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    Cody Pirkl

    Every year a few formerly-successful pitchers hit the free agent market after disappointing campaigns. The Twins famously look for a bargain when possible, and this year there are a few such arms to keep an eye on.

    Image courtesy of Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports

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    It’s easy to get frustrated when the Twins buy low on players, especially when they don’t bounce back as hoped. It’s equally easy to forget how there are several of these bounce-back candidates who pay off big every year. The reality is it’s easier and cheaper to try to find the next Robbie Ray than it is to pay up for the real one.

    It’s more teams than just the Twins that go chasing bounce-backs every winter to be fair. The formula is to look for a pitcher coming off of a rough showing who still has something to like, whether that’s great success in recent years or something they do well but need to incorporate into their game more. The Twins have significant needs in the rotation. If you think they employed this tactic in recent years, I’d be expecting a whole lot more of it this winter. Here are a few names to watch.

    Dylan Bundy
    Bundy looked like a big missed opportunity in 2020. Traded for pennies on the dollar from Baltimore to the Angels, Bundy put up ace-like numbers in LA during the shortened season. His K/9 crept near 10 while limiting walks and homers. He had a 3.29 ERA and 2.0 fWAR through just 11 starts.

    2021 was a different story however. Bundy struggled with velocity at times. He also upped his sinker usage by almost 10% at the cost of his changeup and curveball. The results were ugly, as he finished with a 6.06 ERA in 90 innings and lost his rotation spot. 

    Numbers like that don’t draw a ton of attention, but his well performing slider (36% whiff rate in 2021) and incredible stretch in 2020 makes him an excellent flier to take at the back end of the rotation with upside for much more. Still only 29 years old, Bundy will probably carry a price tag  that wouldn’t stop the Twins from adding elsewhere.

    Carlos Martinez
    Martinez’ time in St. Louis started with a roar and ended in a whimper. Debuting at 21 years old, Martinez was an incredibly valuable arm from 2015-2019. For 2020 and  2021 however, Martinez tallied just over 100 innings with the Cards as he dealt with a rash of injuries and struggles with velocity. His ERA in those two years went from 9.90 in 2020 to 6.23 in 2021.

    At only 30 years of age, Martinez hits the market with a value that may never be lower. Expecting him to return to his #1 or 2 starter form may be a longshot. It is reasonable however to think that there’s enough talent in his right arm to shore up a rotation spot on a pitching needy team for a very low price. He also has closing and relief experience if durability is an issue. The last time he was used exclusively as a reliever in 2019, Martinez averaged nearly 97 mph on his fastball as opposed to sitting around 94 in the rotation.

    A Carlos Martinez signing would definitely be a gamble, but likely a low risk one that depends mainly on health. Assuming he can take the mound regularly, it’s easy to imagine the former Cardinal help fill a vacancy of some sort in the Twins tattered pitching staff. 

    Michael Wacha
    Wacha looked like a future stud in St. Louis when he debuted, peaking in 2017 when he averaged 95.5 mph on his fastball and was a 3 win player. It’s all been downhill since then however, as Wacha has dealt with a decline in velocity and home run issues in the four years since.

    His 2021 was uninspiring on the surface in Tampa Bay with his ERA over 5.00 in just over 120 innings pitched. Of note however is the fact that 2021 was the first season Wacha has averaged 94 mph on the fastball in four years. While ineffective throughout most of the season, at the end of August he scrapped his cut fastball which allowed a .375 average against and a .586 slugging %. He replaced it with more fastballs and changeups (his best pitch) and finished the last month of the season with a strikeout per inning and a 3.00 ERA.

    His upside may lack that of Bundy or Martinez, but there’s a decent chance of him being a serviceable starting pitcher for a good MLB team. His price should be incredibly cheap considering he was paid $3m in 2021 and didn’t show much bounce-back potential until the last month of the season. It’s the exact type of move such a pitching needy team would shoot for even though the fanbase would lament it.

    Are any of these three more enticing than the others? Are there any bounce-back candidates that you’d like to see the Twins go after not on the list? Let us know below.

