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Twins' Best Chance for an Ace Could Be in Milwaukee


Nash Walker
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The Twins swung two deals for starters over the last nine months: first for Sonny Gray and then for Tyler Mahle. Is a third on the horizon?

Image courtesy of © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

 

It’s true that the Twins may have a bevy of choices for their rotation in 2023. Gray, Mahle, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, Louie Varland and more figure to pitch meaningful innings. Gray and Mahle can be viewed as frontline starters with durability concerns, while Ryan and Ober are reasonable third and fourth options.

Even with this depth, the Twins still lack an ace. 

The addition of a true No. 1 would propel this rotation from fairly solid to potentially very good. Carlos Rodón is the most logical target in free agency, although his list of suitors will be long and motivated. Beyond Rodón, the Twins could hope for a miracle signing of Jacob deGrom or Justin Verlander

 

The trade market should be active for the Twins, with Max Kepler, Gio Urshela, Emilio Pagán and others potentially on the block. They’ve shown a propensity to deal for starters and should be looking to do so again. A sneaky target resides in Milwaukee, where the Brewers have key decisions to make this winter. 

Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes have formed one of the best duos in baseball for the last two-plus years. Both are dominant right-handed workhorses with upper-90s fastballs and wipeout breaking stuff. The Brewers made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons before 2022, with their terrifying one-two punch being a key reason why. 

Those days could be coming to an end. 2022 was a step back for Milwaukee, culminating in a trade of their star closer Josh Hader at the deadline. Both Woodruff and Burnes are free agents following the 2024 season with increasing prices in arbitration. With a below-average market and payroll, they’re extremely unlikely to extend both. 

The Brewers have Freddy Peralta and Aaron Ashby, two promising young pitchers, under contract long term. A viable path would be to extend their Cy Young winner in Burnes while trading Woodruff for a significant package. 

Woodruff, 29, is exactly the type of player the Twins should target. Since 2018, the 6-foot-4, 243 pound righty has posted a 3.06 ERA (137 ERA+) with an identical 3.06 FIP. Woodruff has notched three seasons in a row with an ERA at 3.05 or below. He’s one of the best, most consistent starters in the league. 

Over the last five seasons, Woodruff ranks 15th among qualified starters in ERA+, ahead of the likes of Shane Bieber, Sandy Alcantara and Rodón. Woodruff’s 3.06 FIP is tied for the eighth best in the league and just behind Gerrit Cole (3.01) and Shohei Ohtani (3.04). Woodruff has struck out 10.8 batters per nine in that span, tied for the 11th best rate in baseball. 

The Twins lack a starter with upper-90s velocity. Woodruff’s fastball averaged 96 mph with excellent carry in 2022. Among pitchers who faced at least 250 batters this year, Woodruff’s four-seamer ranked first in strikeout rate (35.6%) and third in whiff rate (28.5%). It’s an elite heater. 

Often valuing fastball-centric pitchers, the Twins and Woodruff are a clear match. He also threw 150 or more innings in each of the past two seasons, filling another key workhorse hole in the Twins’ banged-up rotation. Woodruff makes all the sense in the world…

...for a hefty price. 

Just how much in prospect capital would Woodruff cost? Well, a lot. Per Baseball Trade Values, Woodruff is graded at a median of 34.1 while Burnes is valued at 78.3. For perspective, these three differing packages satisfy the tool in a Woodruff trade. 

PACKAGE 1: SS Brooks Lee 
PACKAGE 2: OF Emmanuel Rodríguez, RHP Josh Winder, INF Austin Martin
PACKAGE 3: 2B Edouard Julien, SS Royce Lewis, RHP Simeon Woods Richardson

Ouch, right? 

Beyond the prospect capital, Woodruff is expected to earn $11 million in his second-to-last year in arbitration. One can expect a reasonable raise to about $16 million in 2024, his final year before free agency. It’s essentially a two-year, $27 million deal. Woodruff’s addition would leave plenty of room to sign Carlos Correa or Xander Bogaerts

What do you think? Is Brandon Woodruff as much of a slam dunk as I think he is? Comment below!

