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?