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  • Minnesota Needs to Outbid for an Ace


    Cody Christie

    Minnesota's current front office has been in this position before, with the team focused on adding a front-line starter. This winter is the time to outbid other clubs to get a top-tier pitcher in a Twins uniform.

    Image courtesy of John E. Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports

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    Minnesota will need to hit on some cheaper rotation options to be competitive in 2022, and these buy-low candidates all fit that bill. However, affordable rotation options aren't going to help the team to contend. In recent years, the current front office has targeted some of the top free-agent pitchers, but none have accepted Minnesota's offer.

    Leading into the 2019 season, Minnesota targeted Zach Wheeler and offered him a contract north of $100 million. He eventually signed with Philadelphia for $118 million. Minnesota looked into Madison Bumgarner that same winter, but he took a below-market deal to pitch close to his ranch in Arizona. The Twins had to pivot that winter and ended up signing Josh Donaldson, but that didn't help their starting pitching deficiency. 

    Trading for Kenta Maeda was undoubtedly a move that bolstered the rotation for multiple seasons. Unfortunately, he is likely out for all of 2022 following Tommy John surgery. Minnesota signed Randy Dobnak to a unique contract extension last winter, and he followed that up with the worst season of his career. The front office has tried different avenues to build the starting staff even if they haven't worked out. 

    Some fans may point to Jose Berrios as one player the Twins could have overpaid to stay at the top of the team's rotation. Some of the top-tier starting pitchers this year compare very similarly to Berrios. However, he and his team have gone through the arbitration process with the goal of him hitting free agency and capitalizing on his value. Minnesota was right to trade him away when his value was highest, and they have the same opportunity as the other clubs to sign him following the 2022 campaign. 

    Free-agent starting pitching is something the Twins haven't spent a lot on in the past, and now the timing may be right. Some of the available veteran starting pitchers aren't going to consider Minnesota as a viable option. They see their careers as coming to a close, and there's no guarantee the Twins will be relevant in 2022. This crosses Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw off the list, but there are other names to consider. 

    Two other top-tier free agents, Carlos Rodon and Noah Syndergaard have injury concerns that teams will want to avoid. There is certainly the upside potential with these two players, but the risk may not be worth the reward. This leaves players like Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray, and Marcus Stroman as the remaining top tier starting pitcher targets. 

    Based on Minnesota's previous track record, the only way to get an ace to Minnesota is to overpay. All three of the pitchers mentioned above will cost over $20 million per season, with Gausman and Ray having the potential to make even more. Even if the Twins are out of contention in 2022, these three players can be part of the franchise's next winning window. Other pitching will be needed, but Minnesota needs to outbid other teams to get a name penciled at the top of the rotation. 

    To read more about this year's crop of free-agent pitchers, make sure to order your copy of the 2022 Offseason Handbook. If you order today, it will be sent directly to your email. 

    Which pitcher do you think the Twins are most likely to target? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    Opposed to overspending, in both dollars and years, on any pitcher.  When he goes on the IL with a major injury and is lost for X years, the team's chances of competing go down the crapper.  Give me a team with three #2 starters and a #3 and it will compete with any staff out there.  

    Don't know how they get those #2 guys, maybe one from free agency or a trade.  Maeda is a #2, when healthy, and the third should be coming out of the system, although the only real candidate in 2022 would be Ryan.  Then sign Pineda as your #3 with all the kids filling out the rotation in the #5 spot.

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    I am always hesitant to outbid for an ace.  Of the top 10 paid pitchers, about 3 fully lived up to contract, meaning performed at level expected each year, but Cole is only in year 2.  2 had a few good seasons under their contracts but had some bad seasons of being greatly overpaid for WAR output.  5 maybe had 1 good season over the length of the contract and has really been a bust.  That is a huge gamble to put 20 mil plus out for a guy that may have a couple good years and then you get stuck with a bloated overpaid guy you are looking to dump or keep sending out because you are paying them so much. 

