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  • Andrew Heaney is the Best the Twins Can Do


    Matt Braun

    For the umpteenth time in Twins history, the beginning of free agency opens up one dominating question: will the Twins acquire a top-tier starting pitcher? Cavemen have etched the question on walls, and if one listens closely enough, the stars cry out the same chorus, lamenting Minnesota’s lack of elite starters.

    Image courtesy of Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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    The Twins have yet to answer with an unquestionable “yes.” Kenta Maeda was close, but he disappointed in 2021 before undergoing Tommy John surgery; Sonny Gray nearly reached the “elite” platform, but nicks and bruises have limited him to a solidly secondary tier; Tyler Mahle faltered before earning a chance to prove himself. In each case, the pitcher flashed potential, perhaps hinting that an elite starter existed underneath their skin, but none have yet fulfilled that potential.

    The issue nags on. Minnesota’s starting rotation looks good enough if you don’t squint too hard and if someone turns off the injury setting, but it’s not a squad that compares favorably to the collection of arms elite teams like the Astros can boast. 

    Part of the problem is development; the Twins have lagged behind the best teams in turning their homegrown draft picks into feared arms, and they have not cracked the code in revealing the true potential of other teams’ perpetual under-performers. They tried with Chris Paddack—perhaps they almost succeeded—but his elbow broke again, and the Twins could only claim a failed gamble. With the exception of Ryan Pressly, they haven’t become a victim of pitching pick-pocketing, but their best heist to date is Joe Ryan.

    As for those draft picks, José Berríos pitched some of the finest seasons this side of Johan Santana, but he never embraced his ace potential, instead finding respectable success as an inconsistent yet talented #2. No other draft pick compares to him. A flurry of Terry Ryan prospects—most notably Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Adalberto Mejía—tried and failed to succeed; Twins pitchers drafted by the new regime have yet to impact the franchise. 

    The team turned to free agency. Michael Pineda gave Minnesota a few quality years, but the team has primarily followed a distinct pattern of whiffing on the big names—most notably Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler—while signing cheap starters who performed like cheap starters. Maybe one could claim 2019 Martín Pérez as a win, but doing so proves how fruitless the Twins have been with starters in free agency under Derek Falvey; a playoff team needs more than a lopsided 1.9 fWAR season from a pitcher who didn’t take the mound in the postseason that year. 

    Until the Twins break the mold, Andrew Heaney is the best they can do. Heaney is a perfect Twin: a troubled starter with great stuff and a devastating penchant for giving up jackhammer levels of loud contact. Heaney finally realized his strikeout potential in 2022, punching out 35.5% of hitters in a dominating season that culminated in a 3.10 ERA, even better peripherals, and just 14 starts due to a variety of health problems. Injuries wilted his excellence, and the Dodgers could only squeeze six innings out of Heaney in two outings, limiting him to just 1.1 fWAR despite the great pitching. 

    In the current free agent context—one Nick Nelson noted could be especially troublesome for a team looking for an ace—the Twins’ likely option will be praying for Heaney’s health. They could sign Carlos Rodón, but their history says they won’t do that. If—probably, when—the best arms sign elsewhere, Minnesota will look at Heaney, talk themselves into his incredible upside, and bet against reason that this is the year he finally stays healthy.

     

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    This is a very interesting post Matt.  Heaney is not exactly Shoemaker, Happ, Archer and Bundy as he has GREAT stuff and great potential.  But health issues are ALWAYS knocking on his door and then there are bouts with inconsistency.  He's a guy I wouldn't completely excoriate the Twins for signing (as opposed to a Shoemaker) but he's still kind of a Hail Mary no matter what your most realistic expectations are.  And what would his role be ?  Initial expectations would be to be our #3 starter.  But if he gets hurt (and it's very likely he will) and you have to limit innings he would have to move to the bullpen, where honestly, he could be a good piece but not exactly be fulfilling what you expected him to do.  In the end, I could live with a Heaney signing if the money I saved was used to plug some of the other holes the Twins roster has.  

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    Matt, after reading your take, I am looking out my window right now.... 

