When the Minnesota Twins traded away José Berríos they gave away their most durable, consistent and talented pitcher they’ve had since Johan Santana. While the Twins will look to their farm system to fill in the gaps of the depleted rotation that Berríos left behind, they should also look to free agency to replace as much of the consistent, veteran arm of Berríos that they can.
When looking for a replacement for José Berríos, the Minnesota Twins will need to look for a pitcher who mirrors the age and upside of José Berríos. The Twins should be targeting a pitcher better than impending free agent names like Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Sanchez, but at the same time avoiding aging stars that do not fit the Twins’ timeline such as Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer.
In looking at replacements for Berríos, let’s look at pitchers aged 30 or younger who have shown flashes of excellence. Acquiring a pitcher in this mold would ideally allow the Twins to replace ~85% of Berríos’s production on a cheaper contract than the Puerto Rican right hander will command after the 2022 season. Let’s get to the list...
30 years old
2019 - 2021: 306.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 7.6 K/9
Marcus Stroman was a name that many Twins fans wanted Minnesota to sign at the 2019 trade deadline and again in free agency last offseason. Stroman ended up being traded to the Mets in 2019 and then signed the qualifying offer last offseason, but will finally be a fully unrestricted free agent this winter. Stroman is currently having the best season of his young career with a 2.80 ERA in 122 innings with the Mets. Stroman is not a lights-out pitcher with top-notch velocity, but he limits damage extremely well with pinpoint control and a sinker that induces ground balls more than 50% of the time.
Stroman is still only 30 years old and has the type of profile that figures to age well. Stroman will command some big-time offers in free agency but with numbers similar to José Berríos, the Twins have a unique opportunity to replace their former ace with a new one.
30 years old
2019 - 2021: 288.1 IP, 3.81 ERA, 10.7K/9
Kevin Gausman was another name that Twins fans were looking at as a potential free agent option last offseason, only to miss out on him via the qualifying offer. Similar to Stroman, Gausman is in the midst of the best season of his career, with a 2.35 ERA and a 10.6 K/9. Gausman has a nasty pitch arsenal and the type of stuff that could play over the life of a 5 year contract.
28 years old
2019 - 2021: 197.2 IP, 4.28 ERA, 9.2 K/9
Another name that was once linked to the Minnesota Twins, Syndergaard was talked about as a potential trade return for Byron Buxton when the Twins were looking for a starting pitcher at the 2019 trade deadline. Now a free agent, Syndergaard figures to be a name that will draw interest from many clubs. Syndergaard has elite stuff, highlighted by his fastball that can reach triple digits. What has held “Thor” back is injury, as he is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery he underwent at the end of the 2019 season. When healthy, Syndergaard can be one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball, and while his injury presents risk, it could also present an opportunity to get value on a potential contract.
28 years old
2019 - 2021: 303.0 IP, 4.40 ERA, 9.9 K/9
Moving to the southpaws, Eduardo Rodriguez has been an underrated starting pitcher with the Boston Red Sox over the past number of years. Rodriguez is having a tough 2021 season, with an ERA of 5.60, but his underlying statistics show that he has been pitching much better than that. Rodriguez would bring a left handed pitcher to a rotation and farm system full of righties, and at just 28-years-old it’s fair to wonder if the Minnesota Twins could add some MPH to his low-90s fastball and unlock even more from the promising lefty.
29 years old
2019 - 2021: 350.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 11.7 K/9
After a miserable 2020 season, Robbie Ray has rebounded in 2021 and is having a career year. After always having the strikeout arsenal, Ray has found his control and is walking a career-low 2.4 batters per 9 innings. Ray is only 29 years old, and if he has truly turned a corner in terms of his command, he could be an ace for the next half-decade and a great candidate to replace José Berríos.
Which of these impending free agent pitchers would be the best replacement for José Berríos? Which do you think will command the least and most money on the free agent market? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!