gman reacted to LA VIkes Fan for a blog entry, Enlow Stays IWth Twins
MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that Blayne Enlow passed through waivers and has been outrighted to AA. I thought he might be part of a trade package or get picked up by a lesser team. Guess the FO knew better than I or many of us here did. I don't like everything they do but you have to give them props when they take a calculated risk and it works out.
gman reacted to jlarson for a blog entry, Tony Gwynn 2.0?
The Minnesota Twins have recently re-signed Carlos Correa if you have yet to hear. Re-sparked trade rumors surrounding Max Kepler and Luis Arraez are swirling. I understand packaging these two players to acquire a high-end starting pitcher. I would have to be mesmerized by a deal to trade Arraez. His abilities and skillset are too unique.
Here are the top 10 comparisons on baseball-reference.com and when they played Major League Baseball.
Fred Tenney (1894 – 1909 and 1911)
Jo-Jo Moore (1930 – 1941)
Roger Bresnahan (1897 and 1900 – 1915)
Ethan Allen (1926 – 1938)
Arnold Statz (1919 – 1928)
Sam West (1927 – 1942)
Tony Gwynn (1982 – 2001)
Jim O'Rourke (1872 – 1893)
Gene Robertson (1919 – 1930)
Rich Rollins (1961 – 1970)
Of the ten players listed, three are Hall of Famers, and one, Tony Gwynn, is considered by many to be one of the purest hitters of the 1980s and 1990s.
Let's also notice each of these player comparisons eras. Some, like Jim O'Rourke, played in the Pre-1900 era when overhand pitching became legalized in 1872. The rules we understand today were absent when Jim O'Rouke played.
Others like Fred Tenney and Roger Bresnahan played in the Dead Ball Era between 1901-1920, when spitballs were allowed, and they used one ball per game. Fred Tenney and Roger Bresnahan probably could not even see the ball after their first at-bat.
Players like Jo-Jo Moore, Ethan Allen, Arnold Statz, Sam West, and Gene Robertson played in the Live Ball Era, which began in the 1920s and saw an increase in home runs and changes in the baseball ball used.
Rich Rollins played in the Expansion Era when the number of teams in MLB expanded from 16 to 24.
And then there is Tony Gwynn. Compare Tony Gwynns and Luis Arraez through their age-25 season.
If Luis Arraez has more plate appearances, he is right with Tony Gwynn for hits. Tony Gwynn had 559 hits in 1889 plate appearances. Arraez checks in with 444 hits in 1569 place appearances.
When comparing Arraez to these players, it's clear that there's something very unique about him. Is he a unicorn in the modern game, and we have not seen a hitter like him not named Tony Gwynn since nearly the turn of the century?
Is his skill set not well suited for the modern game, and he won't be able to sustain being the same player in the future? In other words, is his value at its all-time high?
Wouldn't it be fun to find out exactly what we are seeing? Is it Tony Gwynn 2.0 or Rich Rollings 2.0? Like everything in life, it's probably somewhere in between, but I want to watch it play out in a Twins uniform.
gman reacted to jimbo92107 for a blog entry, Louie Varland looks real
He's not a downward plane kinda pitcher, more like Cole Sands in that his whole delivery seems to happen down low. Louie Varland looks legit to me. When I saw his compact delivery, it reminded me a little of Bartolo Colon, who looked like a converted catcher. The tight snap from behind the ear, no big, loopy wind-up, is a style that works well for some good pitchers, like Grienke. The quick delivery and up-tempo pace will help him surprise some hitters, who are accustomed to a more relaxed pace. Less time between pitches means less time for the hitter to process the pitching sequence and predict the next one. That and the compact delivery also means less time for a runner to read the pitcher's move to home...or not.
One thing that really impressed me was his K of Judge in the first. Got him with a beautiful diving change that caught the inside corner. He could throw a dozen of those to Judge, and I bet the guy still couldn't straighten that one out. Especially if he also can zip a heater high in the zone just previous. Point is, it looks to me like Varland can do just that. His command of several pitches is better than Joe Ryan's, not counting Ryan's heater, which is his one great pitch. Varland doesn't appear to have one great pitch, but he's got several very good ones, which bodes well.