 


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Absolutely, he's one of my choices. If MIL is indeed rebuilding it'd take prospects, I'd try to swing a deal different than what you suggested that'd satisfy MIL while not hurt so much. MIA might be a easier partner because they probably be looking at MLB Players.

Ryan, Gray and hopefully Mahle if his shoulder checks out (I'm banking on it) are the only ones that'll give us any significant innings. With fans expectations & absence of long relief mentality, we could be really hurting (both physically & situationally). Unfortunately we need a pitcher like Woodruff.

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I do not like trading Lee, just as I hated seeing us send our first rounder Chase Petty in a trade.  At 19, in the Florida league - Daytona he had a 3.33 era in 18 games, 1.197WHIP, 8.9 Ks/9.  He had the potential to become an ace.

I do like the idea of getting Woodruff, if Milwaukee would take option 2, but would they?  Winder could not replace Woodruff in the lineup.  Rodriguez is hard to give up.  And Milwaukee does not need a SS or RF.  Interesting speculation

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No No No No.   the Twins are stocked with quantity in Starting Pitching.    Joe Ryan has shown some flashes of potential in being more than a  #3 or #4 level of a starter.   The Twins clearly have confidence in him, evidenced by naming Joe as the opening day starter.   I’m hoping for a boring off-season for the Twins.  
The 2022 season was marred by injuries.  So, get a stop-gap shortstop until one of. the younger players (Lewis, Martin ….) is worthy of taking over.  Add some depth at catcher.   Then take advantage of any last-minute opportunities that are available (like Carlos Correa last year).  .  

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1 minute ago, strumdatjag said:

No No No No.   the Twins are stocked with quantity in Starting Pitching.    Joe Ryan has shown some flashes of potential in being more than a  #3 or #4 level of a starter.   The Twins clearly have confidence in him, evidenced by naming Joe as the opening day starter.   I’m hoping for a boring off-season for the Twins.  
The 2022 season was marred by injuries.  So, get a stop-gap shortstop until one of. the younger players (Lewis, Martin ….) is worthy of taking over.  Add some depth at catcher.   Then take advantage of any last-minute opportunities that are available (like Carlos Correa last year).  .  

Sadly I think you just accurately projected what our FO will do this off season. I would like to add a top level starter as quantity doesn’t mean quality. I guess I am with RB - why would Milwaukee want to get rid of him?

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47 minutes ago, Linus said:

Interesting idea. I would do package 2 in a heartbeat. 

I'd only want to do package 2, but I don't think #2 would be enough for the Brewers if Woodruff was available.  Woodruff would be great but I think Royce and Lee need to stay in the Twins system.  

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The Brewers are going to be trading one of their two top starters because they are a small market team who had a disappointing year.  Aren't the Twins also a small market (maybe mid) team who disappointed last year?  

My response to all three deals for a pitcher who will be gone after two seasons is NO, NO and NO.  Not opposed to trading with the Brew Crew, but you included three of the four kids (Prielipp would be the fourth) that would be on my no trade list.

 

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I like it!! Perfect fit but not sure about the pieces being moved? I think if we target a guy like this we need to sign him up for an additional 3 years immediately to get the trade value right. Also, I think we need to part with one of our left-handed batting outfielders to sweeten the pot for trade partner. Keep Gordon. One of those other 4 guys needs to be offered. Kepler probably doesn’t move the needle. 

Why: Woodruff for 5 years or Simeon Woods-Richardson’s potential???

Why: They do it to get a reasonable arm into their fold AND high end left handed bat with CONTROL of both for years.

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Mahle was supposed to be the Woodruff of ‘23, right?