    Now, if the team is convinced or willing to take that huge risk all the power too them, as long as it does not mean they keep a bad guy playing simply because you are paying them like a Cy Young candidate. 

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    8 minutes ago, 2wins87 said:

    Miami would want guys like Kirilloff or Lewis, not Kepler and Sano.  

    ,a prospect or two, plus that would give them to be competitive in the near future. I would think maybe winder and Duran

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    2 minutes ago, Minnesotabro said:

    ,a prospect or two, plus that would give them to be competitive in the near future. I would think maybe winder and Duran

    You're only about a third of the way there with that offer.  You can run the numbers here: https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trade-simulator/

    The values aren't exact but they are always at least in the ballpark for real trades that actually happen.

    Whatever you think the values should be, Kepler isn't headlining a trade to Miami just due to fit.  They want a younger more cost controlled guy, which is why I think Kirilloff would be their top target.

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    I hope they out bid to get Berrios back but so much is going to depend of Buxton staying, Sano stepping it up for good and a few other players to be top quality.  Otherwise I am afraid no other top tier pitchers will want to come here.  I think we need Berrios and one more.

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    I agree with you we need an ace. Also signing Buxton is a priority (Tom's video) so if we go all out on a FA ace we won't have enough $ to do much of anything else. To get our ace we need to get one via trade. I agree with Minnesotabro that MIA would be a great option yet I agree with 2win87 that Kepler and Sano won't come close to get it done, there are higher valued players that we can live w/o that can make it happen. Doing this we'd have the $ to sign Buxton, a capable SS and some BP help.

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    I cannot remember which poster first brought this up but they absolutely nailed the conundrum this off season.

    There is a HUGE gap between the readiness of our line up and our pitching staff to compete next year. This makes planning confusing.

    When looking at the team through the lens of the line up.... 'we could compete next year as is!!!!'

    When looking at the team through the lens of the pitching staff.... "Holy Crap...we literally have 0 proven MLB starters on our roster going into the off season. We have NO chance to fill all of those gaps + enough depth for injuries  in one off season with our payroll.

    I actually think the FO has done a lot of good things, but one of their biggest failures is not figuring out how to keep the pitching and line up progression on the same time line (or anywhere close)

    Again, this was first brought up by someone else and I wish I could remember who so that I could credit them!

     

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    29 minutes ago, D.C Twins said:

    I cannot remember which poster first brought this up but they absolutely nailed the conundrum this off season.

    There is a HUGE gap between the readiness of our line up and our pitching staff to compete next year. This makes planning confusing.

    When looking at the team through the lens of the line up.... 'we could compete next year as is!!!!'

    When looking at the team through the lens of the pitching staff.... "Holy Crap...we literally have 0 proven MLB starters on our roster going into the off season. We have NO chance to fill all of those gaps + enough depth for injuries  in one off season with our payroll.

    I actually think the FO has done a lot of good things, but one of their biggest failures is not figuring out how to keep the pitching and line up progression on the same time line (or anywhere close)

    Again, this was first brought up by someone else and I wish I could remember who so that I could credit them!

     

    Losing Maeda was a big blow.  If he was not hurt and they sign a "Stroman type" and Pineda and we have a good team.  Probably not a contender but the only way this team gets to contention is if our pitching prospects develop as we hope.   The other option is basically the approach San Diego took.  However, we would need to aim higher than Darvish and Snell.  The trade proposals mentioned here for Alcantara and Montas seem waaaaay short t me.  We don't have any blue chip prospects with the possible exception of Kirilloff but even Kirilloff is not the type of player Miami would look for if they traded Alcantara or if Oakland traded Montas.  Therefore, I would think we would have to offer a number of our top prospects.   Look what we got for 1 year and 2 months of Berrios. 

    My guess is that Alcantra would cost us Kirilloff + Jeffers + Balazovic + one of Winder / Enlow / Sands and I still don't know if that would do it.

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    I'd go for Ray, the strikeouts are real and proven and it sounds like his delivery and approach changes are sustainable. Seems like he might even have room to grow.

