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Can the Pitching Staff Compete in 2022?


The Twins brass has continued to hold the position that the team intends to compete in 2022. Standing in their way is one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball in 2021. Competing in 2022 will take a major rebound, but what might that rebound look like?

The Twins had a tall order when it came to the 2022 pitching staff even when Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda were slotted into the first two spots. Berrios has since been traded and we’ve received word that Maeda has an ominous elbow injury and will have exploratory surgery next week which could turn into Tommy John.

Kenta Maeda

That brings us to the number one factor in the Twins rotation rebuild in 2022: Kenta Maeda needs to be anchoring it. The Twins can’t really affect whether Maeda is healthy and at this point it appears him being relied on in 2022 is a long shot, but not having a single veteran arm returning creates a scenario in which some might call it nearly impossible to field a reliable 1-5. Even if Maeda isn’t the bona fide ace we hoped, having him at 2 or 3 in the rotation would at least give the Twins something to work with. Without Maeda, the rotation troubles likely become too much to recover from.

Build From Within

There’s no doubt that the Falvey/Levine pitching pipeline is growing ever closer to MLB ready and some of it has already arrived. Bailey Ober is likely a favorite to shore up the rotation on Opening Day after he put up an ERA around 4.00 in his first 68 innings. Griffin Jax will likely finish the season in the rotation, and Randy Dobnak should be back in the rotation before year’s end. Joe Ryan may be up in short order as well. Additionally, the Twins do have Duran and Winder at the AAA level with newly-acquired Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands and Jordan Balazovic at AA.

The issue with using internal options is it largely depends on youth, much of which hasn’t even pitched in the majors yet. For as talented as many of the Twins young arms might be, there’s no telling how they’ll perform in their first taste of the big leagues. Furthermore, the Twins simply won’t let any of these young arms throw enough innings to take the ball every fifth day through season’s end even if they are effective.

Duran threw over 100 innings in 2019, had 2020 off, and has thrown 16 innings this season. Winder followed a similar trend and has thrown 72 innings this season. Bailey Ober, whose fans typically express their disgust with his limited innings in starts, leads this group with 84 innings in 2021. It would be simply shocking to see any of these young arms reach even 150 innings in 2022. Some innings will be filled internally, but it will likely take some of them debuting down the stretch rather than being leaned on throughout the entire season.

Outside Help

The Twins are going to have a heavy offseason of trying to acquire pitching on the free agent and hopefully trade market. Even coming into this year they preferred to spend $10m on a combination of Happ and Shoemaker to take up two spots rather than spending on a higher quality arm and dedicating a rotation spot to a young arm like Dobnak. Picking up two free agent starters with three already penciled in in 2021 hints that the Twins will likely pursue three to four starting pitchers this winter at the very least.

There are some high level free agent arms available this offseason, but it’s hard to see the Twins pursuing any of them. Spending $15-20m on one single pitcher would limit the Twins ability to effectively fill 3-4 other rotation spots. Instead the Twins will likely have to fill their rotation with middling arms that they can try to tweak and unlock something with. Their rotation’s success will likely have everything to do with their ability to effectively identify some under the radar arms and make the necessary tweaks.

So essentially the Twins are relying on a miracle when it comes to Maeda and their effectiveness in bringing in outside options when it comes to their pitching rebound. They’ll certainly be counting on some younger pitchers contributing, but they’re almost certainly going to try to make them complementary pieces. 

In short, the Twins are in a difficult spot no matter how you spin it. They’re likely going to be headed into 2022 with either four or five starting pitchers in the rotation that weren’t there on Opening Day 2021. That’s an incredibly steep mountain to climb for any front office trying to compete, let alone one that missed on nearly every pitching decision they made just last winter. 

It’s no fun being negative, but 2022 may be a year to just sit back and enjoy whatever positives shake out with this pitching staff rather than having soaring expectations. There will be a fair share of excitement along the way, but it may be wise for Twins fans to temper expectations. 