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    I actually like Bundy as a bounceback #3 rotation option. I almost put him in my blueprint. He was quality just a year ago, and was considered quality with upside when LA acquired him. Doesn't sound sexy but could be good as well as inexpensive.

    And I almost put Martinez on my blueprint as a bullpen option. It would seem the best way to re-establish him and get the most out of him. 

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    Happ, Shoemaker, Martin Perez, Colon, Hector Santiago

    Off the top of my head I can't think of a single buy low starter that has worked out in the last 5 years. The issue is twofold; this FO isn't good at identifying candidates that actually bounce back, and the production necessary from those candidates has trended upward. 

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    18 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    If they're cheap enough they can be signed as long as the team is ready to drop them when they fail. Hasn't been the poor performance that really hurt but the fact that we hung on to them once they demonstrated that they did not have the ability to rebound. Could be the same with these three. 

    Fair assessment here. If signing these pitchers is an "add" to the budget, no harm is done. They are all decent #4/5 pitchers potentially at this point in their careers. Certainly worth a call.

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    Last offseason... Robbie Ray, J.A. Happ and Jose Quintana all signed 1 year, $8 million deals. All had previous success. All were coming off a tough year, which probably the exception of Happ. 

    Ray had a great year and Happ and Quintana didn't. That's the reality of free agency. 

    But I think you keep signing these types. I wanted the Twins to get Andrew Heaney coming off of his bad year, but he signed quickly with the Dodgers for 1 year, $8.5 million. So that appears to be this year's 'proven veteran coming off a bad year and looking for a make-good deal" amount. 

    Does Pineda get that contract? 

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    A fairly complete list of the bargain bin

    MLB.Com name age and fwar

    Kwang Hyun Kim (33, 1.8)
    Brett Anderson (34, 1.5)
    Corey Kluber (36, 1.5)
    Matt Harvey (33, 1.4)
    Zach Davies (29, 1.4)
    Drew Smyly (33, 1.3)
    Michael Wacha (30, 1.1)
    Trevor Cahill (33, 0.9)
    Wily Peralta (33, 0.7)
    Tommy Milone (35, 0.6)
    Chris Ellis (29, 0.4)
    José Quintana (33, 0.5)
    Aaron Sanchez (29, 0.4)
    Vince Velasquez (30, 0.4)
    James Paxton (33, 0.4)
    Mike Fiers (37, 0.3)
    Chi Chi González (30, 0.3)
    José Ureña (30, 0.3)
    Jon Lester (38, 0.3)
    Carlos Martínez (30, 0.3)
    Chris Archer (33, 0.2)
    Cole Hamels (38, 0.1)
    Ervin Santana (39, 0.1)
    Sean Nolin (32, 0.1)
    Ivan Nova (35, -0.1)
    Thomas Eshelman (28, -0.1)
    Scott Kazmir (38, -0.2)
    Matt Moore (33, -0.2)
    Jordan Lyles (31, -0.2)
    Jake Arrieta (36, -0.2)
    Chase Anderson (34, -0.4)
    Tanner Roark (35, -0.7)
    Julio Teheran (31, -0.9)
    Mike Foltynewicz (30, -1.1)
     

    Choose wisely grasshopper

     

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    In a "normal" off season, these would be the kind of guys that may or may not help, but that typically you'd get more "Shoemaker" than you would "Odorizzi" out of them.   However, THIS off season the Twins need to add FOUR SP's to effectively make Ryan & Ober the #5/#6 starters.  Two quality arms like Jon Gray and Eduardo Rodriguez Or Danny Duffy) would be the top two.  But Bundy & C-Mart types are certainly needed this year just to fill out the rotation and spread the innings load.  I'd throw Pineda in there as our #3, roll with Bundy as #4 and use C-Mart as a swing guy (kind of like I had suggested with Vincent Velasquez and his great stuff) to throw an occasional spot start but give you 3 innings at a time out of the pen. 

