year. After always having the strikeout arsenal, Ray has found his control and is walking a career-low 2.4 batters per 9 innings. Ray is only 29 years old, and if he has truly turned a corner in terms of his command, he could be an ace for the next half-decade and a great candidate to replace José Berríos.

 

Which of these impending free agent pitchers would be the best replacement for José Berríos? Which do you think will command the least and most money on the free agent market? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!


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Nice interesting list.  Would love for the Twins to get one or more of them.  Very unlikely it will happen.  The Twins are going with their in house pitchers I believe.  Twins talk about significant pitching signings in the past but rarely deliver.  Unless of course the FA pitcher is coming off Tommy John surgery, hasnt pitched in a couple of years, or if he hasn't been released by several teams.  

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Gausman was lights most of the year, but his last 3 starts haven't been good, so if he doesn't turn that around I have no interest in signing him, plus his track record doesn't scream can't miss, which means I wouldn't give him more than 2 or 3 year contract even if he does turn it around the rest of the year.

Stroman seems like an expensive down grade from Berrios, I am fine with starting him, but thinking he is an aces is a huge mistake.

I am for signing Thor, maybe the most risk, but also a possible high reward.

I like Ray, Rodriguez might be a guy they sign to a two year contact thinking the Twins minor league pitchers should be as good as him by year 3.

My preference would be to stay away from Gausman and Stroman and try to sign two of the others guys, with Thor being my number 1.

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You've listed 5 excellent candidates.  I'm least impressed with Stroman but the other 4 intrigue me.  There is risk with each one of them.  Thor needs to be healthy.  Gausman needs to prove 2021 wasn't a fluke.  Ray needs to prove he's finally achieved the command of his stuff to sustain his success and E-Rod is better than his season this year.  One thing is CERTAIN.  The Twins MUST sign one of these guys to head the rotation.  As always, competition will be fierce, but they cannot afford to be left without one of these guys to have any chance to be competitive next year.  They need one of these guys, Maeda, probably an affordable resigning of Pineda going 1-2-3.  And then they need someone like Dobnak to bounce back at #4 and one of their rookie pitchers (Balazovic, Ober, Ryan, etc...) to hold down #5.  They can use the money they would have been paying Berrios in future years to justify a splash.  

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I wouldn't sign Rodriguez or Ray regardless. They're not guys who could potentially replace a top of the rotation starter.

Rodriguez looks like a bad luck candidate, but I don't know as I believe in the kind of luck he's having. His barrel rate, exit velocity and hard hit rates are all better than average, but his BABIP against is .369 and he's just getting shelled, not to mention he's giving up a lot of homers. He's also been totally ineffective at stranding runners with a miserable 64% strand rate blowing his ERA totally up. Reminds me too much of Ricky Nolasco.

Robbie Ray has reached back to find 2.5mph more on his fastball than he had in 2019, returning to his career peak. He's always been prone to giving up HRs and this year is benefitting from a .270 BABIP and 89.7% strand rate. He's been super inconsistent over his career and he has a propensity to struggle with a similar zone% as Francisco Liriano had. His FIP looks reasonable at 3.93, but that's not what I would want for a Berrios replacement on a long term contract because if his change in velocity and the sudden ability to throw strikes don't stick, he'll tank.

Syndergaard started throwing bullpens and the Mets have announced they'll probably use him out of the bullpen if he makes it back this year. I'm assuming that's for 2 reasons. The biggest of the two is they want Syndergaard to accept the qualifying offer they're absolutely going to make to him so putting him in the bullpen will likely hurt his value. I don't think the Twins have the risk tolerance to make him a legitimate offer even if Syndergaard does decline the qualifying offer, but I don't think he will.

Gausman and Stroman do look like they're going to hit free agency. Gausman has been on record as prefering to stay in San Francisco. Of the two, Stroman would be my preference.

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I think the Twins should get two of Guasman, Rodon, Ray, Thor, Stroman. But that they didn't come close to extending Berrios suggests they won't pay market rate for a top end pitcher. I hope I'm wrong but the Twins way looks to be 5 inning starters, lots of bullpen arms, and AAAA arms with options to St Paul to help eat innings.

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Like all the options to try and replace Berrios. However, I don't think any of them are going to come cheaper than he would have so put the odds of the Twins being able to get one of them at virtually zero.

I shoot for Stroman as I think he's the one you'd have the best chance at if you're willing to overpay, and they will have to overpay.

 

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These are all good choices, although I don't think the Twins will sign any of them in the offseason. They may be better off trading prospects or select major leaguers for a young SP who has several remaining years of control.