 

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My fear is that Falvine trades Buxton for pitching. I think the team's first priority should be to sign BB to a long term contract. He's come of age. His last injury was a hit-by-pitch: could happen to anybody. His dazzle will draw fans like me on a regular basis to the stadium. He's worth 15/mil a year, which is what his agents say they want. We haven't won a World Series, or played in one, since 1991; there's a reason for that. Yes, Mauer wasn't worth what he got, and an injury that reduced his effectiveness was one reason, but Buxton can be transformational in the lineup and in center field. Just do it, guys, and figure out the pitching on the fly.

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1 minute ago, Thebigalguy said:

My fear is that Falvine trades Buxton for pitching. I think the team's first priority should be to sign BB to a long term contract. He's come of age. His last injury was a hit-by-pitch: could happen to anybody. His dazzle will draw fans like me on a regular basis to the stadium. He's worth 15/mil a year, which is what his agents say they want. We haven't won a World Series, or played in one, since 1991; there's a reason for that. Yes, Mauer wasn't worth what he got, and an injury that reduced his effectiveness was one reason, but Buxton can be transformational in the lineup and in center field. Just do it, guys, and figure out the pitching on the fly.

I will consider it a massive failure if they trade Buxton, the kind of thing that would make me want to see this front office dismissed.

I don't care if it's the right baseball move or not, I want to see Byron Buxton in a Twins uniform for a very long time. He's the kind of guy a fanbase can rally around, like we SHOULD have rallied around Mauer but didn't.

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No. They do not have the pitching.

It would be a mistake to try to sign several guys a bargain prices and hope to squeeze out one more year. Instead they need to sign one pitcher spending in the mid 20s per year. That would have been the cost of Berrios in free agency.

They need to find the rest either in-house, in trade or be better than everyone else at finding a Chris Flexen. Someone that comes out of nowhere and is young enough with control to be counted on for a few seasons. I expected Falvey to be the guy that can find those pitchers.

No more one year stop gap pitchers. They don’t plug the gap and it only gets bigger the next year.

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Mauer was worth every penny of his contract and his salary NEVER impeded the Twins budget. 

Buxton is a MUST sign for all the reasons others have stated.

Maeda is a decent #3 if he can pitch, which looks doubtful. 

The Twins can fill two spots in their rotation from their internal options.

This leaves the team needing to add three pitchers this offseason via trade or free agency to be competitive.

The current roster does not have the options to be a .500 team.

There is money available and the Twins will choose to tear it down or rebuild quickly. 

Keeping the roster as is would be a disagreeable option in my opinion.

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Personally I'd much rather see them fill the rotation with guys that might not quite be ready than sign more Shoemaker, Happ, or even Pineda types.  I would have thought they'd have plenty of options earlier this year, but there is definitely a question of how many healthy pitchers they'll have next year.

Obviously they will have to make a free agent signing for the rotation, but I hope they can convince someone good to come to Minnesota and concentrate the money on a bigger free agent splash.

I think the opening day rotation could/should look something like this:

1. Free Agent 1

2. Ober

3. Free Agent 2?

4. Dobnak

5. Ryan

AAA Depth: Jax, Duran, Winder, Balazovic, Sands, Strotman, Vallimont

Potential options later in the year:  Canterino, Woods-Richardson, Enlow, Maeda hopefully--depending on health

I actually would feel ok about that rotation if they can actually get a decent free agent to lead it, and maybe they could even go without the second free agent, though I don't see a situation where they don't make at least two signings for the rotation.  There's plenty of downside risk with unproven guys, and several of the minor league options also have potential health questions, but it still seems like they will have plenty of options to fill in if certain guys falter or get injured.  If things go right they should get enough run support that their purported plan of competing next year wouldn't be out of the question.  If things don't go so right it probably won't be any worse than Happ and Shoemaker this year, and we can at least get an idea of which of the young guys can be counted on as #2 or #3 starters going forward.

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No.  For a deep playoff run, not even close.

Unfortunately we should be building for most likely 2024 for the window to crack back open.

