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3 Free Agent Pitching Additions Who Fit the Twins Offseason Strategy


The Twins need to add starting pitching this offseason. They also have needs at shortstop and in relief. How might they attack the free agent SP market? Here are three names to watch out for.

‘We need pitching’.

Boy is that a tired and trite maxim for the Minnesota Twins. It remains true as the teams’ 2020 off-season pitching additions largely capitulated and underperformed. Matt Shoemaker, J.A. Happ, Alex Colome, all contributed significantly in digging the Twins into the inextricable hole which prevented a third straight AL Central title.

However poorly 2020s additions played out, the front office will not and should not be shy about dipping into the free-agent market this off-season. It’s a necessity. The Twins need a one-year bridge at shortstop at the very least, a few relievers, and likely, three rotation-worthy starting pitchers.

While the Twins will inevitably need to sign a free-agent starting pitcher, there are some assumptions I’m choosing to make, for the sake of this piece, before examining viable options.

  1. The Twins will not sign a top-tier free-agent starting pitcher. With so many needs, including SS and RP, the Twins will need to spread payroll around, they are highly unlikely to sign a pitcher from the top few tiers of free agents (Scherzer, Gausman, Stroman, etc.) I’d love to be wrong about that, but let’s be realistic.
     
  2. I think it’s most likely the Twins acquire their most impactful 2022 starting pitcher via trade. Again, I may be proven wrong here, but this makes too much sense. The Twins have a strong and deep farm system. In recent years, they have made strong offers to upper-tier free-agent starters (Darvish), with little joy. Trade is how they can acquire the greatest upside.
     
  3. I believe the Twins will re-sign Pineda to an owner-friendly deal, which will cover approximately 160 innings in 2022. I’m therefore excluding Pineda from consideration in this article.
     
  4. Reinforcements are close. The Twins now have a stable of intriguing arms in the high minors. It’s likely that a few can contribute to the starting rotation in 2022, much as Bailey Ober did in 2021. It seems likely then, that the Twins will target starting pitchers who have a track record of solid reliability while young arms are being polished in Wichita and St. Paul.

There seems to be a sweet spot of free agents for the Twins to target. Starters who averaged between 2.0-3.5 fWAR in 2020 and fall into the category of veterans who might sign short-term deals or close to excellent starting pitchers who the organization believes they can tweak to take to the next level. Let’s take a look at some candidates.

Zack Greinke
Nick Nelson has suggested Greinke as a good fit for the Twins, and given the state of their rotation, I agree. Greinke showed one alarming sign of decline last year, a K/9 which dropped from 9.00 to 6.32, precipitous for sure. This was primarily due to a jump on HR/FB. Greinke’s other metrics remained consistent (excellent control, his fastball velocity actually increased). Greinke is going to give someone 175 innings of pitching, with an ERA in the low 4.00s and between 1.2-2.5 fWAR. If the price is right, he could be a good fit.

Anthony DeSclafani
Twins fans’ most recent memory of DeSclafani may be struggling against a tremendous Dodgers lineup in Game 4 of the NLDS. If you remove the shortened 2020 season (which was a poor one for DeSclafani), he’s been an impressive starter in recent years. Excluding 2020, DeSclafani has averaged 2.1 fWAR per season and a 3.89 xERA. DeSclafani doesn’t walk many (6.2% in 2021) and has a respectable 22.5% K% while averaging 95 mph with his fastball. He’s exactly the kind of reliable candidate I’d expect the Twins to target in free agency this offseason.

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Jon Gray
Gray is a name that Twins fans often linked to the team as a possible trade target. While perhaps never ascending to the height that some expected of the number three overall pick, Gray has been an effective, consistent starting pitcher for several years. Excluding the shortened 2020 season, Gray has averaged 2.7 fWAR per season and a 3.71 xFIP over his last four seasons. In that span, he’s averaged around 150 innings pitched, 9.29 K/9, and has managed to pitch more effectively at home at Coors Field than on the road. Gray is another reliable, effective option for the Twins, who, like DeSclafani, can offer strong innings to the Twins as they continue to develop their impressive array of minor league arm talent. 
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Which of these candidates do you like or not like for the Twins rotation? Which other free-agent starting pitchers would you like to see the Twins target?

