The Twins made their first big move sending Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay in exchange for two pitching prospects.
There were reports over the weekend that Byron Buxton won't be signing a contract extension with the club and rumors of willingness to listen on team-controlled players such as Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers, and Max Kepler.
So, where do we go from here?
We're going to start with the players on expiring contracts.
Trade Andrelton Simmons to the Reds for SS Gus Steiger. Steiger, who is from Minnetonka and played collegiately at South Dakota State, signed with the Reds as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and would provide organizational depth in Fort Myers. The Twins would send no cash in the deal, leaving the Reds on the hook for the remaining $3.5 million on Simmons' contract.
Trade Michael Pineda to the Astros for P Misaell Tamarez. Tamarez has less than 75 professional innings under his belt and has a walk rate over six, but he also strikes out more than a hitter per inning and has some ceiling. Tamarez would join the Fort Myers staff, where he could start or relieve. The Twins would get all of next year to evaluate Tamarez before deciding whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster. Pineda has $3.4 million left on his contract, which the Astros would pick up. I'd also expect Big Mike to be back with the Twins on a two-year deal this offseason.
Trade Hansel Robles to the Red Sox for RP Durbin Feltman. Boston will give up Feltman, who may help in a bullpen someday, for Robles, who will help them in the bullpen for the rest of the year. Robles is owed less than $700,000 for the remainder of the year. Feltman, who has seen his velocity dip since turning pro in 2018, is the type of prospect on who the Twins could take a chance. If they can unlock some of that lost velocity, there is a chance he could be added to the 40-man when first eligible this upcoming offseason.
Trade J.A. Happ to the Phillies for a PTBNL or cash. Happ broke into the big leagues with Philadelphia in 2007 and can provide rotational depth. The return for Happ would likely be a little bit of cash to offset his contract. He's still owed just shy of $3 million. The Twins would stay on the hook for almost all of that.
The only other impending free agent is Alex Colome, who has been bad this year. If there's a team interested, he could be had for a meager price. Even if the Twins pay the remainder of his salary, the return will be low… in fact, it would be a win if someone else would be responsible for buying out his option.
Before going on to the next - and definitely more debatable - part, one thing that needs to be discussed (because it will get a lot of consideration) is the 40-man roster. Except for Drew Strotman, none of the actual or projected returns to this point include someone on the 40-man roster. The Twins also have five players on the 60-day IL that will need to be activated this offseason.
Now, granted, the roster has several fringe-40-man players that can be removed, but the organization has to be very careful about the position they put themselves in with acquiring players. Part of the reason Tampa Bay was ok giving up two of their top prospects for Cruz likely had to do with the crunch they were going to face this offseason. (They probably would have lost Strotman on outright waivers.)
Just by my quick estimation, there are eight players (seven pitchers!) that I think are more likely to get added to the 40-man than not either later this season or in the offseason. If the Twins are going to rebuild, they would be wise to acquire prospects who are at least a year away from needing to be added to the 40-man roster.
Whatever Taylor Rogers did to his finger last night puts his status on the trade market in question. If healthy - and if I were calling the shots - I would have him very available. But for this exercise, he will remain with the Twins.
I'm not going to trade Josh Donaldson either. My stance would be that I would make him available, but I want a fair prospect return. The money complicates that. The Twins, in my opinion, will move Donaldson if someone is willing to take on the remainder of his contract. That will minimize the return. Josh Donaldson is too good of a baseball player just to give away.
I'll listen on Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, but I don't see either getting moved. Kenta Maeda as well. For an overpay, I'd move every one of them.
Now for the big dogs…
Not only do I think Byron Buxton will not be moved, I believe a whirlwind Trade Deadline Week is going to be capped off with a Byron Buxton extension. Maybe it won't be Friday because the front office will be busy. But soon enough that the fanbase won't be able to check out for the year.
Jose Berrios is a different story. Even a week ago, I wasn't convinced that Berrios was going anywhere. Now I've done a complete 180 and think there is no way he's not traded. And there's going to be a market. Take your pick…
San Diego is aggressive, has prospects, and is forward-thinking enough to pull off another blockbuster. Would they include any of their four top prospects? Would MacKenzie Gore, who's been a mess lately, even be enough? Or would the Twins shoot for the injured CJ Abrams or Robert Hassell? Could the Twins bring back Eric Hosmer's bad contract to help the Padres out financially and ask for another top prospect too?
