Kyle Gibson has looked like a new and improved pitcher in 2018. Not only has Gibson dropped his ERA to a level lower than it has ever been, but he is also striking out batters at a much higher rate than he ever has. So far this year, Gibson has struck out 23.3 percent of batters that he has faced, up from his previous career high of 17.7 percent, which he set back in 2015.
Gibson’s turnaround, however, actually dates back to last August where he had a strong stretch to close out the season, which played a big part in the Twins clinching their first playoff berth since 2010. Over his last 24 starts overall, Gibson has a 3.29 ERA (3.78 FIP) and has a K/9 of 8.63 along with a 3.10 BB/9.
This extended run of success has changed the way people think about Kyle Gibson as a pitcher. Going back to this time a year ago, perhaps the only thing keeping Gibson in the Twins rotation was the severe lack of depth of major league-caliber starting pitchers within the organization. Flash forward to the present day and Gibson has turned himself the number two starter on one of the better Twins rotations in years.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, why would the Twins trade away Gibson who has been one of the few bright spots on the team, especially since they have another year of control of him? My answer, that is the exact reason why they should be looking to trade him.
If there was ever a time where Kyle Gibson’s trade value would be high enough to net a pretty decent prospect return it's right now. As I mentioned before, Gibson’s performance has done more than enough to warrant a spot in the rotation on any contending team, with perhaps the exception of the Houston Astros.
Here is a list of the 15 teams that I think will be buyers at the trade deadline, and where Gibson’s 3.48 ERA (entering play Monday) would rank on those staffs among pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings this year.
Additionally, with Gibson having another year of team control after 2018 that will make him all the more enticing to teams, as he won’t be a rental piece that they lose at season’s end. As we have seen in the past, players with this extra year of control tend to get far bigger packages in return than rental players tend to receive.
Another factor going in the favor of trading Gibson right now is the market for available starting pitchers is pretty bleak. The only real marquee starting pitcher whose name has been thrown around as a potential trade piece is Jacob deGrom, but given the way he has been pitching, and the fact that he still has two more years of team control after 2018, it would take a king’s ransom to pry him away from the Mets. After deGrom, the quality of starting pitchers available drops off. The next tier of starters being mentioned includes Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and Tyson Ross. However, it could be argued that Gibson is pitching better than all three of those guys right now.
The big thing that the Twins will have to consider is having to give up on Gibson being a member of their starting rotation for a 2019 team that expects to compete. So, let’s dive into that part of it and see how things might shake out if they do trade him away.
While the Twins do have several players on their roster with expiring contracts, the starting rotation for 2019 has already mostly taken shape. Barring any serious injuries between now and then, the Twins could pencil in Jose Berrios, Fernando Romero (who should be back up before the end of 2018), Jake Odorizzi, and the long-forgotten Michael Pineda into their 2019 rotation. Also there are numerous other options down in the minors who could compete for a starting job in the Twins 2019 rotation including Stephen Gonsalves, Alberto Mejia, Zach Littell, Aaron Slegers and Lewis Thorpe to name a few.
Additionally, the Twins will have a ton of money coming off their books this winter which means they will have plenty of payroll flexibility to add another starter or two in free agency if that is something they wish to pursue. So, while Gibson could definitely help the 2019 Twins rotation, it doesn’t exactly leave the team in a bad spot if they were to trade him away.
Another factor to consider is the money that Gibson himself will make next year. Since he will be entering his third year of arbitration, and with the way he has been pitching of late, Gibson could be in line for a decent pay raise heading into 2019. If the Twins were to trade him away, the money that they save by not having to pay Gibson could be put towards finding his replacement or in helping other areas of the roster.
So, how much should we expect Gibson to make next year? Well, for that it is usually best to compare him to other players in a similar situation to see what they got. A perfect example for this comparison is Patrick Corbin. Last winter, Corbin entered his final year as an arbitration-eligible player, just like Gibson will be this winter. Corbin was coming off a respectable season where he threw 189 2/3 innings with a 4.03 ERA. The year prior to that Corbin received $3.95 million, a little bit less than $4.2 million Kyle Gibson is receiving this year.
With the way Gibson has been pitching this year, we can anticipate that Gibson should end up receiving a little more than the $7.5 million that Patrick Corbin received entering 2018. My guess is it will be somewhere in the $8-9 million range. When you factor that in with the almost $2 million the Twins could save on Gibson’s contract this year by trading him, they could have more than $10 million saved up on Gibson that they can reinvest into the team.
In the end, I’m not proposing that the Twins should simply trade Gibson for the sake of trading him, because that would be silly. What I am proposing, however, is it would be foolish on the Twins part not to be shopping Gibson around at the deadline to see what kind of package they could get in return for him. I would be shocked if there weren’t at least a few teams that would be interested in adding Kyle Gibson to their starting rotation.