So do we now need Woodruff too because we have have no confidence that Mahle is going to be even close to what we thought we paid for? Or do we need to trade away more young talent because we are just one strong starter to complement Mahle away from competing for a pennant in ‘23?

So let’s just keep gutting the future to cover up the FO’s pitcher developmental weaknesses and trading mistakes. The Brewers can have Mahle, Paddock, and Pagan back instead - two front line starters and a high leverage reliever should get it done, no?

Sorry, it’s Friday morning and I should be in a better mood. But the Brewers are not taking option #2 and that was the only option listed even remotely worth considering from our perspective.

 

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In the past year the twins traded for two starting pitchers ...

You failed to mention the injured  paddack  ...

We depleted the prospect list at deadline  so I say  no to a trade and go after the rodon  ,  injury prone but I'd take a risk on him  and a lefthander in the rotation would complement  the rotation  ,,, outbid in free agency  and not lose any prospects in trades  unless it's from a surplus of positions  , but teams want pitchers and the twins don't have surplus in pitching so I don't see a trade option ....

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What @tarheeltwinsfan said.

It is actually cheaper to be top bidder for Rodón now, than give away another package of our top prospects (further bankrupting our farm system and future) for a pitcher who will walk in a couple years unless he gets Rodón money anyway. And last year's team was NOT a pitcher away from winning it all; they need the SP, a few additions, and Lewis, Lee, and most the others in the packages being part of our core by 2024.

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1 hour ago, PatPfund said:

What @tarheeltwinsfan said.

It is actually cheaper to be top bidder for Rodón now, than give away another package of our top prospects (further bankrupting our farm system and future) for a pitcher who will walk in a couple years unless he gets Rodón money anyway. And last year's team was NOT a pitcher away from winning it all; they need the SP, a few additions, and Lewis, Lee, and most the others in the packages being part of our core by 2024.

Well said Pat. You apparently have an economics degree like I do, plus you obviously are wise. 

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I like this idea, in theory. Actually makes a ton of sense and it's possible the Brewers might want to re-tool at this time. And while the Twins system is...depending on your perspective...a little short on pitching prospects or recovering from some bad/injured seasons, they have at least a couple arms the Brewers would probably like as well as some very interesting INF and OF options. And my opinion is, and has been, that the FO should treat the staff just EXPECTING that someone is going to be hurt or not ready. So I think an addition makes sense from a depth perspective. (And I like the look of the guys we have now, all 100%)

But I'm tired of trading away prospects for veterans. Woodruff might just make a difference. So I'm not saying no. But how about spending some $ for a change and NOT trading away more prospects? Rodon for 4-5yrs at $25 per is simply not going to destroy the financial structure of the franchise in any way. Bassitt would come a little shorter and cheaper, probably wouldn't be as good as Rodon, but would still be quality and give us that depth.

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Riverbrian said:

I'm wondering why Milwaukee would trade Woodruff? 

Is the new guy Brad Arnold about to tear it down? 

It's money. A quick glance at online chatter makes it sound like Woodruff is likely to be dealt this offseason.

Could be nothing, but it's worth having some as we dream on it.

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I’d take do any three of those deals without blinking.

I think people overvalue Twins prospects way too much.

Wouldn’t do a deal that includes Lewis?  The guy hasn’t played in 3 years.  He’s a tweener defensively who isn’t a lock to stick at shortstop long-term.  He has significant offensive question marks.

Also, what’s his ceiling at this point?  I’d you’re not protected to be lights out on either side of ball, can you realistically be projected as a star player?

If the Brewers want a package containing Lewis for a durable, relatively young, front line starter - done.

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Being that the Brewers are constantly churning, they usually trade for major league ready guys. Or at least Sterns did. It depends on their approach.

If they stick with churn, they might want a bat and Larnach could be a good fit for the COF/DH rotation there.

And they could use more SP depth, so maybe Varland and Winder as well, becoming the 5th and 6th starters.