    Eight inches of snow.  Drifted over sidewalks and driveways that I spent two hours shoveling yesterday.  The winds are 20-30 mph, with occasional higher gusts.  Wind-chill right around zero.  There is no sun, and if there were, it would come up at 8:00 and go down at 4:30 p.m., meaning, there isn't a chance of seeing the light of day in a non-work moment.

    Tell me again why the Twins could or should sign an elite baseball pitcher to bring their family to this God-forsaken land?

    Wouldn't Carlos Rodon prefer to hang out in Los Angeles, maybe hit the beach by 10:00 am., ice-cream on the boardwalk, those barely dressed sexy young things zipping by on roller blades -- not a cloud in the sky, and all the glitz and glamor of California that make Carlos believe that with his talent, he should be priced like an epic piece of Christian Dior jewelry, dangling between the open front of that babe's prodigious tank top.

     

     

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    I think the Twins will get an Ace this off-season, but I think it’s gonna be Via trade rather than by signing a Top-End Free Agent. Tyler Glasnow, Shane Bieber, Pablo Lopez and Chris Sale all look like they could head to Minnesota, and I think we have the ability if we trade some major league talent. This team already has a strong 5-man: Gray, Ryan, Mahle, Ober, Maeda while Winder, SWR and Varland all look Major-League capable. All this rotation needs is a cherry on top…and to be healthy.

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    IMHO, the Twins would be better off sticking with what they have. Why go out and get an oft injured pitcher that up to this point in his career hasn't shown much more than #3 starter quality? Just taking innings away from the youngsters that may or may not prove to be just as good, if not better, for a fraction of the cost.

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    I may be in the minority, but I don't think Sale fits the bill as an ACE.  He is oft injured as well and the juice would not be worth the squeeze for the price we would pay.  Now Glasnow - that is worth Kepler and Martin, or possibly Arraez.   Arraez is amazing, but those Tony O knees will shorten his career

     

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    Well let's see here.  Twins Kim over top notch pitching, wait until the last moment, then sign an oft injured and unproven pitchers and HOPE he does well.  Then Twins will say they tried, and tried to find a decent FA pitcher but they were all taken.  Sound familiar?  Why should this year be any different?

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    49 minutes ago, Old Twins Hat said:

    Matt, after reading your take, I am looking out my window right now.... 

    Eight inches of snow.  Drifted over sidewalks and driveways that I spent two hours shoveling yesterday.  The winds are 20-30 mph, with occasional higher gusts.  Wind-chill right around zero.  There is no sun, and if there were, it would come up at 8:00 and go down at 4:30 p.m., meaning, there isn't a chance of seeing the light of day in a non-work moment.

    Tell me again why the Twins could or should sign an elite baseball pitcher to bring their family to this God-forsaken land?

    Wouldn't Carlos Rodon prefer to hang out in Los Angeles, maybe hit the beach by 10:00 am., ice-cream on the boardwalk, those barely dressed sexy young things zipping by on roller blades -- not a cloud in the sky, and all the glitz and glamor of California that make Carlos believe that with his talent, he should be priced like an epic piece of Christian Dior jewelry, dangling between the open front of that babe's prodigious tank top.

     

     

    Nice writing Old Twins Hat. Thanks.

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    You are correct that Heaney is the type of talent the Twins wind up with after the top tier pitchers are picked over. 

    So what's the answer when top tier talent doesn't want to go to 2nd tier markets?

    Bite the bullet and drastically over pay in an effort to break the mold? I really can't see any other alternative. 

    But that's not going to happen so in the end the only way we are going to get a Burt Blyleven is to luck out and develop one ..

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    Maybe it is the wind howling outside, but as I read your essay I was wondering if this was fact or speculation.  Did we actually sign him?  If we did it would be consistent.  Someone who underperformed (because we can always fix a pitcher), someone who is an injury risk (we can fix them), and someone who tops out as a #3..  

    I realize now we did not sign him, a sigh of relief. 

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    What happened to the former Twins super stud pitching prospects? We watch them progress up the ladder of minor league teams and inevitably they get stuck on a rung of this ladder of success or completely fall off as they age out of the definition of "prospect". Remember when we Twins fans pinned our hopes on Gonsalves, Romero, Kohl Stewart, Tyler Jay, Mejia, and dozens of others?