The Dodgers don't want to share the spotlight. Is it really a possibility that they offer Dustin May? If so, that is a conversation that needs to be had.
Maybe the Giants won't want to be outdone, and though they can't offer a top-end pitching prospect, they do have prospect currency, including SS Marco Luciano and C Joey Bart. There should be enough interest that the Twins don't have to settle for prospects that aren't in the top tier.
The AL East is also worth watching. Toronto (P Nate Pearson and SS Austin Martin) and New York (P Deivi Garcia) would both be able to move the needle.
The NL East is just as interesting. The Mets have the prospects, but all are a few promotions from the major yet. (Plus, Kevin Mulvey is no longer available.) The Braves could be a match.
So what would I do….?
I'd call Trader Jerry and make a deal with the Mariners. The basic framework would be Jose Berrios for P George Kirby. Kirby is a Top 20 prospect and hasn't reached AA yet (but will soon).
The Mariners are also in the market for an infielder. Does expanding the deal to include Jorge Polanco make sense? Would the Mariners have any interest in taking on Josh Donaldson? Does DiPoto want to roll the dice on Taylor Rogers being ready soon and helping out down the stretch?
It would be hard to bet against the Mets, Dodgers, Padres, or Yankees in a bidding war, but the Mariners are a longshot who could make the best deal for both teams.
Maybe the holes these trades would create would have to be filled internally, which may not seem to scream "we're competing in 2022," but in a season with so many questions and so few answers, do we really want to be tricked into thinking that's possible anyway?
I will let you read Matthew’s article in full as he does a tremendous job of explaining why now is the time, but will add that I’ve been ready to move on simply due to his lack of development. Berríos has been the same pitcher since his first full season in 2017 where he’ll give you 5-6 strikeouts, 2-3 walks, and an ERA/FIP in the high 3’s, but he’ll have those couple performances that’ll leave you thinking he can be an “ace” in this league. In short, he hasn’t shown consistent effectiveness or efficiency to prove he can become an “ace” and, although exact details have never been leaked, he wants to get paid more than the Twins are willing to pay him. In my opinion, Berríos is a middle of the rotation arm (low-2/high-3) who likely wants to be paid like a frontline guy which I don't think they should do. This brings me back to Matthew’s article where he went on to say “Berríos possesses the talent and the years of control that should bring back a top-100 prospect (and then some) in return.” Inarguably, there is still some upside to Berríos, some people will quickly remind you that Scherzer took time to become Scherzer, and his durability cannot be understated, but can he really net a “top-100 prospect and then some”? Let's take a look.
I went back to the last few seasons to find trades that involved starting pitchers who had the potential to make an immediate impact to a big league club. Before diving in, understand that no situation is going to be the same as contracts and years of team control can obviously vary, teams have been financially impacted by COVID-19, and the current CBA expires in December. All that said, it’s not completely apples and oranges to look at previous trades and I’d think teams would use that to help establish the market for Berríos.
Padres acquire RHP Mike Clevinger, OF Greg Allen and a PTBN from the Indians for C Austin Hedges, 1B/OF Josh Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, SS Gabriel Arias, IF Owen Miller and LHP Joey Cantillo
Clevinger has had a much better, yet shorter, career compared to Berríos while also having an extra year of team control at the time of this trade, but on the flipside he’s also three-and-a-half years older than José. Even considering the age difference and now knowing that Clevinger is out with Tommy John surgery, I think most would take Clevinger over Berríos in a heartbeat. This deal included two young, MLB ready guys in Naylor and Quantrill but none of Arias, Miller, and Cantillo were or are currently top-100 guys, although Quantrill was as high as #38 back in 2017.