 


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Never really thought about DeSclafani as a potential target, and truth be told never really knew a lot of detail about him beforehand.  However, his profile (provided for continued good health) could be a solid addition to the staff.

Also, I wouldn't freak out if the Twins traded for Gray.  He's been a solid MLB pitcher for a team in a non-pitcher friendly park. 

While there is a portion of the TD crowd who don't care about the cost all that much and would probably trade their own mothers or at the bare minimum their mother-in-laws... (but to be honest that might not be that much of a stretch on that last part 🤷‍♂️), none of us should be all that surprised at what the final cost in prospect capital will be to bring him into the fold.

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If we resign Pineda then we really only need 1 more starting pitcher at that point.  You mentioned 3 perfect options though we might be players for Strongman or one of the top end starters.  I am definitely curious to see what the team does this offseason.  I don't see Grenke as an option since he didn't want to come here before.

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I think you can probably rule out anyone who would require draft pick compensation. The Twins have some high picks in what should be a loaded draft. That makes Gausman and Stroman more attractive. OTOH - Ray, Syndergaard, Kershaw, Rodon, Desclafini and Gray might be less attractive or off the market due to the QO. 

Greinke is unlikely. He's always had the Twins on his no-trade list.

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I would look at highly compensated starting pitchers who underperformed in 2021: Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Miles Mikolas, Garrett Richards. Then there are the players looking at large arbitration awards: Matt Boyd, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manea, Zach Eflin, Kyle Freeland, Jameson Taillon

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Greinke is 37, no thanks. already showing signs of regression last year.  Gray and Pineda with Ryan, Ober, Dobnak with Twins, Winder, Duran, SWR, Sands, Balazovic at AAA waiting for opportunity looks good to me.  I agree, Twins will probably need to trade to bring in quality starter and agree little chance top tier FAs end up with Twins. Top choice would be Trade, Gray, Pineda, Ryan, Ober.

 

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My hope is to pick up a high end pitcher to at least compensate for the loss of Berrios, via trade. At this point we don't have anyone who we can count on to go past 5 innings so I'd like an additional 2nd pitcher who can take us to at least 6 innings and give us a chance to win. My sentimental 3rd addition is to try a flier on Chris Archer. He still needs to build up his arm strength, he's great for 3 innings this season but after that he's vulnerable. He has great upside especially with some specialize instruction from Wes Johnson perfect his already very good FB and slider also Santana can greatly improve his already good circle change up. We can use him in long relief or piggybacking until he's able go 5 or more. We can offer him a low base contact with pretty good incentives. If he works out he'll be well worth it if not we're not out anything. 

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Zack Greinke is interesting. Feels a bit like a boom/bust candidate? Is the drop-off this season due to him finally getting old, or is he going to have a bounceback season for someone and be a really nice starter again? He's been successful before without a huge K rate, but should we be more alarmed that in a season where everyone was striking out a million times his rate dropped sharply? Lot of veteran savvy and know-how for guys like Ober/Ryan and the rest of the young guys who are going to get some chances...but also might just be, you know...old. He does seem to know how to stay healthy.

If something higher tier doesn't present itself he's someone I would study and evaluate really hard. but I'll admit to a bias: I've always liked him and I'm a huge fan, even if he's been with the damn cheatin' Astros the last 2 1/2 seasons.

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1 hour ago, DJL44 said:

I would look at highly compensated starting pitchers who underperformed in 2021: Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Miles Mikolas, Garrett Richards. Then there are the players looking at large arbitration awards: Matt Boyd, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manea, Zach Eflin, Kyle Freeland, Jameson Taillon

One more name. A familiar one. Jake Odorizzi is pretty expensive for a 5th starter in Houston.