The simulator considers that offer a generous overpay by the Twins, but that depends on whether the Crew wants to continue the churn.

 

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1 hour ago, Minny505 said:

It's money. A quick glance at online chatter makes it sound like Woodruff is likely to be dealt this offseason.

Could be nothing, but it's worth having some as we dream on it.

I haven't heard that chatter. If it is sourced out of the Brewers front office that would be sad news for Brewer Fans. 

They have that rotation that everybody else is trying to get. 

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45 minutes ago, Riverbrian said:

I haven't heard that chatter. If it is sourced out of the Brewers front office that would be sad news for Brewer Fans. 

They have that rotation that everybody else is trying to get. 

I completely agree. 

It's more speculation from sources inside the industry that I read or heard, not the front office themselves. The way I have heard about and read that the Royals may non-tender Mondesi if they cannot trade him, or that the Twins may non-tender Urshela if they cannot trade him. 

If the Brewers can add quality depth though, I could see them pulling the trigger with three other 1/2 level SPs in their rotation outside of Woodruff. 

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3 hours ago, Minny505 said:

Being that the Brewers are constantly churning, they usually trade for major league ready guys. Or at least Sterns did. It depends on their approach.

If they stick with churn, they might want a bat and Larnach could be a good fit for the COF/DH rotation there.

And they could use more SP depth, so maybe Varland and Winder as well, becoming the 5th and 6th starters.

The simulator considers that offer a generous overpay by the Twins, but that depends on whether the Crew wants to continue the churn.

 

I think one thing to consider is that based on MLB Pipeline the Brewers top 5 prospects are all OF at AA or above, so I am inclined to think they probably wouldn't have much interest in another COF, especially with Yelich/Renfroe already in the fold at the MLB level.

One guy who I think would intrigue them (as painful as he would be to part with) is Jose Miranda. They don't appear to be exceptionally strong at corner IF either at the major league level or in their system, so Miranda would make sense as a major league ready piece who could either start everyday at 3B or bounce between the corners/DH. 

Per BaseballTradeValues, a package of Miranda, Winder or Woods Richardson, and Jovani Moran could make sense from the Brewers perspective/philosophy. They'd be getting 5+ years of control in a young power bat at an area of weakness in their system, a possible rotation piece, and a bullpen arm (all of whom are MLB ready, which I think MIL would be looking for), in exchange for 2 years of a SP that they probably won't be resigning once he reaches FA. 

Personally I would make that deal in a heartbeat (with the caveat of signing Woodruff to an extension) but it would definitely hurt to lose someone like Miranda who really established himself at the MLB level this year.

I would be curious to hear other people's thoughts though! Is Miranda off the table, even for someone of Woodruff's caliber?

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I am bemused by the idea that our “cheap” ownership just needs to pay the market rate to get Rodon.  In all likelihood there are at least 7 teams willing to pay 5/125 or whatever the “market” value is.  Given the number of choices this year for Rodon why exactly does he choose the Twins?  We have been sub .500 the past 2 seasons and MN does not exactly offer a balmy climate nor is tax friendly to top earners .  The top free agent pitchers always have a number of choices for top dollar.  

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13 hours ago, Minny505 said:

I completely agree. 

It's more speculation from sources inside the industry that I read or heard, not the front office themselves. The way I have heard about and read that the Royals may non-tender Mondesi if they cannot trade him, or that the Twins may non-tender Urshela if they cannot trade him. 

If the Brewers can add quality depth though, I could see them pulling the trigger with three other 1/2 level SPs in their rotation outside of Woodruff. 

Josh Hader was on that rumor mill for a while before they eventually shipped him to the Padres. 

The Brewers didn't want to pay that 13 or so million to Hader in that final Arb year (2023).

Woodruff and Burnes are both 2nd year Arbitration in 2023 so... cashing out wouldn't be completely out of character.  

There is no way that I would do it. I'm supporting that rotation. I'm not selling off for parts.  

  

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