If his arm doesn't fall off, keep this young stud in the rotation. Twins have found themselves another good young pitcher.
gman reacted to Canton Clark for a blog entry, An Unconventional Trade Target
Clearly the Twins focus with the deadline in less than 2 weeks is pitching. Starters, Bullpen, literally any form of pitching would help.
We’ve all mocked up lists that feature candidates we think would be the best fits. Trade packages that include X player for Y. I wanted to dig a little deeper and see if there were any players that haven’t been mentioned on any of these lists.
Andrew Nardi, a 6'3 left-handed, 23-year-old pitching prospect currently in the Miami Marlins organization was the name I found. Drafted in the 16rd of the 2019 draft out of Arizona, Nardi has never been a top prospect. Never been on any top 30 prospect lists at all.
Yes, I understand this is obviously not a conventional trade target for contending teams at the deadline ... 99.9% (maybe even 100%) of the time you’re trading for a late inning reliever, who has a proven track record, and you can plug in with confidence day 1.
Nardi has a resume that reads blank when you look at baseball reference on the major league level tab.
In fact he's not even on the 40 man roster. So yes, this could be a horrible idea to throw out there. But while everyone is zigging, lets zag and think like the Rays, who somehow finding pitching out of no where every year.
Anyways, ill try and frame up why it might be worth a shot.
Nardi pitches from a 3 quarter slot and works mainly between a Fastball that sits 95-96 and a Slider that ranges anywhere from 82-85. He also does mix in a Curveball.
He started at AA to begin the 2022 season and was promoted May 13th to AAA after posting a 1.40 ERA in 19 IP with 31 K's.
His success after the promotion has continued at AAA and he's been pretty much just dominating all year....
Opponents are hitting .092 ... Yes, 0.92. The Marlins, who are facing a ton of tough decisions regarding the rule 5 draft this winter, don't exactly have a great, or even good bullpen, so it's safe to say if he was on the 40 man roster, he'd have been called up by now.
Anyways, to sum up just how dominate Nardi has been, here are the players between AA and AAA, under the age of 23 that meet the following criteria:
Max BB/9 of 4.0 Min K/9 of 10 MIN SWST% of 19%
It's a small sample size, but you cannot completely dismiss it.
Baseball America's midseason update has 4 of those pitching prospects in the top 25 overall rankings, all 5 are in the top 100.
Shane Baz - 2nd Eury Perez - 9th Daniel Espino - 15th Bryan Bello - 24th Logan Allen - 96th
Again, Its not exactly a perfect comparison. These prospects are all currently starters and project to be starters at the next level. The counterpoint to that as well though is none of those 5 prospects are a sure fire thing to end up being starters.
With that said, it's absolutely noteworthy that the results Nardi is currently getting in the upper minors is on par with results Baseball America takes note of when ranking the elite of the elite in the next wave of young pitching.
To sum it up, If fantasy world works out and you hit on this trade and Nardi turns out being the next Andrew Miller, you look like a genius. Nardi becomes a staple next to Duran for the next 6 years and your backend of the pen is top of the league.
Again, fantasy world.
Obviously for all we know Andrew Nardi might not even be available in a trade. Nardi could just be on some insane stretch of pitching. But, for an organization with very few remaining options internally and a trade market that could feature more buyers than usual, its an interesting idea for a player that may cost very little.
Fun fact - he struck out Tim Anderson while he was on a rehab assignment earlier this year.
gman reacted to Melissa Berman for a blog entry, Power Rankings Roundup
To me, power rankings are only legitimate if I agree with them.
Alright, that's a little flippant, but the Twins are getting mixed amount of love in the power rankings so far. MLB's latest power rankings have them at 14th. The Tampa Bay Rays, who the Twins handled with ease this past weekend, are at #8 on their list. Yahoo Sports has the Twins in 11th, CBS sports has the Twins in 9th, and the Athletic has the Twins in the 10th spot.
Fox Sports MLB Analyst and brother of a certain MLB pitcher Ben Verlander has the Twins in the 9th spot on his rankings. He has been very vocally high on the Twins lately too, both on his Twitter and his podcast. Top 10? Now that's more like it.
