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Envisioning a Good Twins Rotation in 2022 (For Real!)


On Wednesday the Twins confirmed what was already expected: Kenta Maeda required Tommy John surgery, and will miss most of the 2022 season, if not all of it.

With zero veteran starters under control, and prospect injuries suppressing the internal pitching pipeline, is it realistically possible for Minnesota to field a contending rotation next year? Let's see.

Below I will outline a plausible path to a good Twins rotation in 2022. Not an elite rotation – that's probably a bridge too far at this point – but a good one with five solid-or-better starters, capable of competing for a postseason spot and maybe more.

There is inherently some optimistic thinking involved here, but I don't think any of these scenarios are out of question. 

1. Bailey Ober proves to be the real deal

Among starting pitchers currently controlled by the Twins, Ober is the only stable fixture looking ahead to 2022. But he's establishing himself as a pretty viable building block.

How did the big right-hander go from relative unknown to indispensable rotation cornerstone in one year's time? By adding 3-4 MPH to his fastball and shedding his label as a "soft-tosser." A few extra ticks of velocity have made a world of difference for the rookie, who is now sneaking heaters past MLB hitters and playing up his lesser offspeed stuff. Toss in excellent command, and you've got a good recipe for success. As we've seen.

Ober's overall numbers with the Twins this year are good – 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77-to-17 K/BB ratio in 74 ⅔ innings – but even better when you break them down to parse out his progression. 

His K/BB ratio in the latter sample is legitimately elite (only two qualified MLB starters are averaging more than six strikeouts per walk, and they are Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole). When you're missing bats, limiting walks, and keeping the hits in check, you're in line for good outcomes. Ober has shown the ability to do all these things, and he's only getting better at each of them. 

Home runs will be something to monitor, and could sidetrack him if they re-emerge as a weakness, but at this point there's no reason to think a healthy Ober won't be at least a quality #3 or 4 starter in 2022.

2. Twins sign a #2/3 starter in free agency

No, they're not going to sign Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Probably not Noah Syndergaard either. Even someone like Marcus Stroman or Justin Verlander may be a tad too ambitious. But with ample flexibility (should they choose to keep payroll steady or raise it slightly), there are several names in the next tier that should be within range, and it's not that hard to see one of them settling in as a mid-rotation caliber starter or better. 

Names in this category include Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, and others.

3. Acquire a #2/3 starter via trade

Last year, the Twins acquired Maeda and watched him blossom into a Cy Young caliber performer. This year, their division rivals have done the same with Lance Lynn. 

We don't need to set our sights that high, though it'd be nice. Jameson Taillon is a less idealistic example. He wasn't a star for Pittsburgh, and the Yankees didn't have to part with top-tier prospect talent to acquire him. But he has served as a very solid mid-rotation arm for New York, at a low price and with multiple years of control remaining.

The Twins didn't trade away any of their system's depth last winter, and have only added to it this year by selling at the deadline. Additionally, they have a few semi-redundant pieces at the major-league level that could have value to other clubs (Max Kepler, Mitch Garver ... Luis Arraez?) The front office will have assets to deal for pitching if they are so inclined. 

4. Re-sign Michael Pineda

The door definitely seems wide open for a reunion, as each side has openly expressed affinity for the other, and with Pineda's challenges this year, he should be pretty affordable – maybe $4-5 million. 

Given those challenges, I'm sure most Twins fans aren't enthused about the idea of bringing back Pineda. But let's look at the big picture here: the 32-year-old has posted a 3.98 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 during his time with the Twins. That includes his recent struggles, which can likely be attributed somewhat to health. In his first 36 starts with Minnesota, the team went 24-12. 

His circumstances, and a theoretical desire to return here, could enable the Twins to score Pineda at the cost of a back-end starter, while hoping an offseason of rest and strengthening returns him to his previous state or close to it. 

5. Get Randy Dobnak back on track

As with Pineda, it's easy to get caught up in Dobnak's recent struggles while losing sight of his previous success. In fact, it's a lot easier, because Dobnak does not have nearly the track record of Pineda. But through the first 14 outings of his MLB career, the Dobber was simply phenomenal, posting a 1.69 ERA with four home runs allowed over 58 ⅔ innings. This after a tremendous minor-league career that saw him perform well at every level. Dobnak's effectiveness was no accident – the bottom simply fell out on his pitches, making them excruciatingly difficult to lift, and he consistently threw them in the zone.

Things went south late in the 2020 season, but Dobnak rebounded with a dominant spring that compelled the Twins to invest with a modest long-term contract. And then the bottom fell out on Dobnak. We all know this season has been a complete and total disaster for the right-hander, but it's unclear to what it extent that owes to injury issues. 

When you're a slider-reliant sinkerballer who goes from allowing four homers in your first two seasons to allowing 11 in your third, before going on IL for multiple months with a strain in the middle finger that is so crucial in creating that sink ... Well, it points to a natural explanation.

There's no guarantee that time off will correct this issue, but we'll at least start to get an idea when Dobnak returns to the rotation on Friday. Regardless of how things go for the rest of this season, he'll most likely get a crack at the 2022 rotation given that he's under guaranteed contract. If he gets back on track and is anywhere close to the version we saw early on in his big-league career, well that's a hell of a good fifth starter.