    I'd be on board for rolling the dice on Syndergaard and Rodon also.

    I'm not sure about Gausman, I'm always hesitant about pitchers leaving SF. I'd probably sign him if they can't make the above guys work, but he seems just as likely as not to turn back into a pumpkin.

    Hard pass on Stroman, the Twins need an arm that can dominate. Good results, but he still needs his defenders to make most of his outs for him. He'd be a good #3 on a playoff team, but the Twins would pay him like an ace. 

    Even if 2022 isn't the year to win a WS, it would still be a good idea to get a big time pitcher, since the idea would be that the guy would be at the front of the rotation for several years. Get a big arm now, trade for someone else exciting and play some professional baseball in 2022. Then do something bold the following year to get serious.

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    This article drives home the point that trading away Berrios really hurts… It hurts the budget, and the ability to be strong contenders. We may be desperate for pitching, but I hope we’re not that desperate to spend more than $20 million AAV for any of these guys. Allocating 15% of the payroll to someone who could easily have a down season or blow out their arm is a risky proposition. 

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    So, we have a lineup, but no rotation, and holes in the bullpen

    Circumstances dictated that we trade Berrios, and we did the best we could by getting prospects

    We have a handful of young starters that need MLB experience to both see who develops and to become competitive

    If we sign Buxton, our lineup will remain intact for a couple more years, with the exceptions of Sano and probably Donaldson.

    And, we WILL overpay if we outbid anyone for starting pitching (not to mention that if teams like the Yankees decide to win any bidding war, it's out of our hands)

    I hate to say it, but to me, this adds up to focusing on auditions, not wins, in 2022. Don't sign any FA, extend Buxton, and find out which youngsters can start (x5), close, and play shortstop. Then fill in the holes before 2023.

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    1 hour ago, Major League Ready said:

    My guess is that Alcantra would cost us Kirilloff + Jeffers + Balazovic + one of Winder / Enlow / Sands and I still don't know if that would do it.

    Yes, in fact, we are all guessing, but the Twins absolutely need to make a ton of calls to find a match and teams like Miami, Oakland, and Milwaukee have pitching to offer in return for filling their own needs. The parameters of deals may be beyond our guesses, but the potential for trading certainly exists. 

    The Twins cannot roll with the pitching prospects next year. The free agent market might bring one or two pitchers. I cannot see the Twins going above $20 million for any of Stroman, Ray, or Gausman and a lesser FA like Pineda or Gray works only as a mid/bottom of the rottion pitcher. This leaves the Falvine to work a few trades. 

    The bottom line, as always, is what Jim Pohlad sets as a budget. Most TD readers agree that everyone should expect around $130 million. While I cannot disagree, it sure seems like $145 million is possible and then the possibilities widen.

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    27 minutes ago, ToddlerHarmon said:

    So, we have a lineup, but no rotation, and holes in the bullpen

    Circumstances dictated that we trade Berrios, and we did the best we could by getting prospects

    We have a handful of young starters that need MLB experience to both see who develops and to become competitive

    If we sign Buxton, our lineup will remain intact for a couple more years, with the exceptions of Sano and probably Donaldson.

    And, we WILL overpay if we outbid anyone for starting pitching (not to mention that if teams like the Yankees decide to win any bidding war, it's out of our hands)

    I hate to say it, but to me, this adds up to focusing on auditions, not wins, in 2022. Don't sign any FA, extend Buxton, and find out which youngsters can start (x5), close, and play shortstop. Then fill in the holes before 2023.

    Sadly I agree. I will hope for a couple big trades to go along with this, and maybe we take a flyer on Syndergaard? I cannot imagine Pohlad outbids everyone for anyone. 

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    1 minute ago, In My La Z boy said:

    Sadly I agree. I will hope for a couple big trades to go along with this, and maybe we take a flyer on Syndergaard? I cannot imagine Pohlad outbids everyone for anyone. 