The Twins have won 9 of the last 10 games and their roll is becoming reminiscent of their early 2000s heyday. They have the biggest division lead in baseball. For those who have the Twins ranked outside the top 10, what more do they want to see? Based on the events of this past weekend, the Rays should not be ahead of the Twins on any ranking.
The argument keeping the Twins out of the top 10 is that the Twins supposedly have not played good teams so far. But the Twins have the 9th highest winning percentage in the MLB and 4 of its first 6 series were against 2021 playoff teams. And they are a completely different team than what we saw in that Dodgers series (we don't need to further speak about that one) and even vs the Mariners, a series in which the Twins split. The Twins offense is on par with their lights-out pitching: Byron Buxton is back, Carlos Correa just has his best series as a Twin, and the Twins are calling up some top prospects like Jose Miranda. The Twins could also be battling against last year's reputation, and outlets are waiting to if the 2022 Twins are the real deal.
As we know, power rankings really don't matter very much. But it does feel nice to be recognized, and it seems the Twins are deserving of a bit more praise than they have been bestowed thus far by some outlets (looking at you, MLB's rankings). The upcoming series against the Orioles and Athletics likely won't do much to convince the experts that the Twins have played some high-quality opponents, but us who are following the team know what we're seeing. The recognition will follow.
gman reacted to Doctor Gast for a blog entry, BTV
BTV stands for Baseball Trade Values. It's a website that gives a trade value on every single ball player in the system, where you can put together a fantasticized trade and when posted are given a chance to accept or deny those trades. Although they're not perfect, they give you a good consenses of a player's worth in a trade by reading reports, talking to scouts and managers.
Like every real life trade, you can't just balance the value but you need to figure in the need, undetermined variables and how it effects the 40 man roster. That said I reject about 90% of the Twins proposed trades because they don't meet my criteria. Yet it's fun to research teams to see where their needs are and if they have anyone who'd fit our needs and what it would take put together a reasonable trade.
I know some don't like it but I think it's a nice tool to put together a "in the ballpark" trade suggestion.
gman reacted to Doc Munson for a blog entry, Twins will change MLB in 2022
The Minnesota Twins this year are in position to change MLB!!
For a team that has claimed a desire to contend in 2022 it has very little in the way of pitching, and has shown little to no interest in the FA agent crop of pitchers. SO how can a team with current starters slotted in as Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan, and Bailey Ober?
Dylan Bundy has only thrown over 162 innings twice in his career and that was 2017-2018. and coming off seasons of 65 (Covid) and 90 innings. He cannot be counted on to take on a bunch of innings.
Joe Ryan has never thrown over 123 innings... ZERO in 2020 (covid) and just 92 between AAA & MLB last year. even a 50% increase is still less than 150 innings.
Bailey Ober never threw more than 80 innigns in any season prior to last year when he set a highwater mark of 92 innigns between minors and MLB. again another 50% increase get to only 150 innings.
So the three pitchers we have on our team assuming 32 starts per year will pitch les than 5 innings on average.
Our minor league pitching that is near MLB ready or MLB ready are...
Jordan Balazovic... 23... coming off career high 97 innings
Jhoan Duran... 24... coming off injury 100IP in 2018 & 115 IP 2019 but 0 2020 and just 16 in 2021.
Simeon Woods Richardson... 21... innings max of 106 in 2019 with 0 in 2020 and 53 in 2021
Josh Winder... 25... a respectable 125 IP in 2019 but again 0 in 2020 and 72 in 2021
Matt Canterino... 24... never more than 25 in his 3 seasons including 23 in 2021
Drew Strotman... 25... finally cracked 100 after never throwing more than 50 IP with 112 in 2021.
SO... you see most of our prospects are at the age where they should be contributing to a MLB (usualyl 23, 24) this includes. Balazovic, Duran, Winder, Canterino, Strotman.
This all begs the question... How do we get these guys to the big leagues before they are "too old" But yet not ONE indiviudally seems fully ready by if nothign else at least pitch/innings count to be a starting pitcher full time?