    C-Mart and Velasquez fit that profile.  Good fastball, pretty good slider.  But inconsistent.  But the sheer VOLUME of arms the Twins need to fill out their starting rotation means a couple of solid, mid-tier guys are needed as are "lottery tickets" like Bundy, C-Mart, Velasquez etc...

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    I would be inclined to pass on all of these buy low candidates in favor of protecting more of our Rule 5 eligible pitchers. Tyler Wells was more valuable than any of the buy low candidates last year. 
     

    Finding 3 starting pitchers is a significant -almost improbable task. (2 if Peneda resigns). At some point the Twins need to depend on their farm system to contribute.  

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    20 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

    Does Pineda get that contract? 

    Seems like this is likely. The best outcome is usually 20 games of decent starts (Pineda), which is quite useful. When $8 million becomes the price of a gamble on pitching, some teams pay up. At least it is a good thing for those guys getting the contracts, such as Happ, Pineda, Heaney and so forth.

    The alternatives are risky expensive outlays for middle to top free agent types or trades. Trades seem to be largely discounted by many readers of TD, and often for solid reasons. The most common names floated, Arraez, Larnach, Kepler, Garver, and Jeffers all have potential to be more than average players. Additionally, top prospects are often deemed to be off limits. 

    The Twins have gone the route of signing pitchers from the "bargain bin" and have rarely stepped into the risky exchanges of more valuable names. Maybe it is time for the Twins to look hard at their duplication of player assets and step boldly into the high end trade market. The bin has not been too kind to the Twins.

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    I would think that diminished velocity is a huge red flag for any bounceback candidate, unless they demonstrate that the velocity will be there in the coming season. 

    I'm on board with signing one or two non-budget busters looking for a return to effectiveness, if well-researched. No team ever seems to have enough pitching. Look at what was left in the World Series and look at the White Sox. 

    At midseason Chicago had really only used their five starters and all but Keuchel were very good. That isn't how they finished. 

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    8 hours ago, tony&rodney said:

    Seems like this is likely. The best outcome is usually 20 games of decent starts (Pineda), which is quite useful. When $8 million becomes the price of a gamble on pitching, some teams pay up. At least it is a good thing for those guys getting the contracts, such as Happ, Pineda, Heaney and so forth.

    The alternatives are risky expensive outlays for middle to top free agent types or trades. Trades seem to be largely discounted by many readers of TD, and often for solid reasons. The most common names floated, Arraez, Larnach, Kepler, Garver, and Jeffers all have potential to be more than average players. Additionally, top prospects are often deemed to be off limits. 

    The Twins have gone the route of signing pitchers from the "bargain bin" and have rarely stepped into the risky exchanges of more valuable names. Maybe it is time for the Twins to look hard at their duplication of player assets and step boldly into the high end trade market. The bin has not been too kind to the Twins.

    Corner outfielders are the only duplicate assets the Twins have. They might get a league average pitcher. While a durable league average pitcher is a valuable asset I really don't think many here would think that way

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    10 hours ago, Prince William said:

    Corner outfielders are the only duplicate assets the Twins have. They might get a league average pitcher. While a durable league average pitcher is a valuable asset I really don't think many here would think that way

    We also have some duplicate infield assets such as Arraez, Donaldson, & Sano if we make room for a certain infielder that tore up AA & AAA (Miranda)

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    Often heard the definition of insanity is, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yes we need pitchers but decisions need to be made on guys that are taking up spots on the 40 man roster first. Smeltzer and Thorpe are 2 that come to mind immediately. Little to no production from these guys that need to be released. Then go get 2 younger guys like Martinez and Wacha and take a chance on them. They probably have a better chance of making a contribution than Smeltz or Thorpe ever will. Don't go after the older bargain bin guys. It hasn't worked since Jack Morris. 

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    On 11/15/2021 at 8:21 AM, Karbo said:

    We also have some duplicate infield assets such as Arraez, Donaldson, & Sano if we make room for a certain infielder that tore up AA & AAA (Miranda)

    Arraez is an utility player, Sano is 1B, Donaldson 3B. That is hardly duplicate.