    What happened? Are the odds that great that the current crop of Twins' superstar, stud pitchers will also fall off the ladder? Is this why the Twins have traded untested really young, recently acquired super pitching talent, like Graterol, Gil, Petty and others?  Are these stud prospects available to be traded because the odds are so great against any of them becoming the stud pitcher which we predicted? If so, how do the Twins ever hope to home grow any inexpensive starting "Ace" pitchers, if they languish during their most formative years in Ft. Myers and Wichita or get traded away? Do they need to build up arm and leg strength? Do injuries derail them? Do they need the wisdom about whether to agree to whatever location and type of pitch the veteran catcher tells them to throw? Do they need years more practice to refine the required control? Do they need to wait until they finish growing?  What are the differences between the few who succeed vs. those who fall from the ladder?  

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    Heaney likely is the best we can do if we end up re-signing Correa or one of the other big 4 SS free agents. The reality is Falvey and Levine weren’t hired to hand out 9 figure free agent contracts to pitching. It’s time to see if their hard work building a pitching pipeline for the last 6 years is real or not. 

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    1 hour ago, Old Twins Hat said:

    Tell me again why the Twins could or should sign an elite baseball pitcher to bring their family to this God-forsaken land?

    I would guess 99% of the players don’t live in Minnesota after the season is over. So the weather today has no significance to a professional baseball player. 

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    Johan Santana was an elite pitcher for us. Liriano would have been if not for injuries. You could count on Berrios to give you the innings through out the season but his performance was sometimes inconsistent. '20 was the perfect storm for Maeda, only pitching 66 innings in 11 games, new to hitters, hitters adjusting to covid. LAD profiled Maeda as a spot starter/ long relief, he has yet proved that he can go much more than 100 innings much less showing dominance over those 100 innings. So IMO Maeda doesn't come close as being an ace much less elite.

    About Heany, yes he has some pretty good stuff. But LAD took it very easy on him, pitching him in 14 games at 72 innings (30 innings less than Archer), That's about 4.5 innings/ game. He pitched less than 5 innings in half his games & only pitched 6 innings 2x. If he can't handle that then he's no SP, he's better off in the BP.

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    "with great stuff "..... I love it. Stuff. The oft used term/phrase. Stuff. They consistently under perform for years with the "great (unspecific) stuff", yet are always worth another try to watch them get bombed again on your team, all the while flashing some flashes of that elusive "great stuff". And they get paid several millions of dollars to fail once again. Hell, our pitching gurus of a FO picked up the pitcher with perhaps the worst overall stat lines for a relief pitcher spanning the last three seasons and two different teams and leagues, Pagan, because of what? Wait for it.........."Stuff".

    Sometimes, they are even "young for their level" and have the "great stuff".

    That is some heavy stuff.

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    Not really interested, but, I admit to being intrigued. He's one of those guys who has some really good stuff, never quite put it together or are injured a lot, sometimes both, and then he's healthy for a season and wins 14-16 with a quality ERA and high K numbers, and suddenly becomes a steal for the team that signed him. If he's a FA, suddenly he's in demand and gets a contract much higher than previously thought possible. And then he becomes 50/50 again as to which guy you got.

    I just don't think I'm interested. Vanimal46 is correct that if Correa is back, the Twins are probably out of any Rodon sweepstakes. A "should be expected bump in payroll as the normal course of doing business for a contending team of 5-7%", would give the Twins $60-70M to spend depending on Kepler's future with the team. Correa takes up AT LEAST $30-35M of that, maybe $40M depending on structure of said signing. And the Twins still need another RH bat, a catcher, and hopefully a little pitching help. (ONE quality BP arm jumps to mind).

    My philosophy has been, still is, if you're going to add, then add someone who is as good, if not potentially better, than Gray, and Mahle. Someone AT LEAST as good as Ryan and potentially Maeda and Ober. Can they "absorb" the prospect capital to do so via trade after all the moves last year? The system is NOT depleted or without talent. And Correa might make a Lee or Lewis or Julian expendable in a deal. But at some point, don't you have to hold on to your young talent?