6. The minors provide depth and jolts

Above, we've accounted for all five season-opening rotation spots. And we haven't yet tapped into the impressive minor-league pipeline this front office has built up. Between Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, you have a bevy of high-upside arms that are all verging on MLB-ready, if not already there. 

Granted, it's tough to depend on any of these prospects short-term, given that none have yet appeared in the majors (save Ryan, who debuted impressively on Wednesday) and the group is riddled with significant injury concerns. But that's why I'm not penciling them into any of the top five spots. We can account for those otherwise and keep these exciting arms in reserve, while knowing that just about any one of them has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Twins pitching staff if things break right.

Look, I get that it's hard to envision multiple positive scenarios playing out in this fashion, especially with the way faith has been understandably eroded in the this front office over the past year. But one thing I find myself frequently reminding others – and myself – is that things change fast in this game. In 2016 and 2018, nobody was foreseeing good things on the near horizon. 

The Twins made some mistakes last offseason, but have also been the victims of absolutely horrible luck. This front office and coaching staff have proven their mettle in the past. If they can learn from those mistakes and the pendulum of fortune swings in the other direction, it's not all that difficult to envision a pitching staff capable of supporting what could be a very strong offense to push Minnesota back into contender status. 

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#1. Ober looks to be a solid addition. 

#2. Free Agency will only work if you sign quality arms. No more Shoemakers or Happs. If ya don't spend here you might as well forget it.

#3. Yes, trade where you have extras. Kepler, Sano, Donaldson, consider Arraez if the return is huge. 

#4. I'm ok with giving Pineda another year. He shouldn't be expensive and he slots in at #4 or #5 easy enough.

#5. Seen enough of the Dobnak experiment. Move on please. 

#6. For heavens sake what are we waiting for. The pitching was atrocious and none of these guys were worth taking a look at before now? Let's see what we have before they die from old age.

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I'd only bring in two from outside the org at this point.

Free agent ( a 2/3, not a 5)
Trade (a 2/3, not a 4/5)
Ober
Ryan or someone
Someone else from inside the org

Lots of guys in AAA that are young for a change.....

I think bringing in a third from the outside just means that a lot of high upside arms spend next year in the minors.....rather than getting time in MN.

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I agree that they can put together a contending staff and I agree that Pineda should be one. I’m pretty sure he’s said he wants to be with the Twins. I also agree with your evaluation of Ober. He looks to have bright future.

What I’d like to see Falvey do is rather than sitting back and waiting for players to drop to them, set high goals and go very aggressively for 2 of these 3. Syndergaard, Robby Ray, Danny Duffy. 

While not a Dobnak fan, I’m open to him in the 5 spot. It remains to be seen if Ryan is a better choice or needs more seasoning.

I wish Balazovic could pull it all together because every time I see him, he has really high upside on his breaking stuff.

I also don’t think the offense is good enough. Cave should be released. The Twins should try to sign Michael Brantly who could help form a great 1-2 with Arraez. Buxton in cf. Kirilloff in rf. Kepler to 4th OF or traded. They also need to sign an inexpensive defensive stud like Billy Hamilton or me, Greg Allen to fill in when Buxton is down. In the IF, I envision Miranda at 3rd, a SS depending on how much they spend on other players (maybe Polanco). Arraez or Polanco at 2B but Arraez gets his 450-500 AB.. Sano at 1B. Garver/Jeffers and depending on how fast he comes, Rortvedt. His defense could be very very good and I see him hitting eventually.

Then, like you said, Winder, Strotaman, Dobnak or Ryan, Canterino, Balazovic hopefully produces a real deal pitcher. Dursn coming back would be a big bonus. I think Contreras and Larnach could help in some role. Possibly even Jimmy Kerrigan.

Good analysis. I’m in basic agreement with you that the Twins can contend with the right moves.

 

 

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Ober is it, for now. Which is WHY is is important that the Twins also let Strotman and Balazovic also get starts at the major league level in 2021. Gives them a good idea of what to work with over the winter (perhaps in Winetr Ball). And those two are on the 40-man.

 

The killer was that going in 2021 we had Dobnak, Thorpe and Smeltzer as the reserves. Dobnak has a lot to prove this final month. But he is also in the position of being removed from the 40-man, but still kept in the organization and come back in the spring (shades of Perkins, maybe Balckburn and Mays of old). Both Smeltzer and Thorpe could be claimed, or just walk away if moved from the 40-man (unless the Twins care enough to do a Dobnak contract with either of them, too).

 

We have seen Barnes, who is in the mix and a lefty. We have seen Jax and Ryan, both in the mix. We know we can find guys like Albers (and maybe even retain Albers on a minor league contract (you pay them more than  40-man roster contracts, who knows if they will stay). The Twins want to think of Gant as a starter.

 

Going into 2022 they have Strotman on the rise (again, pitch him a few games in September). Balazovic and Duran are on the horizon, but for how many innings. Is Colina a starter or bullpen arm. They elevated Bryan Sammons to AAA to see what he can do as he is Rule 5 eligible and a lefty. Winder is a prospect on the rise. From AA they have Sands (Rule 5 eligible), the recovering Enlow, Simeon, and due for AA ball to start 2022 Canterino.

