One of our friends at Twins Daily, Shea McGinnity, summed it up best.
The last 48 hours have likely been the most intense and exciting period of baseball free agency in the sport’s history. Twins fandom is understandably elated at Byron Buxton signing a 7-year, $100 million extension which keeps him a Twin for life. Yet, something feels like it’s missing. Oh, right, the starting pitching. The Twins don’t have much to speak of, and the starting pitching free agent market has been decimated in a pre-lockout financial feeding frenzy
In the last 48 hours, Jon Gray, Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray, and Max Scherzer have all signed hefty to record-breaking free-agent contracts. The remaining free-agent starters, using Aaron Gleeman’s Top 25 list at The Athletic, looks thin. Marcus Stroman and Carlos Rodon are the top names remaining. Clayton Kershaw isn’t signing with the Twins. Alex Wood and Alex Cobb are rumored to be signing with the Giants. That leaves Michael Pineda, Danny Duffy, Zack Grienke, Yusei Kikuchi, and Dylan Bundy.
The mounting frustration for Twins fans lies in the discrepancy between the front office’s end-of-season rhetoric and their extreme lethargy in the recent free-agent frenzy. All indications from Derek Falvey suggested the Twins were ready to compete in 2022. The Twins front office exists in a challenging tension. They want to establish themselves as an organization that consistently competes through developing its own pitching. Until that labor bears fruit, fans are left to lust after free agent signings that will never come to pass. The Twins organization does not sign pitchers to hefty contracts. With that said, let’s examine some options for how they might strengthen their pitching staff via trade, starting with the Cincinnati Reds.
Over the next three weeks, I’ll be profiling the three organizations the Twins should be looking to trade with for starting pitching. I’ll take into account their likely cost, performance, and future contract to rank options 1-3 for each organization. By all accounts, the Reds are open for business. They have an array of excellent MLB pitching, are undergoing organizational change (such as the departure of former pitching coordinator Kyle Boddy) and a good farm system that could use the addition of close to MLB ready bats.
Sonny Gray should be one of the Twins’ primary trade targets currently. In the midst of a 3-year, $32 million contract which runs through 2023, Gray has been worth, on average 2.5 fWAR over his last five seasons. Gray has maintained excellent peripherals and a strong K% throughout his late twenties and early thirties. He fits the profile of a starting pitcher, who the Twins wouldn’t have to give up multiple of their best prospects for, who could start a playoff game for Minnesota.
Tyler Mahle is best known to Twins fans as the pitcher who broke Byron Buxton’s hand this season but had a quiet breakout year for the Reds. Mahle profiles more similarly to Gray, both in stuff and cost, but has age on his side at just 27. Mahle sported a 27.7% K% in 2021 to go along with a 3.80 FIP, and 3.84 fWAR. Mahle, like Luis Castillo, is not a free agent until 2024.
Luis Castillo is by far the best of the three Reds options and by far the most expensive, which is why I am ranking him last. Castillo has excellent velocity (97 mph fastball), a devastating changeup, and doesn’t hit free agency until 2024. The asking price on Castillo has been reported to be incredibly high, which it should be for a starting pitcher you would feel confident in leading a good number of MLB rotations. It seems unlikely the Twins would trade for Castillo given the cost.
Do you agree with my ranking? What would you offer in a trade with Cincinnati? Which of their starting pitchers appeals to you the most?