    IMO, this would have been a fine plan for some of the last few years, but this FO has said their goal is sustained success and if the pitchers they audition in 2022 don't live up to expectations or are hurt again and they have another year like 2021, what would be the plan for 2023? another audition year, but this time for fielders and pitchers? (it is possible to sign a couple of pitchers and auditions the prospects without giving up on the season)

    I don't think this FO has luxury of having another year like 2021, rightly so or not it will be looked upon by some (me for one) as they inherited a team with a bunch of talent and when that talented left or aged, they went back to being bottom feeders would look real bad.

    They should gets lots of credit for the 3 years prior, especially the ODO and Maeda trades.

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    Bah Humbug.  A pitcher calculating the advantages of joining the Twins wants:

    -A ballpark which makes it difficult to get extra base hits and/or home runs,

    -A defensive team that a pitcher can reasonably expect to prevent excess run scoring,

    -A relief corps that can be expected to hold a lead.

    Looking at last year, we have a pitcher favorable ballpark, but we had a terrible defense and for the most part of the season, a terrible bullpen.

    This leaves the Twins a less than desirable landing place for a quality starter, looking for a home, even if the Twins offer the most money.

    I would be suspicious of any "top" pitcher that wants to join the Twins.  Bah Humbug.  :)

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    I'd outbid for a top SS rather than a top pitcher. I do this after figuratively "outbidding" for Buxton. 

    That would make for a helluva lineup defensively and offensively. Whatever money is left, it won't be anything close to enough for an ace, but might lower the ask from Pineda type FAs who will look to benefit from such a lineup. Also benefited would be Ober, Ryan, and whoever else rises out of the farm as well as our bullpen.

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    1 hour ago, Vanimal46 said:

    This article drives home the point that trading away Berrios really hurts… It hurts the budget, and the ability to be strong contenders. We may be desperate for pitching, but I hope we’re not that desperate to spend more than $20 million AAV for any of these guys. Allocating 15% of the payroll to someone who could easily have a down season or blow out their arm is a risky proposition. 

    Great point on Berrios and I think it's telling. Why would they not extend him, then turn around and give huge amount of money to a FA? If Berrios was on the market, he would be the type the Twins would or should go after, reliable and young. They could've just caved into his demands if they were looking spend big money on a pitcher.

    Kinda off topic but I think the FO made a huge mistake not extending Buxton if his only hangup was about incentives. That's such a poor decision if true that on top of recent disastrous FA signings that could get them on the hot seat.

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    5 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    I just cannot see it. Very seldom does this work out.  Take a look at Snell, Bauer, Clevinger, Bumgartner, Kluber,   Aces and arms are a crapshoot.  Develop your own.

    Should have over paid Berrios and locked him up for his career. He has a better chance than any of the others to avoid injuries, due to his workout routines.  Plus, Twins fans love Jose Berrios. 

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    The myth and legend of the hurt ace a team overspent on continues! I wrote a pretty lengthy article on the subject a couple months ago. Aces are good investments whereas typical dumpster dives and mid rotation starters have been poor investments for the Twins. Even if, in the unlikely case an Ace declines, they're still a mid rotation starter.

    Looking at the 9 ace contracts I identified since 2015, 80% have been decent, 70% have been good, and nearly 50% have been excellent deals. 8 of 9 had provided Ace level performance 4.0+ WAR in at least one season since their signing. The best part was that Ace's rebound from the unlikely event of an injury with only a 10% chance per year an Ace loses a season.

    Bottom line? The injury risk is overstated, the performance risk is overstated and the cost risk is overstated.

     

     

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    In any case, Syndergaard being available is probably a 10% chance. The Mets are almost certainly going to make him a QO, and he's already on record as hoping he gets one because he wants to stay with the Mets.

    The Twins are going to be in an interesting position. They'll need to convince an Ace they're willing to spend to compete when they finished dead last in what is probably becoming a much stronger division in the future.

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    3 hours ago, D.C Twins said:

    I cannot remember which poster first brought this up but they absolutely nailed the conundrum this off season.

