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  • Should the Twins Gamble on a Veteran Ace?


    Ted Schwerzler

    There’s no secret that the Minnesota Twins chief focus this offseason will be finding pitching help. With the rotation currently consisting of only Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, there’s a need for at least three arms. Should the front office target a veteran ace even if there are big question marks?

    Image courtesy of Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports

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    Yesterday was the deadline for teams to decide whether they’d hand out a qualifying offer to impending free agents. The player then chooses to accept a one-year deal worth $18.4 million or enter free agency with draft pick compensation being awarded to their former team should they leave. A handful of players were tagged with qualifying offers, but two stand out to me.

    Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. Two aces. Two veterans. Two entirely different situations.

    Of these two, only Verlander was given a qualifying offer. Kershaw is a part of this story because he DID NOT receive a qualifying offer. Verlander, the former Astros ace, will be 39-years-old in 2022 and has not pitched since one game in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Kershaw will be 34-years-old next season but bowed out in October with an elbow issue that cost him three months during the 2021 season.

    In assessing what the Twins involvement should be regarding either player, I think it’s first worth looking at how their respective teams view the former aces. Verlander being slapped with a qualifying offer suggests the Astros believe he’s near-ready to go and has been on a good path when it comes to his recovery. If they thought he wouldn’t be a significant contributor in 2022, it’s hard to imagine they’d swallow nearly $20 million on an arm that won’t be available. Maybe they don’t want him for multiple years as he’s aging, but they’ll gladly take him back to bolster a rotation that was beyond depleted in the postseason.

    On the flip side, Los Angeles decided to walk away from Kershaw at this point. He’s spent all 14 years of his Major League career there, but the Dodgers didn’t feel an $18.4 million gamble was worthwhile given his injury situation. Kershaw already had to miss significant time for Dave Roberts’ club during the year. Going under the knife would seem like a genuine possibility if the problem doesn’t resolve itself through rest this offseason. In that scenario, Los Angeles would need at least a two-year deal to recoup any on-field production. With Dustin May returning from Tommy John surgery and Trevor Bauer potentially being reinstated after opting into his 2022 contract, there are already enough internal hurdles for them to deal with.

    So, where does that leave the Twins in regards to either arm?

    This offseason should be fascinating when it comes to reading the tea leaves from the front office. Minnesota’s brass has said they intend to compete, and the lineup is mainly in place to do just that. If a bunch of one-year pacts are handed out, though, it would seem to be more of a toe-dip into the water, allowing further assessment of what is there. That route seems to favor Verlander.

    At 39, Verlander is nearing the end of his Major League run. He’s likely seeking a two-year deal but could have a tough time finding that coming off an injury. I’m not sure that Minnesota should be parting with a draft pick on a one-year agreement. While Verlander does have divisional familiarity, he represents a whole lot of expensive risk for a team that should be looking to squeeze more upside out of any potential deals.

    Kershaw is interesting given his age, but the mileage on his arm causes reason for pause. Despite being five years younger than Verlander, he’s thrown just 500 fewer innings. Having already endured plenty of back problems, Kershaw undergoing an arm procedure would be less than ideal. However, not being saddled to a qualifying offer, Minnesota may find themselves in a similar situation as to where they are with superstar centerfielder Byron Buxton. The only reason Kershaw may have a diminished price tag is due to health concerns. If the Twins want to embark on a longer-term deal knowing they may not have his services out of the gate, that could be an excellent asset a year from now.

    This winter's pitching landscape is fascinating, as there are more than a handful of big names on the free-agent market and plenty available by way of trades. If I’m Derek Falvey looking at these two former aces, though, it’s Kershaw’s medicals I’m most intrigued by. If he can be had at a reasonable amount for three years, that’s a risk Minnesota might be willing to make. Unfortunately, it doesn’t immediately supplement the rotation, but if the goal is sustained competitiveness, that could work in their favor.

    Twins fans have clamored for a true ace over the years, and now here’s two the organization  can consider. Are you out on both, or is their one that provides a level of intrigue even with the surrounding question marks? What would you do?

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    Kershaw is very interesting, but primarily for the speculation on what the Dodgers are really thinking. The only thing I can believe right now is they're intent on working out an extension prior to free agency and for less than the $18.4MM per year. Can anybody see Kershaw pitching elsewhere? I really can't.

    Verlander's agent will be making phone calls and judging interest behind the scenes on the 3+ year deal Verlander seems to be looking for and if teams are interested, I'd expect Verlander to opt out. If not, I'd expect Verlander to take the QO.

     

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    There are a slew of mid-rotation candidates available as free agents and another group (see Oakland and Cincinnati ready to move arms) as trade candidates.  It's more realistic to sign a Desclafini, Matz, Pineda, Wood (pick 3) trio, and add Rich Hill for 15 starts.  SIGN BUXTON now!  5 or 6 years at 22 million a year.  He is the face of this team right now.  Pack the rotation with starters that will likely go to the mound 25 times tops.  Buxton is the driving force offensively and defensively entering the 2022 offseason.  You can build a formidable rotation with improved overall defense without breaking the bank.  The goal should be 90 wins.