Goal should be to debut a number of promising pitchers next year, build confidence and success in 2023, and be ready to compete for playoff type success 2024.

That is if most things go right. Not a fun take, but very realistic.

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10 minutes ago, 2wins87 said:

Personally I'd much rather see them fill the rotation with guys that might not quite be ready than sign more Shoemaker, Happ, or even Pineda types.  I would have thought they'd have plenty of options earlier this year, but there is definitely a question of how many healthy pitchers they'll have next year.

Obviously they will have to make a free agent signing for the rotation, but I hope they can convince someone good to come to Minnesota and concentrate the money on a bigger free agent splash.

I think the opening day rotation could/should look something like this:

1. Free Agent 1

2. Ober

3. Free Agent 2?

4. Dobnak

5. Ryan

AAA Depth: Jax, Duran, Winder, Balazovic, Sands, Strotman, Vallimont

Potential options later in the year:  Canterino, Woods-Richardson, Enlow, Maeda hopefully--depending on health

I actually would feel ok about that rotation if they can actually get a decent free agent to lead it, and maybe they could even go without the second free agent, though I don't see a situation where they don't make at least two signings for the rotation.  There's plenty of downside risk with unproven guys, and several of the minor league options also have potential health questions, but it still seems like they will have plenty of options to fill in if certain guys falter or get injured.  If things go right they should get enough run support that their purported plan of competing next year wouldn't be out of the question.  If things don't go so right it probably won't be any worse than Happ and Shoemaker this year, and we can at least get an idea of which of the young guys can be counted on as #2 or #3 starters going forward.

If we go into next year with Ober tagged as our #2..... Yikes! Look out below. He could end up exceeding all expectations and becoming truly dominant, but that is a hope and cannot be a plan

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1 hour ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I will consider it a massive failure if they trade Buxton, the kind of thing that would make me want to see this front office dismissed.

I don't care if it's the right baseball move or not, I want to see Byron Buxton in a Twins uniform for a very long time. He's the kind of guy a fanbase can rally around, like we SHOULD have rallied around Mauer but didn't.

I pains be to see the ongoing denial surrounding Buck. Contrary to what is put out there in the media...Buck does not want to and will not sign long term with the Twins unless they go well past market value (and they will not).

He is not happy with:

1. The messing with his service time

2. The mixed messages and lack of a cohesive strategy surrounding developing his hitting within the organization

3. Most recently the Twins petty leaking of their 'offers' to save face.

In addition, he does not want to or need to sign a hugely incentive based contract which shifts risk away from the team onto the player. A team will give him lots of guaranteed money on the open market because he does indeed have the potential to be a transformational player. He is not an older reclamation project who needs to sign an incentive based contract. He has MUCH more leverage that that!

 

I don't want to lose him at all and will be profoundly disappointed, BUT we will lose him so we need to focus on getting maximum return.

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The Twins don't have the arms to compete without making a lot of noise in free agency. Since the Twins are filled with unproven guys, underperformers or even outright roster holes, it's tough to predict how they approach 2022 in a division with two teams likely to be in full on windows wide open mode. (Detroit and Chicago). The Royals might not be far behind with way more elite talent in their system than the Twins.

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1 hour ago, jorgenswest said:

No. They do not have the pitching.

It would be a mistake to try to sign several guys a bargain prices and hope to squeeze out one more year. Instead they need to sign one pitcher spending in the mid 20s per year. That would have been the cost of Berrios in free agency.

They need to find the rest either in-house, in trade or be better than everyone else at finding a Chris Flexen. Someone that comes out of nowhere and is young enough with control to be counted on for a few seasons. I expected Falvey to be the guy that can find those pitchers.

No more one year stop gap pitchers. They don’t plug the gap and it only gets bigger the next year.

Agreed, the fixation with "flexibility," or stop gaps is what got us here in the first place. If they're going to suck, I'd rather it be with with 1-2 solid rotation pieces that provide stability beyond just next season. I'd like to see the younger arms supplement that instead of a new cast of bargain bin pieces that have no value beyond '22. 

