I will let you read Matthew’s article in full as he does a tremendous job of explaining why now is the time, but will add that I’ve been ready to move on simply due to his lack of development. Berríos has been the same pitcher since his first full season in 2017 where he’ll give you 5-6 strikeouts, 2-3 walks, and an ERA/FIP in the high 3’s, but he’ll have those couple performances that’ll leave you thinking he can be an “ace” in this league. In short, he hasn’t shown consistent effectiveness or efficiency to prove he can become an “ace” and, although exact details have never been leaked, he wants to get paid more than the Twins are willing to pay him. In my opinion, Berríos is a middle of the rotation arm (low-2/high-3) who likely wants to be paid like a frontline guy which I don't think they should do. This brings me back to Matthew’s article where he went on to say “Berríos possesses the talent and the years of control that should bring back a top-100 prospect (and then some) in return.” Inarguably, there is still some upside to Berríos, some people will quickly remind you that Scherzer took time to become Scherzer, and his durability cannot be understated, but can he really net a “top-100 prospect and then some”? Let's take a look.
I went back to the last few seasons to find trades that involved starting pitchers who had the potential to make an immediate impact to a big league club. Before diving in, understand that no situation is going to be the same as contracts and years of team control can obviously vary, teams have been financially impacted by COVID-19, and the current CBA expires in December. All that said, it’s not completely apples and oranges to look at previous trades and I’d think teams would use that to help establish the market for Berríos.
Clevinger has had a much better, yet shorter, career compared to Berríos while also having an extra year of team control at the time of this trade, but on the flipside he’s also three-and-a-half years older than José. Even considering the age difference and now knowing that Clevinger is out with Tommy John surgery, I think most would take Clevinger over Berríos in a heartbeat. This deal included two young, MLB ready guys in Naylor and Quantrill but none of Arias, Miller, and Cantillo were or are currently top-100 guys, although Quantrill was as high as #38 back in 2017.
Age is a big difference here, but the Astros were acquiring a former Cy Young and gold glove winner, bonafide ace, who still had two-and-a-half years left on his contract and received about a third of his remaining salary from the Diamondbacks. At the time of the deal, Seth Beer was the only top-100 prospect (coming in at #96) and entering the 2021 season none of the prospects the Diamondbacks received are ranked in the top-100 although three of the four are currently in the organizations top-30 prospects.
I almost view this trade as Richards for Sánchez as Anderson and Stanek were pretty equal, although comparing the two relievers minor league track record shows that Anderson maybe has the higher upside. Anyway, at the time of this trade, Richards had 45 starts under his belt, looked to be less talented than Berríos, but still had five plus years of team control before becoming a free agent. By giving up the two better players in the deal, the Marlins received the 51st best prospect in all of baseball in Sánchez but is currently unranked after batting .040 in 25 big league at-bats in 2020.
At the time of this deal, Gallen was emerging as a promising young arm for the Marlins sporting an ERA under 3 and a K/9 north of 10 and on the previous day had limited the bomba squad to one homerun over seven innings while striking out eight. He still had six plus years of team control and In return the Marlins received the 54th best prospect in baseball in Chisholm whose time clock hadn’t yet started as he had only reached AA. Now, Chisholm is competing for the NL Rookie of the Year with an OPS of .817 and wRC+ of 127.
At the time of the deal, Stroman was having the best year of his career and was in the some spot as Berríos having one plus year of team control left before being a restricted free agent. Comparatively, Berríos and Stroman have had similar careers although Stroman strikes out and walks less batters while also being less susceptible to the long ball. In return, the Blue Jays received two prospects who were outside of the top-100 at the time of the deal, but to this point Woods-Richardson is the 74th ranked prospect in baseball while Kay has struggled in his first 52.2 big league innings.
Stick with me here...I promise I’m not trolling the Berríos stan’s with this one…
By age and contract, Mike Minor (32) and Jose Berríos are not super comparable BUT (here’s the kicker, for me) statistically they have been nearly the same pitcher throughout their careers and, moreover, ZiPS projects in two years Berríos will still basically be Mike Minor.
Minor Career (thru 08/31/2020)
3.98 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
Career: 4.05 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
ZiPs 2023: 3.97 FIP, 9.22 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
Minor, who was just a one month rental for the A’s, had a pretty poor 2020 which obviously hurt his trade value and thus didn’t even net two players that are ranked in the Rangers Top 30, let alone Major League Baseball’s Top-100. Moreover, the $133K in international slot bonus money obviously helps but doesn’t move the needle a ton either. Undoubtedly, a deal involving Berríos will net more than this but I thought it was interesting to see how similar these two pitchers are, and I think it really just proves Matthew Taylor’s original claim that we need to trade Berríos now.
That said, after analyzing recent trades I don’t think I can confidently predict the Twins “should bring back a top-100 prospect (and then some) in return” just for Berríos. In the deals that netted a top-100 prospect there was more at play than simply getting a young-ish pitcher with a year plus of team control left:
- Greinke is far superior to Berríos yet still only netted the #96 prospect in baseball, among other pieces.
- Marlins sent high-ceiling reliever Nick Anderson to sweeten the deal for the Rays.
- Gallen was much younger, had many more years of team control remaining, and had pitched almost as well through his first seven starts as Berríos ever has in any seven start stretch of his career.
- Two years after the deal was completed, the Blue Jays can claim they received a top-100 prospect from the Mets.
Especially with the unknown of the next CBA and the 2022 season, I think it’s realistic to think the Twins are going to need to add at least one additional sem-impactful piece (hmm...maybe a rent-a-reliever???) to a deal with Berríos to net a top-100 prospect. Next week, I will look into the teams that may be interested in a Berríos deal and some prospects the Twins could receive in return.