 

Yes, they need a free agent ace, and another good innings eater. Pineda is a choice? Well the good news is no one kicked in the door to obtain him at the trading deadline, so his stock may have fallen. Cheap is a happy word in front office land.

 

On a side note, on a post about Twins finding too many band-aids for their rotation, I did a quick look at 20 years of top of the rotation (innings) starters, and the 50+ games names of bullpen arms. You gotta love the memories of the name, but you see the same mistakes made over and over and that the Twins develop arms, but since Santana - no to Supermen.

 

We just aren't getting innings, from developed pitcher or high-end rentals.

 

Motivated me to look back at 20 years of Twins pitching.

 

2020: Berrios (53), Dobnak (45), Maeda (66), Hill (38) and our main arms in the pen: Clippard, Duffey, May, Romo, Rogers and Wisler squeaks in.

 

Before this, let's look at 100+ inning for starters and 50+ games for bullpen.

 

2019: Berrios (200), Gibson (160), Perez (165), Odorizzi (159), Pineda (146). Bullpen: Duffey, Harper, Rogers, May.

 

2018: Berrios (192), Gibson (196), Lynn (102), Odorizzi (164). Bullpen: Rogers, Pressly, Addison Reed, Hildenberger. 34 pitchers used in the season.

 

2017: Berrios (145), Gibson (158), E. Santana (211). Bullpen: Belisle, Duffey, Pressly, Rogers. Team high 36 pitchers on the club that year

 

2016: Duffey (133), Gibson (147), Nolasco (124), E. Santana (181). Bullpen: Kintzler, Tonkin, Rogers, Pressly.

 

2015: Gibson (194), Hughes (155), May (114), Milone (126), Pelfrey (164), E. Santana (108). Bullpen: Boyer, Duensing, Fien, Perkins.

 

2014: Correia (129), Gibson (179), Hughes (209), Milone (118), Nolasco (159). Bullpen: Burton, Fien, Duensing, Perkins, Swarzak, Thielbar.

 

2013: Correia (185), Deduno (108), Diamond (131). Pelfrey (156). Bullpen: Burton, Fien, Duensing, Roenicke, Thielbar in at 49.

 

2012: Diamond (173), Liriano (100), Blackburn (98). Swarzak and Duensing (109) both started and relieved. Bullpen: Bennett, Burton, Perkins. A season that might rival 2021...25 arms used of little memory.

 

2011: Baker (134), Blackburn (148), Duensing (161), Liriano (134), Swarzak (102), Pavano (222). Bullpen: Perkins, Capps, Burnett, Mijares.

 

2010: Baker (175), Blackburn (161), Liriano (191), Pavano (222), Slowey (155). Bullpen: Crain, Duensing, Guerrier, Rauch.

 

2009: Baker (200), Blackburn (205), Liriano (136). Bullpen: Crain, Guerrier, Mijares, Nathan.

 

2008: Baker (172), Blackburn (193), Bonser (118), Perkins (151), Slowey (160), Hernandez (139). Bullpen: Crain, Guerrier, Nathan, Reyes.

 

2007: Baker (143), Silva (202), Santana (219). Bullpen: Guerrier, Nathan, Neshek, Reyes, Rincon.

 

2006: Bonser (100), Liriano (121), Radke (152), Santana (233), SIlva (184). Bullpen: Crain, Nathan, Reyes, Rincon.

 

2005: Lohse (178), Mays (156), Radke (200), Santana (231), Silva (188). Bullpen: Crain, Nathan, Rincon, Romero.

 

2004: Lohse (194), Silva (203), Mulholland (123), Radke (219), Santana (228). Bullpen: Fultz, Rincon, Nathan, Romero.

 

2003: Lohse (201), Mays (130), Radke (212), Reed (135), Rogers (195), Santana (158). Bullpen: Guardado, Hawkins, RIncon, Romero.

 

2002: Lohse (180), Radke (118), Milton (171), Reed (188), Santana (108). Bullpen: Guardado, Hawkins, Jackson, Romero.

 

2001: Milton (233), Radke (226), Mays (233). Bullpen: Carrasco, Guardado, Wells.

 

2000: Mays (160), Milton (200), Radke (226), Redman (151). Bullpen: Guardado, Hawkins, Carrasco, Wells, Travis Miller.

 

The days of pitchers hitting 200+ innings seems a far reach, let alone have a rotation that can each pitch 100+ innings (can't wait to see 2021 breakdowns). One more call up and the Twins break the record of number of pitchers used in a season.

 

Hard to think about the early days when the whole season was handled by 1965 (15), 1967 (12), 1968 (14), 1969 (15), 1970 (13), 1971 (14), 1972 (16) pitchers. I guess people didn't get injured, and I also believe was the era of 4-man rotations, and a total staff of 9. Plus the closer pitched multiple innings. And, as Bert will tell us, more complete games!

 

 

 

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Go VERY cheap in 2022 - it's going to be a lost year. Then, put that savings towards making a very serious charge to re-sign Berrios when he hits free agency. At least get into a bidding war and drive up his asking price. If nothing else, it sends a message to future Twins aces that the organization values them and sends a message to fans that the front office can swing trades for good prospects AND put up some big-boy money to bring those homegrown stars back from the open market.