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Crazy article. The Twins are NOT going to pay the younger Pitchers on your list who are in the midst of their best seasons just like they wouldn't pay Berrios! Why even talk about those guys? They are going to try Farm guys who are not ready or they will get broken down Tommy  John guys and hope to revive them. That's the Twins way, Save a Buck is number one rule. We all know that! Stop dreaming.

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Berrios comps to Brad Radke, who ultimately was not difficult to "replace."

The problem is, the Twins had Santana then, plus a revolving bunch of other pitchers who were almost as good as Radke.  Radke retired at a good time for the Twins.  (Although playing good defense can make any pitcher look better.)

Right now the Twins have...?

The point is, this will be less about replacing Berrios for the Twins.  They have to make a lot of big decisions.

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Question: Can a team and player negotiate a FA contract if his current team makes a QO?  If so, I would think a prudent agent would want to explore what kind of multi-year offers a pitcher like Syndergaard would receive before making a decision whether to accept a QO?

Also, does Syndergaard like pitching in the big market? Is that important to him?

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If I'm the Twins owner I'm asking my FO to sign people for no more than 2 years. For the Twins to be successful they need to develop their own pitching. Plain and simple. They can't afford top end FA arms on long term deals so are paying for their decline. Donaldson has 2 years left on his big deal. This offseason I'm pushing for the FO to sign pitchers to 1 or 2 year deals. If they can get a Scherzer/Verlander type for big money on a short deal I'm all for it. Not paying any of these guys on long term deals as I don't think any will be good enough for the 20M+ they likely demand.

I say this is what I'd do as the Twins owner, because 2 years is all the more leash I'd give Falvine. They need to develop top end starters. They now have 10-12 guys who should be up next year and establishing themselves by 2023. If they haven't turned anyone into a #1-2 starter they're out. They were hired to develop a pitching pipeline and it's time to see it or find someone who can do it. So I want vets on big $, short term deals to front the rotation while the young guys get their chances. Then after 2023 if the pitching pipeline isn't flowing somebody else gets to come in and take over a roster with almost no guaranteed money and make their changes.

I know many of you have no desire to see Falvine here for 2 more years, but their arms are set to start debuting this year and next. Doesn't make sense to me to fire them as their arms start showing up. They had top 10 staffs in 2019 and 2020 so I think they get the chance to see their prospects through. If they all flop, it's over, but if they show up and perform Falvine gets to stick around.

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I'm not going to be so quick ruling out the possibility of the Twins signing a Free Agent Pitcher, maybe not one of the above though. They wanted to sign Berrios but his agent was clear they were not going to sign before free agent hit. Why not get the package they got now if thats the case? Of the above Pitchers I think Thor and Stroman will have plenty of interest from other teams driving the price well above the worth. The best value may be Ray, or possibly Rodriguez due to a less than stellar history.

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1 hour ago, gunnarthor said:

I think the Twins should get two of Guasman, Rodon, Ray, Thor, Stroman. But that they didn't come close to extending Berrios suggests they won't pay market rate for a top end pitcher. I hope I'm wrong but the Twins way looks to be 5 inning starters, lots of bullpen arms, and AAAA arms with options to St Paul to help eat innings.

It suggests they won't pay market if Berrios was willing to sign for market.  So, unless you have a source with direct knowledge of his ask who confided in you, this is purely speculation / assumption with no basis in fact.

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29 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

If I'm the Twins owner I'm asking my FO to sign people for no more than 2 years. For the Twins to be successful they need to develop their own pitching. Plain and simple. They can't afford top end FA arms on long term deals so are paying for their decline. Donaldson has 2 years left on his big deal. This offseason I'm pushing for the FO to sign pitchers to 1 or 2 year deals. If they can get a Scherzer/Verlander type for big money on a short deal I'm all for it. Not paying any of these guys on long term deals as I don't think any will be good enough for the 20M+ they likely demand.

I say this is what I'd do as the Twins owner, because 2 years is all the more leash I'd give Falvine. They need to develop top end starters. They now have 10-12 guys who should be up next year and establishing themselves by 2023. If they haven't turned anyone into a #1-2 starter they're out. They were hired to develop a pitching pipeline and it's time to see it or find someone who can do it. So I want vets on big $, short term deals to front the rotation while the young guys get their chances. Then after 2023 if the pitching pipeline isn't flowing somebody else gets to come in and take over a roster with almost no guaranteed money and make their changes.

I know many of you have no desire to see Falvine here for 2 more years, but their arms are set to start debuting this year and next. Doesn't make sense to me to fire them as their arms start showing up. They had top 10 staffs in 2019 and 2020 so I think they get the chance to see their prospects through. If they all flop, it's over, but if they show up and perform Falvine gets to stick around.