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    It’s possible that Kershaw is still really good with a load management approach like Bailey Ober. It doesn’t look like his body will hold up for a 175 inning workload anymore. 

    It’s also possible he ends up like Felix Hernandez, and falls off a cliff because all of the bullets are used in his arm. Too risky of an endeavor for the Twins. 

    I’d rather take the chance on Verlander, but I don’t know why he would want to come here. 

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    I agree with the takes here already. I see the allure of having a Jack Morris-like veteran anchor the staff in the hopes of a surprise playoff run, but Morris had hometown ties that these veteran aces don't. They won't sign here. Would you, if you were looking to join a winner?

    However, the Twins can see how things play out and maybe make a trade for a veteran ace if they're in contention down the stretch. By that point, it should be clear as to who remained healthy and durable as well.

    I say all this, but I also remember that the Twins have never made this kind of high-impact ace trade before, not even with this FO staff, so not sure why that would change in 2022.

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    My answer is NO, but that is hardly an interesting post. 

    I think we should try to sign Warren Spahn, wait he is dead, and some other ACE who is past his prime.  My answer is because we are not in a position to win next year and these former ACES are not being signed because they are at the end of their careers.  Please do not do this.  Remember when we signed HOF pitcher Steve Carlton?  If the Dodgers who have plenty of SP questions do not want to give Kershaw a qualifying offer we should not either. 

     

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    With all due respect to an amazing career, no on Kershaw. He's outstanding when on the field, but it's looking less and less like he can be counted on.

    I appreciate the Buxton reference, but disagree and find the correlation somewhat disingenuous. Sorry Ted. A healthy Buxton contributes daily vs every 5 days, with the injury proviso. 

    I've raised the Verlander option a couple times in various threads and never got a bite. The Morris idea is apropos. And I agree Houston made the QO because they believe he's going to be at least solid. And I believe he would only cost the Twins their 3rd overall selection in 2022, if I'm not mistaken. And we all know the ML draft is a crap shoot at best. And supposedly, Verlander wants more than a 1yr deal. Or at least, there are rumors to the such, FWIW. Who can blame him. Hell, he might be 100% and pitch good to outstanding for another 3-4yrs. It's happened before, but not often.

    If he's game for a 1yr with the Twins, especially if they trade or sign for a quality #2 rotation piece, I could see some interest. There is a lot to like with the nucleus of the Twins with a few tweaks and he as the front end of the rotation. 

    But despite him  wanting more than a 1yr deal, I see him staying put and proving himself for a 2yr extension or similar after 2022. 

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    Mlbtraderumors reported like 15 scouts were at a Verlander showcase recently. The Twins were not among the teams listed. Verlander threw all his pitches, they all looked good and his fastball peaked in the high 90s. I think Verlander will decline the QO and get 2-3 years at $45-65MM. I think he's guaranteed to get more than $18.4MM on a one year deal at this point so there's no reason to accept the QO.

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    If you were Kershaw or Verlander would you consider the Twins? At any price? Under what conditions would Verlander answer a call from the Twins? Kershaw is at a point where he plays for the Dodgers or retires. No contract, not $40 million per year would bring Kershaw to the AL Central and I do not mean that in a negative way. He has different priorities in his life right now. Kershaw = 0%. Verlander = .001 %, so there is a chance.

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    Respectfully, you gamble on a player like this when you think it will get you over the hump. 

    Sorry to break it to all of us: our beloved Twins are not in that position for ‘22.

    It is much more likely if we have a successful campaign next year and feel the window is opening that we splurge on a top end starter. Who knows - maybe even Berrios comes back.

    This off-season we are much more likely to sign one or two #3 types (Big Mike, Rodriguez, etc.) on a one (with an option) or two year deal. We then see what our youngsters have next year. We might not even need to splurge in ‘23 but instead just build a lights out pen (probably get three or four really strong relievers for one #2 equivalent starters).  

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    No to both.  The Twins need innings eaters, some pitchers that are able to consistently give them that 5 or 6 inning outing that most teams ask for nowadays.  Not some aged, overpriced guy who might pitch or might not.

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    I would for Kershaw, something like 3/48, but that probably won't get him. I also would go for Verlander 3/54 but a buyout after two.

    I want neither for 1 year, and neither for more than 3 years.

    But maybe I should go with the, we are the Twins we don't deserve good things, we only deserve middle tier players because of money, and that 2022 is just another wasted year in MN for baseball, and maybe if they show something we can go and sign a pitcher the following year, unless that year is another building year then the year after that would be a great time. (Unless there are injuries and the Twins are in selling mode for the next group of promising prospects)

     

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    Since it is  not my money anyways, I would offer Verlander 2/50, and hope he has returned to form.  He, when healthy, is the stud we have not had in many years.

    Backfill the rest of the rotation, preferably with trade with the Marlins for one of their young arms.

    If it takes a 3rd year option of some type for Verlander, so be it.

