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  • Recruiting Rog: Should the Twins Extend Taylor Rogers?

    Nash Walker

    By nature, the Twins’ most likely trade candidate is also a prime extension candidate. Should the Twins extend their best reliever beyond 2022?

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA TODAY Sports


    Taylor Rogers bounced back from a difficult 2020 and pitched very well in 2021 until a finger injury knocked him out. With uncertainty in the bullpen and free agency looming next winter, should the Twins extend Rogers beyond 2022?

    The Case FOR Extension
    There’s no question that Rogers, 31, has become an underrated pitcher. He’s consistently been one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball and a steadying force for the Twins. Since 2018, Rogers ranks 10th among 209 relievers in Win Probability Added (5.78), 5th in fWAR (6.1), 9th in strikeout-to-walk rate (26%), and ties Josh Hader in FIP (2.52).

    Only Kirby Yates, Liam Hendriks, Felipe Vázquez, and Ryan Pressly have a lower Fielding Independent Pitching than Rogers in that span. He was the anchor for the Twins bullpen in 2019, when he was relied on for multiple-inning saves and back-to-back duties.

    Rogers combines an upper-90s sinker with a sharp, biting slider. He has excellent command and control and predictably rebounded from a rough 20 innings in 2020. Rogers was rolling in 2021 with a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP before giving up a grand slam before the All-Star Break. The stifling lefty held opponents to a .262 On-Base Percentage up to that swing.

    Rogers is not only an anchor on the mound for the Twins; he’s a leader in the bullpen and the team’s MLBPA representative. He’s been a steady face for the club and is a fan favorite. Rogers’ underlying numbers also suggest that his numbers will trend in a favorable direction.

    Extension Comp: Zack Britton, New York Yankees
    Britton is a solid comp for Rogers, as both are left-handed and around the same age at the time of an extension. Britton inked a deal with the Yankees for three years and $39 million, with an option for a fourth year.

    $39 million over three years is probably a bit rich for Rogers, whose numbers don’t quite match up to Britton’s. It’s a solid base. 


    The Case AGAINST Extension
    Rogers has indeed had some bad luck in recent years. It’s also true that his numbers haven’t been there since 2019. Rogers has a mediocre 3.58 ERA over his last 60 1/3 innings while converting 18 of 24 saves. He’s produced Negative-0.2 bWAR over the previous two seasons. 

    Rogers has also struggled to contain right-handed hitters at times. His career splits are now stark, with a 177 point OPS drop facing left-handed hitters. The Twins worked on spotting up Rogers against more lefties by acquiring Alexander Colomé and going with a closer-by-committee. That plan went haywire as Colomé struggled early and Rogers was hurt late. 

    Hence the biggest concern with a Rogers extension: health. His season ended prematurely due to a tendon injury in his finger in 2021. He didn’t get surgery, but it’s a storyline to watch if he remains a Twin in 2022 and beyond. 

    Relievers can burn bright and burn out, and it’s fair to wonder if Rogers has seen his best days as a reliever. He’s been outstanding for the Twins, but you pay players for the future, not the past. 

    The Bottom Line
    A healthy Taylor Rogers is still one of the game’s better relievers, and his stuff looked pristine in 2021. The Twins have plenty of bullpen uncertainty and an exciting group of developing starters that will undoubtedly produce a reliever or two. 

    The Twins have avoided large bullpen contracts like the plague. Would they change up their process for a homegrown, beloved staple? They didn’t for Trevor May. It’s an interesting question and one that may get answered before spring training commences. 

    What do you think? Should the Twins extend Taylor Rogers beyond 2022?

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    Before Rogers finger injury and slight decline in performance I would have probably said they should extend for sure.  Right now I am not so sure.  If he is still an elite lefty arm, well those are unicorns in MLB to some degree so pretty hard to impossible to replace.  If he has lost his Mojo then the money for a 10M or more per year extension would be wasted.  I honestly have no idea which one he is so I would not extend at this time.  Find out which guy he is and if the finger injury will impact him in any way and go from there that is my take.

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    I'm a big fan of him, but his own words about how rare of an injury this is for baseball players makes me concerned. Teams can build models for TJ given the large sample size, but with this there are a lack of comparables. 

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    I think I'd wait and see how things go this year. They have a ton of arms hitting the 40-man roster and some of them will have to move to the pen. There's enough question about his ability to keep being dominant and his injury that I wouldn't extend him before the year. Unless, of course, he's willing to sign for something crazy low, but being a player rep makes me think that won't happen as the union would be really mad with an elite reliever not going after elite money.

    His being lefty is certainly a point in his favor as they have very few young lefty arms, but I still wait. Take our chances with him on the open market after the year. I don't want to get stuck with 10+ mil a year on the books for a guy who never recovers from this finger thing. If he's back and shredding lineups I approach him midseason if he's willing to talk then or see what happens on the market after the year.

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    Probably not is my line of thinking. Certainly not until he proves he's fully recovered from the injury and is back to being effective as a closer. Even after that point, I'd probably shop him around to see if he can bring good trade value. Only if it looks like Rogers isn't going to bring much back, but still is showing his elite form would I consider extending him.

    What would an extension look like for Rogers if he shows he's fully returned to form? I'd say 3-4 years and $45-55MM or so? Comps like Craig Kimbrel and Kanley Jansen went for much more. Will Smith went for 3 years and $40MM, but wasn't truly in Rogers' class.

    Even if the Twins were interested in extending Rogers, they may very walk balk at the price.

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    While RP can indeed just lose it all of a sudden, Rogers is still only 31yo and shown no loss of velocity and never has had any major injury that I can recall.

    I'd like to think his finger is going to be OK and he'll be his old self again. And that old self is someone I think has another 2-3 really good seasons left.

    Still, I just can't extend him until I see him throw and feel the finger is going to hold up.

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    I agree with others that the finger situation has to be resolved before an extension is offered.  Beyond that, the Twins are in a much different situation than the Yankees in that they have pretty tight budget constraints.  I am not sure I would commit 30 plus million to a bullpen arm, even one as good as Taylor, unless I was pretty certain that he was going to be a high leverage arm over those 3 years.  Relievers, even excellent ones, can be unpredictable.  So, I would wait and bid for him in free agency, or sign him mid summer after I had seen him pitch for half a season.

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    I don't think I'd ever extend a reliever unless their name was Rivera.

    They're just too volatile and only grow more expensive.

    If he's willing to take a below market contract based on his recent injuries, I suppose I'd listen.

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    For the right price I would look to bring him back for a 2 year extension, maybe third with team option.  However, I would not price him out as a "closer" but as a high leverage lefty.  I do not see him as a closer in the future.  Many supporters of him say he had "bad luck" but if it happens over and over is it bad luck? Having a couple blown saves on a weak contact hits you can say is bad luck, but he has had several over the last couple years.  Also, he has  not been great on back to back games, something you need from a closer. 

    He can be a late inning lefty guy that can get some righties out, but I think his days as the "closer" is over and you should not pay him like a closer. 

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