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If they can't sign at least one high tier pitcher and address the bullpen I'd rather the $$ go towards the rotation and the team try to piece together a bullpen. They've had some success with that, and little with "bounce back," starters. 

I'll take the under on Pineda hitting 160 IP. That's essentially asking him to make every scheduled start. 

Balazovic should be up sooner rather than later. Aside from that maybe Winder if his shoulder issue really was fatigue and not any sort of structural damage. Even if that's the case, he wore down at the 70 IP mark, I don't know how much contribution should really be expected. Duran and Canterino have basically missed two seasons at this point and both could also be dealing with more serious injury issues. Neither should be counted on for anything in '22. An inability to throw strikes rather than actual injury shut Woods Richardson down. Maybe cross your fingers and hope his brief time in A ball with Toronto is rediscovered. I don't think the cavalry is as strong as some perceive it to be. 

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58 minutes ago, KirbyDome89 said:

I don't think the cavalry is as strong as some perceive it to be. 

I agree 100% with this. I don't even have any confidence in Ryan or Ober pitching a full, productive season. If they really want to contend next season they can't depend on the minor leaguers at all. None of the high level prospects pitched over 100 innings.

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A couple brief comments regarding the initial 4 points posted first:

1] I firmly believe the Twins are at least 50/50 on signjng one of the top FA arms. They went hard after Darvish and were one of the finalists. The Cubs went an extra year and "won" his services. (Might have bumped the A/V a bit I can't remember). They were serious about Wheeler at $20M plus but had the door slammed immediately as he just didn't want to leave the east coast. But the point is, they HAVE previously looked at the big arms. I think they WILL look again. And if they succeed, well, awesome! But it will impact point #2.

2] I DO think the Twins are going to trade for a rotation piece. I'm oblivious as to who and a bit sketchy as to how. Odorizzi and Maeda were virtual steals for a milb player, but can they do it again? Just a gut feeling, but I think the FO is looking to trade from their milb depth for an arm and wanting to keep the ML roster mostly intact at this point. I mean, we're talking about a re-tool vs a re-build so I don't see more than one roster fixture being moved.

3] I believe Pineda is a virtual lock for about $8M. Maybe with a couple kickers thrown in. But to me, that's a re-sign and agree it's not like some "on the market" signing. And so that still leaves 2 holes to fill.

4] I agree reinforcements are close. Could be as many as 4 or 5 ready by mid-season despite the disappointments of delayed development in 2021. But we're talking mid-season more than likely. You can't open 2022 on wishes and prayers to begin the season.

I'm out on Greinke due to age and his previous reluctance to include the Twins as a tradeable team. Not saying I don't make a call to see if he's suddenly had a change of heart, but I don't expect it.

I confess I don't know a lot about DeSclafini, but looked up his numbers. I'm OK with him but a little "meh". Not crazy about being 32yo, but if he really figuresd some things out and made some nice adjustments, he could be just as good working with Johnson. But are we talking a 1yr deal or something more? He could be an outstanding 1yr option, maybe some sort of 1+1 or option year, but I'm not willing for more than that at this point.

Gray and Ray should almost be included together as they've both been mentioned in regard to the Twins as "potentials" the past few years as much as Stroman. Same age and similar careers. I could see either on 1 plus deal and could be OK.

I think the Twins are out on any of the TOP SS options unless they wash out in the SP FA market. That's how and why they signed Donaldson. BUT, if they can bring in a couple solid arms via trade and FA...heaven and baseball gods forbid they bring in 2 FA that are quality without breaking the bank...they could still make a strike in that area. But do they need to? And I'm being serious here. With a better pen and a little better health the second half, the Twins basically played .500 ball with a patchwork rotation. What could they accomplish with a couple better rotation pieces to lead the rotation?