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    It's fun to talk about this stuff and dream. But the conversation is academic. None of these guys will sign with the Twins. None. They are all mega rich. Rings and legacy are now their currency. In their dreams, they think of October. What do the Twins have to offer in this regard? Nothing. I have said it before; Twins fans need to think in not who you want but who can responsibly get. The Twins are saddled with bad weather and bad taxes. But thirty years of play-off irrelevancy and no  blueprint for near-term reversal effectively constitute a huge surcharge for the franchise. I'm sorry to take away the punch bowl from the crowd. It gives me no pleasure to say any of this. But Uber is here. This party is over.  

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    17 hours ago, LastOnePicked said:

    They won't sign here. Would you, if you were looking to join a winner?

    I'll lead with that I'm not beating the drums that the FO signs either of these guys,  However, just wanted to add that we don't truly know what's going through their heads when these guys are making their decisions.  I think we (myself included first and foremost) often overlook that point.

    True, there are players who just don't like Twins/Minnesota/Twin Cities/Upper Midwest,  etc., but this is true of everywhere in this country.  There are places in the U.S. that I would rather be doused in gasoline and lite on fire than willingly choose to be assigned there for work. 

    Baseball players are no different.  What you're saying is true, just feel that the "winner" part is often just a tiny facet of the whole decision process.

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    Personally, I would stay away from Verlander.  The QO makes him hard to sign giving up draft pick for a 1 or 2 year guy that you have no clue what he will bring.  He could be a possible cy young as he was prior to injury but he could be way over the hill because of the injury and then would be a waste of money bur more important waste of draft pick.  

    Kershaw I would be willing to give a flier to, but doubt he would come here as many other teams would make offers. 

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    4 hours ago, yeahyabetcha said:

    No to both.  The Twins need innings eaters, some pitchers that are able to consistently give them that 5 or 6 inning outing that most teams ask for nowadays.  Not some aged, overpriced guy who might pitch or might not.

    Verlander isn't an innings eater? He pitched over 200 innings for 12 of the past 13 years he played 2007-2019. Nobody pitches more innings than Verlander.

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    It doesn't matter if Verlander is a Cy Young caliber pitcher IMHO. No team is going to sign Verlander to the $40MM / year Scherzer is going to make. That's Cy Young caliber money. Verlander is going to sign for #2 starter money like Stroman, but for 2-3 years.

    The other question is whether or not Verlander would play for Minnesota. The answer is maybe. The Twins are going to have to make some splashes to show they're serious about contending. If they make a real effort to sign other players and shore the team up, yes, I believe an aging Ace looking for the WS would come here.

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    I think both are a gamble, and both would be nice to have.  Beats the hell out of Happ and Shoemaker in my extremely humble opinion, which is what we have been doing.

    A more important question in my mind:  what is making us think that Ryan and Ober are locks?  They will likely come out of camp on opening day, but where will they be come September?  Both are totally unproven through a whole season where teams have a book on them and make their adjustments.  Will either be what we think they have a chance to be?  And what is plan B, C, or D if either or both regress?  I hear everyone saying we need to find 3 SP's somewhere, internally, or externally, but what if we really need 5?  That is what worries me.  I also have Ryan and Ober penciled in for now, but the key word there is penciled; neither is written in ink for now.  We need to find some ink; we already have too much pencil.  

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    On 11/9/2021 at 11:46 AM, 4twinsJA said:

    These veteran pitchers have may a lot of money over the years. Money will not be the issue where they end up. They will sign with who they want to sign with. Have a hard time seeing Twins on short list of options for these pitchers.

    Yup, agreed. They've both made over 250M in their careers. I don't know either of them, so it's possible they could want to chase the top dollar, but these kinds of players seem to either chose to chase a championship or a fairly specific list of cities.

    I'd think Scherzer and Greinke would fall into the same category as well.

    If they were open to coming here, I'd be interested in either though.

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    1 hour ago, bean5302 said:

    Verlander isn't an innings eater? He pitched over 200 innings for 12 of the past 13 years he played 2007-2019. Nobody pitches more innings than Verlander.

     It isn’t 2019 anymore.  He will be 39 years old and has barely pitched in two years.  Sure, give him 20 million.

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    1 hour ago, yeahyabetcha said:

     

     It isn’t 2019 anymore.  He will be 39 years old and has barely pitched in two years.  Sure, give him 20 million.

    No one pitches 200 innings anymore. For starters, teams are more concerned with the quality of innings than the quantity.

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    On 11/9/2021 at 9:10 PM, DocBauer said:

    I've raised the Verlander option a couple times in various threads and never got a bite. The Morris idea is apropos. And I agree Houston made the QO because they believe he's going to be at least solid. And I believe he would only cost the Twins their 3rd overall selection in 2022, if I'm not mistaken. And we all know the ML draft is a crap shoot at best. And supposedly, Verlander wants more than a 1yr deal. Or at least, there are rumors to the such, FWIW. Who can blame him. Hell, he might be 100% and pitch good to outstanding for another 3-4yrs. It's happened before, but not often.

    There's a lot of comps between Verlander's stuff in his 30's and some other Houston pitcher by the name of Nolan. That other guy pitched pretty well in his late 30's and early 40's. 

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