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I would bet if we looked at articles around this point last year, Dobnak’s name was written in pen to do good things for 2021. Ober’s sample size is too small to assume he’s a positive contributor, even a top 3 starter for 2022…

This team needs insurance in case if multiple arms go haywire next year. We’re now in a position having 10 arms with relative upside in AA/AAA. I wouldn’t expect more than 3 to contribute in a positive fashion next year. Probably not all 3 at the same time either. If they could fill the back end of the rotation, great! 

That being said, they still need insurance in case if the young arms don’t work out. Let’s not have goldfish brains because Happ and Shoemaker didn’t work out. Teams sign fliers all the time. Some work out like Annibel Sanchez, Rodon, etc. others don’t. It is what it is. 

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Those Bailey Ober splits look encouraging. Hopefully it continues. Nice find!

If you add Ryan that gives you two SP's to start the season.

If we've learned anything from the Twins the last few years, they are far more comfortable taking chances on 1 year rentals than long term deals. J.A. Happ, Shoemaker, Homer Bailey, Rich Hill to name the ones most recent.

That means they will be shopping in the average/about to retire SP pile come FA time. It looks like there will be plenty to choose from.

Twins will need to sign 3 starters and it looks like Charlie Morton would be the best case scenario however he'll probably resign with the Braves or go to a contender.

Then it would be on the Twins to sign 3 of the following:

Corey Kluber, Mike Minor, James Paxton, Drew Smyly, Anthony DeSclafani, Adam Wainwright, Alex Wood, Martín Pérez

All of the other FA SP that are available will most likely get multi-year deals which seems to be something the Twins don't seem willing to spend money on. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just something that seems to be a trend from the Twins. My guess is the analytics team discovered something.

The question will be, what depth will the Twins have when players start getting hurt. 

Griffin Jax, Dobnak (coming in from the pen) and Charlie Barnes could fill-in, however with the Twins using over 30 pitchers so far in 2021 that might not be enough.

In AA the Twins have a little more depth with Balazovic, Sands, and Winder so maybe we'll see them sometime in 2022 once people start getting hurt.

Lastly, if the Twins were to trade for someone, they clearly like a player that's under control for several more years. To get a player of this caliber, they would have to part with a high end prospect. This seems like something that they would never do especially for a team that is on the verge of finishing last place in the division. 

 

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Two quick comments that I think are important before addressing the OP.

1] The Maeda injury/surgery could very easily change the 2022 outlook/plan for the FO and ownership. And nobody should be shocked by that or "down" on the Twins if that is the case. It's one thing to believe you have a team that can contend with a couple pitching additions, re-work and add to the pen, maybe add one good bench piece, and keep developing your system, particularly the young pitchers...VERSUS....now you lost a quality front end SP when you already had various additional moves to make. Any additions for competing in 2022 just became magnified and doubled in importance as well as difficulty with the loss of Maeda.

2] Dismissing the Buxton factor for a moment as there are too many moving parts right now....IF the FO/ownership STILL believes in themselves, their staff their roster, their young talent and prospects, etc, ENOUGH to want to contend in 2022...they could target their 2019 and "projected" 2020 payroll and shoot for a $150M-ish 2022 payroll. While there would be various raises here and there, with no Berrios and Maeda only making his minimum, the Twins could actually have somewhere between $50-60M to spend to reach that $150M-ish number, IF they want to and believe enough.

Done with that. Let's address a couple key parts of the OP and "what could be".

1] I wouldn't dismiss Verlander or Thor out of the blue. Each coming off injury is a bit of a re-hab risk financially, Verlander more so due to age. Speculation has Thor getting a QO from the Mets which would eliminate him from virtually anyone. Verlander would be a gamble for sure, but could be a surprise 1yr or 1+1 for something fair. And he and the Twins are very familiar with one another. 

2] Gausman, assuming reports that he wants to stay on the west aren't 100%, and Stroman make perfect sense. Stroman and the Twins have been tied together for a few years now. And each is young enough to warrant a longer term deal without messing with future payroll. It just feels Stroman is an ideal choice and probably my #1 target.

2] The FO pulled off a pair of amazing trades for Odorizzi and Maeda and gave up very little to do so. Can they do it again?? I don't see them wanting to dent the ML roster but the system is deep enough to HOPEFULLY pull off a similar type of move. It could be easier and smarter than just spending more $ for a 2nd FA. I agree with that thought.

I'm just spitballing, but something like Rooker/Wallner and Sands/Vallimont/Gross/Varland/Gipson-Long to a rebuilding tezm for a controllable arm similar to Odorizzi with potential and control?

Doesn't destroy the system but seems fair.  Almost assuredly gave up less to get Oddo and Maeda. Two guys under control to front the rotation. [Still wouldn't be shocked for something crazy like a Verlander on a 1 or 1+1 deal) Can they pull a rabbit out of the hat again?

3] Pineda is, IMO, already part of 2022. And I'm OK with that. I wouldn't be surprised if there hasn't already been conversations and maybe gentleman agreement. The #3 spot SHOULD BE something short term for $ reasons and prospect reasons, 

I guess where we MIGHT differ is, where and how do we factor the TRADE arm vs the 2nd FA arm? I'm not so sure, Nick,  that your list of Kluber, Cobb, etc, might not be the 1yr option vs the trade idea.

But I don't think we differ very far here.