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    On 11/15/2021 at 8:21 AM, Karbo said:

    We also have some duplicate infield assets such as Arraez, Donaldson, & Sano if we make room for a certain infielder that tore up AA & AAA (Miranda)

    Hmm, how many Twins rookies that tore up AA & AAA have torn up the Majors?

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    17 hours ago, Prince William said:

    Arraez is an utility player, Sano is 1B, Donaldson 3B. That is hardly duplicate.

    Miranda could fill in at all 3 of those positions so I would call that duplicate

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    6 hours ago, RpR said:

    Hmm, how many Twins rookies that tore up AA & AAA have torn up the Majors?

    Though I can't give an answer to that, my point is to sacrifice hitting (and some salary) for pitching we could make the move. Risks are part of the game. In this case I see a very acceptable risk IMO.

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    My pick again is Chris Archer. I never expected him to bounce back last year and step into the starter role after sitting out for well over a year above having surgery. IMO TB tried to rush him into that position too soon. He was dominate for 3innings, in the Eastern Division that's an incredible feat. After 3 not so much.

    People criticize Archer's stats at PIT, where they had him pitch away from his strength to pitch more sinkers. Like many studs that pitched in PIT, their stats didn't show what kind of pitchers they are. MN is a much better fit that could help tweak his already dominate FB and slider. J Santana could help him perfect his circle change-up and he could become that ace that his potential has indicated.

    Before his shoulder problems Archer was a work horse frequently pitching 200 innings. Yet I'd take him slow, putting him in long relief  until his arm is ready to go 5. Even if we go out & find 3 work horses (which I doubt, especially after reading Nick's article about piggy-backing the entire rotation) we'll still need a lot of long relief.  I'd sign him to a RP type contract w/ incentives based on innings pitched. A one year deal with 2 owners options, because if (which I believe is a very good possibility) become that pitcher that lines up to his potential, we'd want have more than 1 yr. control. His shoulder seems to be progressing, his other problems IMO will take care of themselves once he's back in form.

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    On 11/13/2021 at 3:54 PM, KirbyDome89 said:

    Happ, Shoemaker, Martin Perez, Colon, Hector Santiago

    Off the top of my head I can't think of a single buy low starter that has worked out in the last 5 years. The issue is twofold; this FO isn't good at identifying candidates that actually bounce back, and the production necessary from those candidates has trended upward. 

    Phil Hughes was a success, but then he was extended, thus killing most the value of the initial signing.

     

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    On 11/25/2021 at 1:58 PM, Prince William said:

    Arraez is an utility player, Sano is 1B, Donaldson 3B. That is hardly duplicate.

    Miranda is also (probably) a utility infielder, like Arraez. While he played at 3rd a bit more than other positions last year, he also played quite a bit at 2nd, and some at 1st with a sprinkling of SS and LF. Even Miranda himself has said 2nd base is the position he likes best. So, yes, he is the duplicate of Arraez. A different kind of hitter, but no real position. He is nowhere near a replacement for Donaldson's defense at 3rd.

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    Last year when TOR grabbed Robbie Ray out of the gates, I thought that TOR saw something in Ray that nobody else did. It turned out that they did. That eye is invaluable, that's what we need.

    I think I read that pitchers in general from BAL that leaves, does better outside there. Maybe they don't have the coaching. If that's the case maybe Means could be a good trade target? I'm not a fan of going after Bundy though.

    You can scratch Michael Wacha off your list, he's going to BOS

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    2 hours ago, Squirrel said:

    Miranda is also (probably) a utility infielder, like Arraez. While he played at 3rd a bit more than other positions last year, he also played quite a bit at 2nd, and some at 1st with a sprinkling of SS and LF. Even Miranda himself has said 2nd base is the position he likes best. So, yes, he is the duplicate of Arraez. A different kind of hitter, but no real position. He is nowhere near a replacement for Donaldson's defense at 3rd.

    I am well aware of how much or little Miranda has played at the various positions. 

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