Basic logic and finances and what little we actually know and speculate about what we know about the FA options available, Stoman and Ray and Gray make the most sense as FA signings if you're looking for someone to lead the staff. I believe Stoman made $12M last year and pretty sure that was his biggest $ year to date. He's been tied to the Twins for years now as a very similar pitcher to Berrios. (FWIW). He would seem to be the perfect target for a 4 or 5yr deal at $18-20M per deal that doesn't break the bank or preclude the Twins from making additional signings or moves. Maybe most import, he's been a model of health and consistency. You could even throw in an "out clause" after the 2yrs if you really needed to, allowing for the rise of milb talent. I think Ray and Gray offer the same potential as Stoman, without as much consistency, and might come in a little cheaper. Do the Twins have to sign Scherzer or Thor or Bauer to compete? Hell no! But these are a couple of arms listed who are still young enough, proven enough, talented enough to actually head the rotation without blowing up payroll.

IF you make the right and smart move, you STILL have the "luxury" of a 2nd FA signing or a smart trade to bring in that Odorizzi or Maeda trade to fill the #2 spot. Such a trade could a steal as they've done before, hopefully, or it could include a couple quality milb prospects and one ML player like Kepler or Sano along with someone like Sands, just for example.

Make no mistake, I'm open to a lot of potential scenarios here to bring in a couple quality SP options to lead our 2022 rotation. I'm inclined to keep the ML roster intact as much as possible as 2 steps forward and 2 steps back doesn't lead to success. But the Twins have enough talent and depth and $ available to make one or two smart moves to re-tool this roster without blowing up the roster or the system to make 2022 a competitive team.

And whether they sign one of FA SP pitcher mentioned previously, as a primary or secondary, I have thoughts about guys like Rodon or Bundy. Would you bet big $ on Rodon?  One big year for Rodon? Or would you play it safe for Bundy who has flashed and might be primed for a good year with Johnson and the Twins after a career with Baltimore and the Angels?

Sorry to be long winded, but there are a lot of different venues for this FO to follow the next couple of months to add and re-tool this rotation.

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Gray at 30 is the only one of interest and I think the length of the contract he will be given may include too much of his decline. Still I can see him as a capable play off starter for the next few years.

Grienke is too old.

I think it would be unwise to ignore 2020 for DeSclafani and I would also add his most recent start to the data. He is only reliable until he isn’t anymore and some is going to pay for the isn’t. I am not buying high here.

My preference is they either sign or trade for someone age 30 or younger who they see as a capable game 1 or 2 starter in the playoffs or they go young for next year. I wouldn’t commit multiple years to a pitcher who will spend too much of that time as a back end starter. I wouldn’t sign more one year stop gap starters while they kick the can down the road on development of their young pitchers.

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I find it ironic that the author was able to throw Happ and Shoemaker (who were signed as back of the order options) under the bus as main causes of the Twins poor season.  But than offers 3 options that are in someways similar to them as expensive top of the rotation pieces.

Happ was probably the Twins best starter in April, than had the worst stretch of his career when he came under the full tutelage of Wes Johnson, than helped pitch the Cardinals into the playoffs after he was traded. Why?

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Well, I was all prepared to write a detailed opinion and then I started reading Doc Bauer's.  Yup, Yup, Oh yeah, I agree with that take too...and well Doc just covered all the bases exquisitely.  Thank you Doc !!

I do think they need a #1 to fill the spot Berrios had.  To me, that means someone Like Ray, Stroman or Gausman.  I like them in that order.  Robbie Ray has tremendous stuff.  I think Gray is a good #2 to go after and I still like Eduardo Rodriguez.  But I think TRADES could bring them back a couple nice young arms that could push Gray to #3 or #4.  And what's wrong with that ??  Ryan and Ober will be on innings limits.  Pineda would help if he could give them 140-160 innings. I just think building a stable of 6-7 guys with possible mid-season reinforcements like Balazovic, Winder or Duran should be the plan.  That's why guys like Canterino, Strotman and others should be considered in trades.  We have a  surplus.  Could you solve the SS hole with Canterino and Strotman to the Royals for Adelberto Mondesi ??  It's certainly worth considering. 