    I'm interested in Bassitt, Eovaldi, Taillon, and Walker as possibles who fit my requirements. I'm not chomping at the bit for any of them, but I can see all of them as worthwhile options to add. But the oft injured Heaney doesn't interest me unless his market dries up and he's willing to make a conversion to the pen, where he might be excellent and actually find better health.

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    Twins need a true ace. I've been told that will take 25 million or more. If we are willing to give correa 35 million it should be no problem. We can not win playoff games without an ace.

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    12 hours ago, saviking said:

    You are correct that Heaney is the type of talent the Twins wind up with after the top tier pitchers are picked over. 

    So what's the answer when top tier talent doesn't want to go to 2nd tier markets?

    Bite the bullet and drastically over pay in an effort to break the mold? I really can't see any other alternative. 

    But that's not going to happen so in the end the only way we are going to get a Burt Blyleven is to luck out and develop one ..

    Twins need to find out how much the Astros and Dodgers pay their guys who are in charge of player development and then offer those guys triple what they are getting paid.  Then the twins won't have to trade of buy a pitcher from the free agency route.  Rather they'd develop some pitchers.

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    When Target Field first opened, it was observed to be a good park for right-handed power, particularly pull-heavy right-handed power hitters. Think of Josh Willingham having his best offensive season in his first year with the Twins, or Brian Dozier hitting a handful of barely-out shots to left field on the way to a home run record for second basemen.

    Baseball-reference sets the threshold for a pitcher's rate stats to "qualify" at 1 inning pitched per team game. If Heaney had qualified last year, his HR/PA and HR/FB rates both would have led the majors—not in the way you want, if you're the pitcher.

    The fact that he didn't qualify for the leader board, even if the threshold is arbitrary, tells us that his sample of innings was small and there may be some noise there. But maybe it's fair to say at least that he's somewhat prone to giving up home runs.

    I haven't heard so much about Target Field and RH power in recent years. Park factors can change, but any time I read something connecting the Twins with a homer-prone lefty pitcher, it raises a flag. I would be dubious about how well Heaney would do pitching half his games there.

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    The Twins are not alone in trying to get top end pitching talent.  Many teams have tried time and again.  Some go the route the Twins do and get lottery ticket guys that pay off for the year, others go big on FA and hit, but that is rare as well.  I am not excusing the Twins of lack of pitching talent, but it is not like every team is marching out great talents every year.  

    Honestly, the way the team manages the starters, I do not know what they would do if they had a real shut down ace anyways.  Hopefully, one day we can find out though.  However, I do wish people would stop acting like every pitcher out there we do not sign or trade for is so amazing.  Remember all year people called for us trading for Montes.  How did that work out for Yankees? He put up some of the worst numbers of his career.  People were upset we traded away Berrios and not signed him to long term deal.  How did that end up for Toronto? A negative WAR and one of worst seasons of his career.  Maybe he bounces back but he would have been one of worst in our rotation. Many other FA did not live up to expectations over the years too. 

    My point is, a lot of things need to work together to have a top pitcher, and they do not come around all the time. 

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    On 11/30/2022 at 7:44 AM, Old Twins Hat said:

    Matt, after reading your take, I am looking out my window right now.... 

    Eight inches of snow.  Drifted over sidewalks and driveways that I spent two hours shoveling yesterday.  The winds are 20-30 mph, with occasional higher gusts.  Wind-chill right around zero.  There is no sun, and if there were, it would come up at 8:00 and go down at 4:30 p.m., meaning, there isn't a chance of seeing the light of day in a non-work moment.

    Tell me again why the Twins could or should sign an elite baseball pitcher to bring their family to this God-forsaken land?

    I mean, they don't need to live here in the offseason... 

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    On 11/30/2022 at 7:30 AM, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    What happened to the former Twins super stud pitching prospects? We watch them progress up the ladder of minor league teams and inevitably they get stuck on a rung of this ladder of success or completely fall off as they age out of the definition of "prospect". Remember when we Twins fans pinned our hopes on Gonsalves, Romero, Kohl Stewart, Tyler Jay, Mejia, and dozens of others?