Astros acquire SP Zack Greinke and $25MM from D-backs for Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas, Corbin Martin, and Josh Rojas
Age is a big difference here, but the Astros were acquiring a former Cy Young and gold glove winner, bonafide ace, who still had two-and-a-half years left on his contract and received about a third of his remaining salary from the Diamondbacks. At the time of the deal, Seth Beer was the only top-100 prospect (coming in at #96) and entering the 2021 season none of the prospects the Diamondbacks received are ranked in the top-100 although three of the four are currently in the organizations top-30 prospects.
Marlins trade SP Trevor Richards and RP Nick Anderson to Rays for opener Ryne Stanek and OF prospect Jesús Sánchez
I almost view this trade as Richards for Sánchez as Anderson and Stanek were pretty equal, although comparing the two relievers minor league track record shows that Anderson maybe has the higher upside. Anyway, at the time of this trade, Richards had 45 starts under his belt, looked to be less talented than Berríos, but still had five plus years of team control before becoming a free agent. By giving up the two better players in the deal, the Marlins received the 51st best prospect in all of baseball in Sánchez but is currently unranked after batting .040 in 25 big league at-bats in 2020.
Marlins trade SP Zac Gallen to D-backs for SS prospect Jazz Chisholm
At the time of this deal, Gallen was emerging as a promising young arm for the Marlins sporting an ERA under 3 and a K/9 north of 10 and on the previous day had limited the bomba squad to one homerun over seven innings while striking out eight. He still had six plus years of team control and In return the Marlins received the 54th best prospect in baseball in Chisholm whose time clock hadn’t yet started as he had only reached AA. Now, Chisholm is competing for the NL Rookie of the Year with an OPS of .817 and wRC+ of 127.
Mets trade SP Marcus Stroman and $1.55MM in cash to Blue Jays for Minor League pitchers Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson
At the time of the deal, Stroman was having the best year of his career and was in the some spot as Berríos having one plus year of team control left before being a restricted free agent. Comparatively, Berríos and Stroman have had similar careers although Stroman strikes out and walks less batters while also being less susceptible to the long ball. In return, the Blue Jays received two prospects who were outside of the top-100 at the time of the deal, but to this point Woods-Richardson is the 74th ranked prospect in baseball while Kay has struggled in his first 52.2 big league innings.
A’s acquire LHP Mike Minor from the Rangers for Dustin Harris, Marcus Smith, and $133K of international slot bonus money
Stick with me here...I promise I’m not trolling the Berríos stan’s with this one…
By age and contract, Mike Minor (32) and Jose Berríos are not super comparable BUT (here’s the kicker, for me) statistically they have been nearly the same pitcher throughout their careers and, moreover, ZiPS projects in two years Berríos will still basically be Mike Minor.
Minor Career (thru 08/31/2020)
3.98 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
Career: 4.05 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
ZiPs 2023: 3.97 FIP, 9.22 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
Minor, who was just a one month rental for the A’s, had a pretty poor 2020 which obviously hurt his trade value and thus didn’t even net two players that are ranked in the Rangers Top 30, let alone Major League Baseball’s Top-100. Moreover, the $133K in international slot bonus money obviously helps but doesn’t move the needle a ton either. Undoubtedly, a deal involving Berríos will net more than this but I thought it was interesting to see how similar these two pitchers are, and I think it really just proves Matthew Taylor’s original claim that we need to trade Berríos now.
That said, after analyzing recent trades I don’t think I can confidently predict the Twins “should bring back a top-100 prospect (and then some) in return” just for Berríos. In the deals that netted a top-100 prospect there was more at play than simply getting a young-ish pitcher with a year plus of team control left:
Greinke is far superior to Berríos yet still only netted the #96 prospect in baseball, among other pieces.
Marlins sent high-ceiling reliever Nick Anderson to sweeten the deal for the Rays.
Gallen was much younger, had many more years of team control remaining, and had pitched almost as well through his first seven starts as Berríos ever has in any seven start stretch of his career.
Two years after the deal was completed, the Blue Jays can claim they received a top-100 prospect from the Mets.
Especially with the unknown of the next CBA and the 2022 season, I think it’s realistic to think the Twins are going to need to add at least one additional sem-impactful piece (hmm...maybe a rent-a-reliever???) to a deal with Berríos to net a top-100 prospect. Next week, I will look into the teams that may be interested in a Berríos deal and some prospects the Twins could receive in return.
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