Guys like Arraez, Jeffers, Rooker and some of the minor league pitching talent are in play when considering trades.  As Doc so capably pointed out, the Twins just can't go into next season with uncertainty.   They should be aiming to compete for next year's division title given that the division, while improving, is just there for the taking.  Every year.  There are MANY opportunities for this FO to retool.  They need to take advantage of them and make some bold moves this off season.  

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51 minutes ago, TopGunn#22 said:

There are MANY opportunities for this FO to retool.  They need to take advantage of them and make some bold moves this off season.  

There certainly will be opportunities and Falvey should attempt to strike early. Will he though or will he wait? The Buxton contract and a few trades will be necessary to convince any free agents of note to consider Minnesota as a destination unless the money the Twins offer blows a player away and that has never happened. We should know the Twins direction by the end of November.

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5 hours ago, Karbo said:

Lets not forget that pesky CBA that will probably give most if not all teams at least slight pause in negotiations with free agents.

I read an article recently that talked about the offseason before the 1994 work stoppage. Didn't really impact the signings as much as you'd expect. With the kind of information which has been talked about, it honestly benefits teams like the Twins the most. Teams with the ability to spend up to $150MM, but who are still going to fall short of a reduced luxury tax floor. A lowered floor may reign in the top spenders who push $180MM and above.

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The Twins need top of the rotation arms and it doesn't matter where they come from. Minnesota has the back end of the rotation covered, but they have nothing in the 1-2 slots.

I'd expect the cost for the favorites in the comments to look about like:

  • Gray = 3yrs $40MM (may well resign with Rockies)
  • Stroman = 5yrs $135MM
  • Ray = 4yrs $100MM

I'd want Stroman, maybe Greinke on a 1 year deal sub $15MM, but I think the Twins could go out and get Scherzer or Verlander on a short deal easily enough. There are a lot of moving parts at the moment so nobody can really predict how Minnesota will make moves this offseason, just things they might do.

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The money may get wild this offseason. A recent article suggested the Dodgers will bring back Scherzer for two years at $40 per year ($80 total). This was on BleacherReport.com and I don't read that site so am not familiar with their reputation. 

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Yeah, the Dodgers are gonna bring back Scherzer, especially with the continual health issues Kershaw is having.  Two years and $40 million per year is the kind of thing the Dodgers can afford.  Not the Twins.  We need a lefty.  Ray at 4-years $100 million works for me.  I'm curious what Eduardo Rodriguez would cost.  But I TRADE for my #2 and #3 guys.  I'd have my eye on Montas, Bassitt or Manaea from the A's and Alcantara, Max Meyer and Sixto Sanchez from the Marlins.  Guys that could be involved in making the trades for them:  Jeffers, Garver, Arraez, Larnach, Strotman and Canterino.  Gotta give something to get something.  let's go get some PITCHING !!

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On 10/16/2021 at 5:14 PM, bean5302 said:

I read an article recently that talked about the offseason before the 1994 work stoppage. Didn't really impact the signings as much as you'd expect. With the kind of information which has been talked about, it honestly benefits teams like the Twins the most. Teams with the ability to spend up to $150MM, but who are still going to fall short of a reduced luxury tax floor. A lowered floor may reign in the top spenders who push $180MM and above.

Thats very interesting. I can see where that could be an advantage Twins. Thanks!

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If you watched the Astro Red Sox game Tuesday night you would understand why Greinke is the last pitcher I would want.  He is not a big game pitcher and never has been, he is aging and will want to be paid like a superstar.  His war this year was 1.2 despite 11 wins.  His WAR the last three years was just about 1 - he is now average and that is not what this staff needs. 

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