4 & 5] These go together as they should. Without breaking the bank or doing anything to remotely destroy the system, we've added at the very least 3 quality arms via trade and FA. Barring a HUGE surprise, we've added a quality veteran arm to lead the way, a solid and hopeful arm with a couple years of control, and a 1yr flier that could be anywhere from solid to great. And while there will be some $ spent, we don't break the bank and we don't do anything to hurt the "system".

Ober is pretty much written in ink. Ted commented in his recent post that Ober may have top 3 potential. I don't doubt that. But in this scenario, we are talking 2022 and not potential.

A fully healthy Dobnak is the probable #5 at this time. If you don't like that, or believe that, then go back and re-read what he did in 2020 before a hiccup, which most young starters go through. THEN we can continue the conversation about changes he made and how good he looked in ST before the FO/staff deferred to Happ and Shoemaker over him. And we could argue over and over again if the FO and staff made a mistake. Right or wrong, they had a pair of veteran starters who they believed could successfully fill the back end of the rotation. Dobnak was tossed in to a difficult situation of long man vs starter and had a hand injury that curtailed anything he could do. Amazing how injury and a tough road suddenly glosses over the potential someone has shown.

Dobnak is going to have to be healthy and re-establish what he has shown in the past. No doubt! Because Ryan and others are chomping at his heels. And we have September for Dobber to "get right" and Ryan to show what he can be.

And ST will allow everyone to show what they can do. But I'm guessing Dobber WILL show what he can do/be. And A RIGHT NOW, TODAY, I'd expect a healthy Dobnak to be the 5th SP. But Ryan has a real chance to change all of that. 

And the 4th and 5th spots should be open to this kind of competition. There is so much talent coming forward that you don't want to block anyone or blow up your payroll. But the Twins CAN easily afford one long term deal and a short term option. The question is the middle. Trade or FA, where is the middle ground to bring in a 3rd SP to make this team competitive for 2022?

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THis is something I was working on as well.  I have 2 groups of starting pitchers with which to sign pitchers from.  1 is the higher end and then the middle section.  I figured we would need to sign 1 from each group and trade for a 3rd starter then Ober and lastly Ryan. Gant/ Dobnak.  I am thinking Danny Duffy/ John Gray and Alex Cobb/ Pineda and a trade which I haven't researched yet and Ober and Ryan with Dobnak and Gant available.  That is a 7 deep rotation going to spring training.  

I didn't finish cause I wanted to figure out if Winder, Duran, or Richardson-Woods has a chance to break with the team next season or if one of them would be close enough to start the season with Gant/ Dobnak holding the fort for a month or two...  that would change the calculus a little.  so in that case we have

1 FA signing,

2. Ober,

3 trade or 2nd FA signing,

4 Ryan,

5 Gant/ Dobnak till prospect ready. 

The good news is we have 2 guys who are perfectly able to handle the 5th spot in the rotation or be a reliever.  This gives the club some options for that last spot in the rotation.  Even better if we resign Albers, Smeltzer or Thorpe to a AAA contract this offseason.  

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Baily Ober for sure. He's not going to suddenly forget how he was getting hitters out this season. 

Joe Ryan for sure. You get him with a professional pitching coach, teach him the right grips, he'll be flicking curves, sliders, cutters, change-ups, etc. This kid's talent and demeanor are screaming future ace. The few heaters he threw up and away to lefties were nothing more than rushing the delivery a bit. When he does his deliberate follow-through, he commands the zone. Seriously, if Ryan spent an afternoon goofing around with Zach Greinke, he'd finish the day with a new 50 mph curve ball. This kid could learn a new pitch in one day. 

Randy Dobnak. He's a ground ball machine with enough whiffability to get out of jams a couple different ways. 

Big Mike. Pineda still has the stuff to keep his side in games, if he can stay relatively healthy. If not...

Griffen Jax. Why not? He looks a little better each start, but for one hiccup, and every starter has a bad game now and then. He's a grinder. Looks like a #5 guy for several years. 

Blaze. Twins need to start cashing in on their minor league top prospects.  Balazovic has the talent to get guys out right now. Can he learn to fill the zone with strikes?

Whoops, did I forget to mention giving multi-million dollar contracts to yet another handful of mediocre journeymen pitchers? Silly me.

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Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney are not #2 or #3 starters, they are back-end guys at best. You maybe sign one of those guys to compete for the #5 spot, nothing more. Someone else mentioned Martin Perez as a possible target. Good lord, are we that desperate?

Hmmm. After looking at the state of things, I guess we are.

The Twins should absolutely sign one of the bigger names in free agency. The problem is that they'd honestly need to sign 3 big names in order to have a chance. Yeowch. And oh yeah, they've got to fix the bullpen too.

The Twins didn't sign Josh Donaldson so he could rot on a last place team for 3 years. But that's what's going to happen. What a nightmare these injuries have done to this Twins team. The Twins are going to be picked to finish dead last in the division by just about everyone, and if I were a betting man I'd do the same.

But, like the author of this piece, the fan in me hopes that Joe Ryan emerges as a true ace and becomes the MLB story of the year a la Stephen Strasburg in his rookie year, Bailey Ober becomes a vintage Adam Wainwright clone, Dobnak rises like the Phoenix and we strike gold on a few free agents. That's why we watch, after all. 