    There is a HUGE gap between the readiness of our line up and our pitching staff to compete next year. This makes planning confusing.

    When looking at the team through the lens of the line up.... 'we could compete next year as is!!!!'

    When looking at the team through the lens of the pitching staff.... "Holy Crap...we literally have 0 proven MLB starters on our roster going into the off season. We have NO chance to fill all of those gaps + enough depth for injuries  in one off season with our payroll.

    I actually think the FO has done a lot of good things, but one of their biggest failures is not figuring out how to keep the pitching and line up progression on the same time line (or anywhere close)

    Again, this was first brought up by someone else and I wish I could remember who so that I could credit them!

     

    That might have been me but don't let me take someone else's credit. Regardless of from whence it came, the conundrum is clear: we have a lineup that appears capable competing now and for the next 2 – 4 years, paired with a pitching staff that absent outside of multiple free agents or trades is not capable of competing that same time frame. If that's correct, the logical choices seem to be to either trade away our more veteran position players for prospects/controllable pitching with a plan to compete starting in 2003  or 2024, more likely not until 2024, or import pitching so we can compete in 2022 and 2023, and perhaps beyond. Both approaches have pluses and minuses.

    That's why I think the key issue this off-season will be whether or not we can sign Byron Buxton into a long term deal. He is the key position player to make and keep that lineup competitive. With him, all we really need is good health and some incremental development from guys like Kirilloff and we have a top 10 and perhaps a top 5 offensive team. Add in a strong defensive SS and the defense jumps into the top half and maybe even higher. Without him, the lineup is probably top half at best and without him and without a strong defensive SS, the lineup is mediocre at best defensively.

    I really think the FO has to pick a path and stick to it. If competing in the short term is the goal, Cody is right. We need to overpay if necessary to sign a top tier starter, plus sign (John Gray) or trade for a #2 like Alcantra (in a trade that does not involve trading Kirilloff, Lewis or Martin, everybody else is available), sign Pineda to be the #3 and then use Ober and Ryan, WInder, Dobnak, etc. as the backend of the rotation. We also need to sign at least a Freddie Galvis type to play short. If that isn't viable or the FO decides the long-term development route is the way to go, then the path is also pretty clear. Trade Buxton in the off-season for pitching, pitching and more pitching. Trade Donaldson and promote Miranda, sign Rogers to an arbitration deal and hope he is healthy enough to trade for big return at the deadline, at least explore the trade market for Sano and Kepler in return for pitching, even if it's prospects, and consider whether trading Polanco gets you enough to approximate his pretty high value. I don't like this latter approach as a fan, but I could at least understand it if you went full bore on development, promoted guys even if they're not quite ready, and pushed the process as quickly as possible . What I can't understand is playing it halfway in between. 

    My vote is to sign Buxton, sign Stroman (overpaying if you must), trade real prospects plus Kepler or Sano for Alcantra, keep Donaldson, and sign Galvis or Iglesias.  Let's compete next season, if there is a next season. 

     

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    3 hours ago, nicksaviking said:

    I'd go for Ray, the strikeouts are real and proven and it sounds like his delivery and approach changes are sustainable. Seems like he might even have room to grow.

    I'd be on board for rolling the dice on Syndergaard and Rodon also.

    I'm not sure about Gausman, I'm always hesitant about pitchers leaving SF. I'd probably sign him if they can't make the above guys work, but he seems just as likely as not to turn back into a pumpkin.

    Hard pass on Stroman, the Twins need an arm that can dominate. Good results, but he still needs his defenders to make most of his outs for him. He'd be a good #3 on a playoff team, but the Twins would pay him like an ace. 

    Even if 2022 isn't the year to win a WS, it would still be a good idea to get a big time pitcher, since the idea would be that the guy would be at the front of the rotation for several years. Get a big arm now, trade for someone else exciting and play some professional baseball in 2022. Then do something bold the following year to get serious.

    I agree on Ray. See my workup using the format that Nick Nelson used - in Greg Allen’s blog.

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