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With 0 healthy pitchers signed with more than 1 year of service time, my expectations for 2022 have reached 2013-14 levels. 

Here’s the thing about relying on unproven players right away… If/when they falter, there’s no one else to turn to. So they need to sign a free agent to a multi year deal in hopes they are still productive whenever they make the playoffs next. AND sign some Annibel Sanchez types as insurance. 

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Twins will not trade Buxton...unless the offers are totally unreasonable. They understand his value to the franchise. they surely wouldn't get a good enough return to take the risk. Yep--he is always injured. But hopefully one day (soon) we will get to watch him reach his potential (in A twins uni) Twins shouldn't penny pinch with a potential future HOFer.

Moving on, pitching is their biggest weakness. They can start working on that without making Buxton their bargaining chip.

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This is how small mistakes can snowball for a team like the Twins. If you have a Baddoo and/or a Wade, you can trade for starting pitching depth. Even Kepler had peak value not long ago, but no trade materialized.

If you had kept Gil or Ynoa, you'd have lively young arms already emerging to join Ober and Jax.

Even if you had even given Lance Lynn another try as a FA when he was available and affordable, you'd have a solid ace to rebuild around.

At each step, the FO has made the wrong chess move. And now, a young man many were *hoping* to be a solid #5 starter at best is likely the 2022 Opening Day starter. Good for Ober, I really like him, but it's gonna be tough to watch this all unfold as the rebuilding process stalls. And even tougher if a work stoppage wipes out the 2022 development opportunities for our MiLB starters..

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56 minutes ago, LastOnePicked said:

At each step, the FO has made the wrong chess move. And now, a young man many were *hoping* to be a solid #5 starter at best is likely the 2022 Opening Day starter. Good for Ober, I really like him, but it's gonna be tough to watch this all unfold as the rebuilding process stalls. And even tougher if a work stoppage wipes out the 2022 development opportunities for our MiLB starters..

I don't think you have to worry about Ober as the #1 for the Twins unless they unload Rogers, Buxton, Sano, Kepler, and Donaldson. Keep the faith. A trade and two FA signings will help the club.

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I guess the way I am looking at it is.... This season is obviously over.  So I'm glad that Albers got another start in his career and he did great.  But every time the Twins start a guy like Albers I feel that they have just wasted an opportunity for a young guy who has a ton of potential the opportunity to start.  I feel as though the Twins have guys like Balazovic in the minors why not give him a shot???  I mean they could just start him like 2 times and call it good, just so he can get his feet wet.  Same with Ryan, Simeon woods, Duran, etc .... Bring those guys up for a couple of starts to see what they have, right now.  Don't wait until next season when one of the dumpster dive guys is locking down a rotation spot.  Start everyone that they think could help next season and go from there.

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1 hour ago, LastOnePicked said:

This is how small mistakes can snowball for a team like the Twins. If you have a Baddoo and/or a Wade, you can trade for starting pitching depth. Even Kepler had peak value not long ago, but no trade materialized.

If you had kept Gil or Ynoa, you'd have lively young arms already emerging to join Ober and Jax.

Even if you had even given Lance Lynn another try as a FA when he was available and affordable, you'd have a solid ace to rebuild around.

At each step, the FO has made the wrong chess move. And now, a young man many were *hoping* to be a solid #5 starter at best is likely the 2022 Opening Day starter. Good for Ober, I really like him, but it's gonna be tough to watch this all unfold as the rebuilding process stalls. And even tougher if a work stoppage wipes out the 2022 development opportunities for our MiLB starters..

They should have traded Kepler while they were winning divisions? They should not have traded prospects when they were winning divisions? They should have magically only traded bad prospects for good players?

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Already hoping for the best with Maeda but it feels like the whole timeline is shifting.  

Good-case scenario?  Maeda, Big Mike, Carlos Rodon, Ober and Ryan.  Another $10M/yr for Pineda and 5/110 for Rodon is well within the budget.