 

 

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Another way to say what Nick wrote is that the best-case scenario for 2022 will be to have an average rotation. That means that our offense will have to score a lot of runs--a lot--in order to contend for the post season. And that is also a best-case scenario. There's nothing wrong with being optimistic, but this doesn't sound very likely.

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Next year is really interesting, as it really should be a “transition to the kids” year, but our FO is acting like it wants to win…or at least saying it. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and this roster construction certainly requires action.

 
Assuming Simmons is gone and Royce Lewis isn’t ready to step in on day 1, the SS position is a big question mark.
 
And, then you’ve got a fascinating positional wave of at least 11 guys competing for 6 non C/SS/P spots:
 
Donaldson, Polanco, Buxton, Arraez, Kepler, Sano
 
Kirilloff, Larnach, Rooker, Miranda, Austin Martin
 
Then, as many have mentioned above, you’ve got to hold a rotation spot for Ober. Ideally, big Mike is back, too. 
 
After that, you’ve got a huge wave of 7 high upside arms in Ryan, Duran, Balazovic, Woods-Richardson, Strotman, Colina and Winder that should all get a shot next year.
 
You’ve also got Dobnak, Thorpe, Jax and Smeltzer as guys that have shown rotation ability.
 
To me, this picture means you don’t go and sign FAs, or at least not more than 1. You have to deal the excess, particularly in position players, for arms. 
 
That can go in two directions - tap into the vet grouping for even more high upside arms (building for 23/24). Or, tap into the young kids for established arms (a real win-now decision). That decision is the most interesting to me and will dictate if the FO truly wants to win now, or if they’re saying that politically and really building for 23/24.
 
Now, if we just don’t deal anyone and sign more Happ/Shoemaker types that simultaneously don’t help us win and block the wave of guys listed above, this FO will need to be booted.
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I don’t think any SP prospects after Ryan are ready out of the gate next year. Everyone else has injury or performance issues to iron out, or innings limits to consider. If we hold a year-long rotation spot open for tryouts it’s going to be a disaster. There will be opportunities out of the bullpen or once injuries strike if guys force their way up. You’re already taking on quite a bit of risk slotting Ryan and Ober in full-time. Either could falter and create an opening as well. 

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Nick - I like your writing and willingness to put out a very public plan, but I do not see this plan as having a 'Good' rotation in 2022.  Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney at this point in their careers are back-end starters.  Same with Pineda.  Taillion I would realistically put in th 3/4 range at this point.  Dobnak I view more as a fill-in type bouncing between Twins/Saints.  

Right now I see 2 pitchers for the Twins (Ober and Ryan).  I do think they could have 1 more from internal selections you listed as a back-end option at some point next yr (haven't seen any of them yet).  But in order to get to 'Good' (heck even average) they are going to have to spend money or trade real assets which the FO has not been willing to do.  

Two of Stroman/Rodon/Gausman/Ray with our internal options might get us slightly above average next yr.  If the two are more like Kluber or Duffy (who I would be fine with as 3/4) leading the charge, then the staff won't even be average.  Two of those 4 are going to cost $34-40M and unfortunately the Twins have never spent that on a pitcher (let alone 2).

However, if they could get 2 of those 4 (or similar) along with Maeda back in 2023, along with growth from the internal candidates, they would have the makings of a 'Good' staff by 2023 which at this point is the best case scenario.

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Nick’s plan sounds a lot like the Padres plan except the Padres had a few advantages.  They started with Tatis jr / Machado and Jake Cronenworth who will have about 4.5 WAR by the end of the season. Polanco has a shot to get to 4 WAR if he stays hot. We don’t have another position player that will get to 2.5 WAR.  They also were bring back an established quality starter in Chris Paddack and they had the best and deepest farm system in the league to trade from.

How is it working out for SD?  Well, they are not going to make the playoffs.  They are on pace for 86 wins provided they don’t continue to struggle like they have been. How about next year?  My guess is 84-85 wins.  Darvish at 35 has been bad the last couple months.  He has given up 27 ER in his last 39 innings (9 games).  Next year they have $20M invested in his age 36 season and what are the odds he is any good in his age 37 season. They do have Musgrove for 1 more season.  They have Blake Snell for 2 more seasons but so what.  He has basically been a 2 WAR pitcher for 5 seasons and he had one year where he was great.

They gave up Luis Patino in the Snell trade.  He has a 60FV SP and has already made it to the MLB level.  He is a better prospect than Joe Ryan without a doubt.  He has 3 plus pitches (FB 65) and plus command (60).  While he may not ever have a season like Snell did when he was the Cy Young winner, he will probably be better than Snell over the course of his career.  He might even be better than Snell next year and they have him for the next 6 years.  Ray’s also got Mejia who is a solid platoon catcher (basically Jeffers) and they also got Cole Wilcox who was 20 at the time of the trade.  He has a 2.03 ERA.  Granted, he is still in A ball but this kind of long-term approach.  

Lots of people are going to be disappointed when the Twins don’t follow a San Diego type strategy.  I hope they take 2022 to develop the myriad of MLB and near MLB ready pitchers.  Give them time at the MLB level instead of following a strategy likely to produce mediocrity.  So, many here like to write the FO will demonstrate incompetence if they don’t do all of these things.  I disagree.  Hopefully, they have the critical thinking skills to pursue an approach that has the best chance of building sustained success and that approach is not consistent with a strategy that pursues the illusion of being a serious WS contender next year and failing to develop our prospects at the MLB level..
 

