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.
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.
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.
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.