    What happened? Are the odds that great that the current crop of Twins' superstar, stud pitchers will also fall off the ladder? Is this why the Twins have traded untested really young, recently acquired super pitching talent, like Graterol, Gil, Petty and others?  Are these stud prospects available to be traded because the odds are so great against any of them becoming the stud pitcher which we predicted? If so, how do the Twins ever hope to home grow any inexpensive starting "Ace" pitchers, if they languish during their most formative years in Ft. Myers and Wichita or get traded away? Do they need to build up arm and leg strength? Do injuries derail them? Do they need the wisdom about whether to agree to whatever location and type of pitch the veteran catcher tells them to throw? Do they need years more practice to refine the required control? Do they need to wait until they finish growing?  What are the differences between the few who succeed vs. those who fall from the ladder?  

    Almost none of them were viewed as studs outside Twins' land......

    I don't understand why we conflate pre-this FO with the current FO. They have Ryan who they have for his entire time in the majors. They likely have Ober and Varland and SWR. Are any of those aces? Not likely, but they might be near Berrios level at times. That doesn't count Winder (who most outsiders viewed as a good RP most likely). It doesn't count Enlow (injuries happen). They have passed on pitchers in round one most of the time. I don't love that, but it tends to make it harder to develop aces (not impossible). 

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    18 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

    I mean, they don't need to live here in the offseason... 

    It truly amazes me when we see posts like the one you quoted. Players go where the money and opportunity are. Some choose based on city, sure. But if you offer people money and opportunity, they'll come. I mean, it happens all the time in sports.

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    On 11/30/2022 at 7:44 AM, Old Twins Hat said:

    Matt, after reading your take, I am looking out my window right now.... 

    Eight inches of snow.  Drifted over sidewalks and driveways that I spent two hours shoveling yesterday.  The winds are 20-30 mph, with occasional higher gusts.  Wind-chill right around zero.  There is no sun, and if there were, it would come up at 8:00 and go down at 4:30 p.m., meaning, there isn't a chance of seeing the light of day in a non-work moment.

    Tell me again why the Twins could or should sign an elite baseball pitcher to bring their family to this God-forsaken land?

    Wouldn't Carlos Rodon prefer to hang out in Los Angeles, maybe hit the beach by 10:00 am., ice-cream on the boardwalk, those barely dressed sexy young things zipping by on roller blades -- not a cloud in the sky, and all the glitz and glamor of California that make Carlos believe that with his talent, he should be priced like an epic piece of Christian Dior jewelry, dangling between the open front of that babe's prodigious tank top.

     

     

    You could have that...OR you could have a sexy young thing completely dressed zip by on ice skates.  

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    On 11/30/2022 at 7:44 AM, Old Twins Hat said:

    Eight inches of snow.  Drifted over sidewalks and driveways that I spent two hours shoveling yesterday.  The winds are 20-30 mph, with occasional higher gusts.  Wind-chill right around zero.  There is no sun, and if there were, it would come up at 8:00 and go down at 4:30 p.m., meaning, there isn't a chance of seeing the light of day in a non-work moment.

    Tell me again why the Twins could or should sign an elite baseball pitcher to bring their family to this God-forsaken land?

    It's all persepective. I like staring out the window and watching a blizzard while I stand in front of my wood burner. Also, blizzards put a damper on the homeless tent cities and rampant poop/drug needle problems plagueing the West Coast cities. I'll take the cold over playing hop-scotch around poopy sidewalks.

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    Matt, I think the only people interested in the Twins going out and signing a pitcher, like this guy or an older, expensive ACE, are many of the writers and commenters at TD and elsewhere.  I expect that the Twins are very happy with the starters they have going into spring training.  Five quality starters, a sixth who should return from the IL late summer, a promising young prospect who mostly pitched out of the pen last year and two young studs who looked awfully good in a handful of games last fall.  
     

    Thats the best staff I can remember since Brad, Johan and Franky.  Depth wise, heck, it may be better.  There is no question the front office has some work to do the next couple months.  More starters isn’t one of them.

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