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Thank You for a good topic Nick, it's one we're all going to chew on throughout the Twins off-season.  We will just have to see how committed the Pohlad's and FO is for 2022.  I will say this:  We were supposed to win 92 games this season and come down to the wire with the White Sox for the division title.  Injuries and an epically BAD off season by our FO torpedoed that.  I don't want to see the Twins just throw in the towel on 2022.  What if injuries and other misfortune nail the White Sox in 2022 ?  

We have a LOT of young arms with talent and potential.  But they won't all be coming in 2022.  We need some veteran stability in the rotation to bridge the gap between those young arms being ready.  We need 1-3 years.

Ober and Ryan will certainly be in the mix.  Pineda and Dobnak should be part of our "depth."  If there's one thing that's obvious about starting pitching in the 2020's it's that you need "options."  Gone are the days of 5, 6 or even 7 guys shouldering the load for an entire season.  Guys like Heaney, Taillon, are #4 or #5's.  Eduardo Rodriguez could be a #3 but he's always had health issues at some point in a season---he's worth a gamble, but I wouldn't be counting on 175 innings and an All Star appearance.

Without Berrios they darn well SHOULD make a move where they bring in a #1 like Gausman, Rodon, Robbie Ray. SPEND THE MONEY.  They need to bridge that 1-3 year gap.  Where they should shore up #2 and #3 is with trades.  I have proposed a trade of Kepler and Jeffers to the Marlins for Sandy Alcantara on MLB Trade Values.  The Twins are overpaying but Alcantara is 25 and talented.  He would be a great target.  The Marlins need a catcher of the future.  They're already playing Jorge Alfaro in LF because his "D" is sub-par.  Jeffers becomes their catcher of the future (I'm fine rolling with Garver, Rortvedt and Astudillo if it nets us Alcantara).  There are other trade candidates like Means from Baltimore to consider as well.  The starting staff:

#1 Gausman/Ray   #2 Alcantara,  #3 Ober, Pindea,  #4 E-Rod/Heaney   #5 Ryan/Dobnak/Jax/Barnes/Balazovic/Strotman etc...  If we sign a Heaney/E-Rod type for cheap that just gives the Twins another arm.  Personally, I LIKE Heaney's potential.  he seems to have great stuff but he always seems to leave a fat pitch up in the zone and gives up a 3-run HR.  Maybe Johnson can fix that.  I like E-Rod better than Heaney.

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As usual, like how you think, Nick.  Great discussion about signing a free agent, but wasn't excited about the names you mention.

Agree with those who point out that the Twins need to start with a trade along the lines of Odorizzi and Maeda.  Those were both fantastic moves.  They have a ton of assets down in the minors, can they do it a third time?

Agree that it is likely they will bring Pineda back, not certain I am excited about that move.  Why?  He is injured/out way too often, although with all these young arms on the brink that opens up a spot to bring them up.

But yes, I agree that with some work by the FO they should be able to have a solid starting rotation next year.  With a bit of luck and one of the young guns, Ryan?, stepping up big time they could be better than solid.

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I do think it's possible to build a functional rotation for next season that doesn't rely on 3-4 rookies being ready to go from Day 1, but it's not easy.

Ober increasingly looks like a guy that can be counted on. The fact that he's making adjustments to stay ahead of major league hitters and scouting speaks really well of him and suggests that he's less likely to take a step back before settling in. The peripherals look good. He's still got some work to do in mastering lefties, but he should have the weapons to get through.

Pineda makes sense to bring back. He likes it here, the team likes him, and after the injuries he'll probably be fairly affordable (1 year 6-8M?). You have to expect that he'll miss some time for injury (and be happy if it doesn't happen) but he's a solid rotation guy when he's available and should take a little pressure off.

We'll see how Ryan finishes the year, but he seems like another guy that you can pencil in. He'll have some bumps along the way, but there's not much left for him to do in AAA and sometime you just have to ride with a guy.

They'll need to sign at least one FA and spend some pretty good money on them. But they'll have the money to go there. They'll be able to drop $15-20M on a starter without impacting the budget significantly or even needing to deal Donaldson. That should be enough to get a #2/3 guy.

The trade option makes sense. The Twins have depth in their system and a potential 40-man crunch, so why not package a couple of guys together (and consider a major league asset) to go get an experience starter? Yes, they'll have to give up something quality to get one, but it won't have to be Martin or Lewis or Balazovic.

You'll need 4-5 more guys to be ready to get starts. That leaves Duran, Balazovic, Dobnak, and Winder to step up when Pineda goes down hurt, someone else gets a ding, Ryan is ineffective, etc. Maybe Canterino is ready & healthy. Strotman. Woods-Richardson. 

Still enough in the budget left to get a bridge SS and spend a little money on experienced bullpen help.

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11 hours ago, LastOnePicked said:

Go VERY cheap in 2022 - it's going to be a lost year.

If the FO thinks this way, they should trade everybody possible on the team. Kepler, Garver, Sano, Donaldson, Polanco, Arreaz, all of them and start over, second they should come out publicly and admit they were wrong in their ability to put a contending team on the field consistently (that is what they promised was it not?)