Bad is trotting out next year’s version of Bailey, Shoemaker, Sanchez types.  

Better is running out a lot of rookies for 100 innings each as the result won’t be pretty but it will be fun to watch.

Best is Maeda, Rodon, trade for a Sixto Sanchez or Zach Gallen by giving up some serious minor league talent and have Ober, Ryan, Dobnak, Duran, Balazovic, Winder et al rotate 3-5.

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So correct. Can any of the New Breed top 150 innings? Of course, with new pitching requirements, that's only 30 starts of five innings a start.

 

Like for 2021, the Twins need a rotation arm who would've slotted ahead of Berrios in appearances and quality. They still need that more than ever, a leader on the mound who can pitch every 5th day and go in the area of 6 innings or more. He doesn't have to be the best, just solid and durable.

 

Sure, you can also fill in with a Pineda again. If push comes to shove, you explore. But not sure how many more Pinedas or Odorizzis we need to offer multi-0year contracts to pitch.

 

I would rather see the Twins trade, and let us see how much there is to gain from the farm system. Last I looked, the Twins have 180+ players under contract as this season closes. 130 of them won't be in the Twins system at all come 2024. Deal them or let them walk or quit or be claimed.

 

It is always interesting how season's progress. 2021: Berrios, Meada, Shoemaker, Happ, Pineda with Dobnak and Thorpe starting in relief and Smeltzer in the wings and the potential for Duran and Balazovic to appear.

 

We end up with Jax, Barnes, Ober, Albers, Gant and names like Sammons, Wilder, Canterino, Enlow, Sands, Strotman, Ryan, Balazovic as possibilities for 2022 (not to mention Duran.

 

Amazing how it all changes. And considering most teams are happy with, say, two addition to a rotation one late summer who MIGHT carry over to the next season.......

 

A big lot of hope and possibilities who need innings, strong pitch accounts, and general experience.

 

I am flustered with 30 games left, no experience in the rotation, a season all but lost and if you lose 100, do we really care or think we would be happier if they only lost...say 90?.

You have pieces like Balazovic, Ryan, Strotman, even Sammons that just need a dozen innings, or 20, or maybe even 24 to send them into potential winter ball or off-season prep to come to spring training. The innings are there, give it to them. 

 

I love the Albers story. We can elevate others who were signed as minor league free agents, but guess what -- they will still be minor league free agents next season, too, and can be resigned if necessary for depth.

 

But, yes, the Twins need to spend big on a pretty surefire arm...one who will take their Berrios money. They can easily find a filler or two who is probably competent and might draw interest at trade time more than Pineda did.

 

They also need an ace closer. They need to identify if any of the "potential starters" might make a bitter fit in the pen (something some exposure at season's end could also offer). 

 

They need to make hard decisions on Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe. Potential, still. Or time to keep moving on.

 

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9 hours ago, tony&rodney said:

Mauer was worth every penny of his contract and his salary NEVER impeded the Twins budget. 

It was a coincidence that they didn’t sign any other big ticket guys. And also a coincidence that they couldn’t trade him…for anything…at any point over the last 5 years when he was no longer Joe Mauer.

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1 hour ago, jkcarew said:

It was a coincidence that they didn’t sign any other big ticket guys. And also a coincidence that they couldn’t trade him…for anything…at any point over the last 5 years when he was no longer Joe Mauer.

Never impeded the Twins - it was how Pohlad chose to run team. Mauer has a no trade clause in his contract. Joe Mauer is still Joe Mauer. Read J. Jaffe on fangraphs if you have any doubts. Easily a top ten catcher in baseball history. Jaffe rates him at #7. Those who constructed a false narrative about Mauer will hold their views but it is unlikely that any Twins fan alive sees his equal in their lifetime. That's all I have to say about that.

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12 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

They should have traded Kepler while they were winning divisions? They should not have traded prospects when they were winning divisions? They should have magically only traded bad prospects for good players?

That is how it is supposed to work. The person forgot to mention that you are also supposed to pick the correct person in the rule V draft we were year

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