It would really suck to find out two years from now that we had a FO that developed pitching and we fired them before we had a chance to fully evaluate their work.  They have 10 starting pitchers with a legit chance to be here by the end of 2022.  There is going to be a lot of demand here that they sign multiple free agents SPs.  I just don't see them doing that with all of these guys ready to make their debut over the next year plus.   

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I would go after Syndergaard, but I think the Mets will re-sign him. The other 4 are going to be out of the teams price range, but offers should still be extended. The only guys signing for two years are older vets, and they would more than likely look at a team that is for sure contending over those two years. I see the Twins signing the likes of Steven Matz, Zach Davies, Alex Cobb, Brett Anderson or Tyler Anderson.

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If we signed someone, ask yourself which pitchers are likely to throw 180+ innings at the lowest price.  That is who we would target.  Likely Gausman or Rodriguez Thor would have to come on a low guarentee with incentives.  I bet he could do better.  Ray and Strongman are options too.   But ate likely too expensive.

Who are the top free agent pitchers a year from now? That is where we should be looking I think.

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32 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

It suggests they won't pay market if Berrios was willing to sign for market.  So, unless you have a source with direct knowledge of his ask who confided in you, this is purely speculation / assumption with no basis in fact.

Yeah, I suppose that's true of pretty much every post on TD. On the other hand, I'm fairly confident the Twins won't sign a top end pitcher at market rate.

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Intriguing list but guessing the Twins will be aiming a little lower than this for 2022. Why trade Berrios if they are willing to invest heavily in veteran pitching?

Reading the signs I'd assume they retain Pineda and roll with a rotation fronted by Maeda, Pineda with maybe a low cost upside gamble or token washed up innings eating veteran followed by a patchwork of Dobnak, Ober, Jax, Barnes, Balazovich, Winder, Ryan, Strotman, Sands, Duran and Canterino if they're healthy. It seems unlikely the Twins will seriously be competitive in 2022 with or without Buxton so might as well give the young guys a chance to see what they have to work with for 2023 and beyond. Maybe re-sign Berrios in 2023? That'd be neat

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1 minute ago, twinkiesfan11 said:

Intriguing list but guessing the Twins will be aiming a little lower than this for 2022. Why trade Berrios if they are willing to invest heavily in veteran pitching?

Reading the signs I'd assume they retain Pineda and roll with a rotation fronted by Maeda, Pineda with maybe a low cost upside gamble or token washed up innings eating veteran followed by a patchwork of Dobnak, Ober, Jax, Barnes, Balazovich, Winder, Ryan, Strotman, Sands, Duran and Canterino if they're healthy. It seems unlikely the Twins will seriously be competitive in 2022 with or without Buxton so might as well give the young guys a chance to see what they have to work with for 2023 and beyond. Maybe re-sign Berrios in 2023? That'd be neat

Because:

1. Berrios said he wanted to test FA.

2. Now they can sign a player of Berrios quality, have him here for more than just 1 year, and have two great prospects. Every team should do stuff like this. Every. Single. Team. 

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1 minute ago, Mike Sixel said:

Because:

1. Berrios said he wanted to test FA.

2. Now they can sign a player of Berrios quality, have him here for more than just 1 year, and have two great prospects. Every team should do stuff like this. Every. Single. Team. 

I'm not criticizing the FO for trading Berrios, if my post came off that way it was either unintentional or you're reading into something that isn't there. Check my posts from last week, I was in favor of trading Berrios, Buxton, Donaldson, Maeda and anyone else that could return value. 

I don't see any way this team is competitive in 2022 with or without Berrios and all the others that were or could have been traded. With that in mind I don't see the point in signing a big ticket free agent pitcher as this article suggests. Maeda and Pineda should provide some stability and possible trade assets at the 2022 deadline, then roll with the prospects to see what you have. I don't see competitive baseball in 2023 being out of the question which would make a big FA signing next offseason make more sense. Berrios would be a great target both from a productivity and feel good/fan perspective. 

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11 minutes ago, twinkiesfan11 said:

Reading the signs I'd assume they retain Pineda and roll with a rotation fronted by Maeda, Pineda with maybe a low cost upside gamble or token washed up innings eating veteran followed by a patchwork of Dobnak, Ober, Jax, Barnes, Balazovich, Winder, Ryan, Strotman, Sands, Duran and Canterino if they're healthy. It seems unlikely the Twins will seriously be competitive in 2022 with or without Buxton so might as well give the young guys a chance to see what they have to work with for 2023 and beyond. Maybe re-sign Berrios in 2023? That'd be neat

Not sure the 40 man roster will allow that to happen next, they are going to have remove some pitchers, and I don't think they can afford to put others on before they have to unless they are just so good they are forced to. (see other posts for the 40 man issues they are facing in the offseason and/or now.)

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