 

 

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Personally, I hope they do not go out and try to sign trash heap guys like Happ and Shoemaker again.  If you are going to fill rotation with vets please make them guys that are not just castoffs.  I would like to see them go very heavy on internal guys.  Maybe one signing or one trade but not like this year where we had two bad signings pushing everyone back.  

I get they had no clue what to expect with minors not playing last year, but next year that will not be an issue.  Let the young guys in our rotation go. 

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13 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

If the FO thinks this way, they should trade everybody possible on the team. Kepler, Garver, Sano, Donaldson, Polanco, Arreaz, all of them and start over, second they should come out publicly and admit they were wrong in their ability to put a contending team on the field consistently (that is what they promised was it not?)

 

 

I never once heard them say they could put a contending team on the field every year.  What I heard them say was that their GOAL was sustained success.  What else would you want them to say?  For anyone who knows the game at all to interpret that statement to mean they will put a contender on the field every year is incredibly simplistic thinking.  It's just not possible so why would anyone interpret their statement to be such a promise.  Then, to lash out with "they should just trade everyone" is simply a crude approach.  Teams going through many different variations of rebuilding and retooling.  It makes exactly zero sense to trade off every established asset.  They have a solid core.  The BP already looks much improved and they have numerous MLB ready starting pitching prospects.  Establishing those SPs by 2023 would put them in the enviable position of anchoring 3 or 4 spots in their rotation with prearb players.  That positioning would allow them to sign a very top tier free agent SP which most mid market teams are never able to afford. 

Incompetence is pursuing a bad plan because it's expeditious.

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I think Nick's plan is probably something we will likely see and mean that we're a 70 win team next year.

1) Ober and Pineda have combined for 33 starts, about 160 innings, and 1.6 WAR. Unless we expect a significant improvement and health from both of them next year, those are back of the rotation pitchers.

2) I can see why Nick suggested the names he did, it sounds like a very Twins move. Corey Kluber (36 next year, 1.2 WAR in 11 starts this year), Charlie Morton (38 next year, career year this year), Alex Cobb (34 next year, 1.2 WAR in 15 starts this year), Andrew Heaney (80 ERA+ this season) are not #2/3 pitchers. They are 4/5 type pitchers and there's a lot of risk. Twins can't win if the best they have are 4/5 type pitchers.

3) I'm all for trading Kepler and Arraez to get pitching. I'm not sure the Twins are good at identifying pitching but we pretty much have to do this. Also, I think it's time for TD to stop fawning over Maeda's 11 random starts for the Twins in 2020 in a weird season. He's now given us 32 starts at 109 ERA+, 173ip, 1.8 WAR. That's solid but those aren't numbers you want from someone you expect to be a 2/3 starter (which he isn't).

4) Dobnak. For the life of me, I cannot understand this FO's infatuation with Dobnak. Great story and all, and I'm glad he will make millions off the Twins, but he's a really bad pitcher. Playoff teams don't rely on Dobnaks.

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I'm taking a little different approach.

1- Free Agent Upper Tier (15-20 mil)

2-trade mid tier starer

3-Probably Pineda (or Someone In That range)

4-Ober

5-Open competition between Dobnak and Ryan and other Minor leaguers

Spend on GOOD closer and at least 2 avg or above set up relievers. A good bullpen can help cover up a shaky rotation with the lineup we have.

I also think we should look into trading Kepler and see what we can get for Arraez. That may be the piece that bring a nice return.

I'm also hoping the Twins at least try to re-sign Cruz and Buxton. Alot of things to keep the FO busy with this winter.

Now will we be watching ball in the spring or reading about labor negotiations? anyone want to put odds out?

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46 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

I never once heard them say they could put a contending team on the field every year.  What I heard them say was that their GOAL was sustained success.  What else would you want them to say?  For anyone who knows the game at all to interpret that statement to mean they will put a contender on the field every year is incredibly simplistic thinking.  It's just not possible so why would anyone interpret their statement to be such a promise.  Then, to lash out with "they should just trade everyone" is simply a crude approach.  Teams going through many different variations of rebuilding and retooling.  It makes exactly zero sense to trade off every established asset.  They have a solid core.  The BP already looks much improved and they have numerous MLB ready starting pitching prospects.  Establishing those SPs by 2023 would put them in the enviable position of anchoring 3 or 4 spots in their rotation with prearb players.  That positioning would allow them to sign a very top tier free agent SP which most mid market teams are never able to afford. 

Incompetence is pursuing a bad plan because it's expeditious.

Did you see the post I was responding to? It said "it's going to be a lost year. "

And I said "If the FO thinks this way", I didn't say I thought it was a lost year and I don't believe it should be.

And if they think 2022 is a lost year and time to get all the prospects up, then they wouldn't have sustained success, that would be two lost years, and if those prospects don't turn out as advertised, 2023 and beyond could be lost as well.

But if your opinion is go cheap next year because the year is lost, and don't think they should trade everybody, that's great because it is your opinion, I wouldn't call you simplistic or crude.

Missed this the first time I posted.

I said "put a contending team on the field consistently" and you turned that into "put a contending team on the field every year".

In my simplistic/crude mind: put a contending team on the field consistently = sustained success

 

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