Sure, we can move a couple to the bullpen. BUT on a team like the Twins, who love analytics, and seemingly never let their pitchers face a batter a third time, you will see the Twins go with 1, MAYBE 2 traditional starters (once we resign Pineda) and the rest will be piggy backed pitching "teams"
Twins will have 8 starters. with the #3, #4, #5 starters all pitching in the "buddy system" with each one going a max of 4 innings. The theory being that if each starter can go 4 innings, then that leaves just 1 inning for the back of the bullpen to take care of, so as a result you do not need a ton of relievers. You just have your top 3 power arms in the bullpen.
So you have a pitching 13 man pitching staff of 8 starters, 3 back end relievers and 2 "wild cards" or specialists.
This is a move I HATE!!! but this WILL happen in 2022, and the sad thing as I want the Twins to succeed, then I have to want this to succeed, and if it does then in the copy cat league we have, more teams will do it and we will lose more and more of "traditional" ball.
gman reacted to Franz for a blog entry, Bring on the kids
In my first-ever blog entry, I implied that the Twins couldn't compete for a playoff spot. Moreover, I think they shouldn't worry about it. However, I don't think that means they have to give up on playing competitive baseball...putting a team on the field that fans are willing, even eager to watch. Nothing would make me happier than to watch some high-level prospects test themselves against major league pitchers and hitters. Besides, it gives the team a chance to test the limits of their young talent. Jose Miranda hit 30 homers last year at two different levels in an abbreviated season...so what does he have left to prove there? Why not see how that translates to the bigs, and at the same time let him show if his glove will play.
So, my preferred veteran core is:
Byron Buxton - CF - Signed through 2028 Jorge Polanco - 2B - Signed through 2025 (including team option) Josh Donaldson - 3B - Signed through 2024 (including team option) Mitch Garver - C - Arbitration eligible through 2023 Miguel Sano - DH - Signed through 2023 (including team option) That leaves four positions to fill, plus (in this day of crowded bullpens) at least three spots for capable backups. For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to ignore the 40 man roster and assume no trades or free agent signings occur before the start of the season. Ages listed below are for opening day.
LF - Austin Martin (23) By most accounts Austin Martin's bat is ready, while his glove may never be adequate for SS. His games were about equally split between SS and CF last year, and with CF blocked by Buxton, why not make the transition now. I've got two real reaches in this lineup (see also SS below), and I'm not expecting Martin to be on the opening day roster; he has only 418 professional plate appearances and will turn 23 just before opening day. That said, I think there is a real need to get him significant experience in the bigs this year. RF - Alex Kirilloff (24) Check the spelling twice, and make sure that name is written into the lineup as much as possible. Obviously Kirilloff's spot on the roster is secure after last year's showing, and while many have him slotted in as our first baseman of the future, I would prefer to see him get a serious look in the outfield during 2022 and start learning the finer points of playing bounces off the limestone in RF. Given our prospective pitching staff, there will be plenty of them. Why not Max Kepler, you ask? I haven't given up on Max, but I firmly believe that it is best to give a young player the majority of his games at a single position, giving him one (or two!) less things to worry about. So let's first see if Kirilloff has the speed and arm to play that RF spot. SS - Nick Gordon (26) It's time for the Twins to either give Gordon a chance to stick at SS or move him. Pressed into service last year in CF, Gordon performed credibly, but surely they would like to see him as a SS after giving him most of his AAA games at the position in 2018 and 2019. He was a feel-good story (for part of) last year, but let's face it, he doesn't carry the bat to maintain an outfield position or 2B, where he is blocked anyway by a host of young OF's or by All Star Jorge Polanco. I think if you had asked the Twins in late 2019 who would be the opening day SS in 2022, they would have picked Royce Lewis. I certainly would have. However, with Lewis first losing 2020 to the pandemic and then losing 2021 to a torn ACL, I can't make a case where he is ready play at the major league level until he has at least seen significant innings at AA. Here's hoping his physical rehab from injury has gone well and he's ready to roar out of the gates and press Gordon (or whoever) for playing time by the second half of 2022. 1B - Jose Miranda (23) What more is there to prove at AAA? Miranda shouldn't be expected to duplicate (or even approximate) 2021 .973 OPS. But that's what this 'development' year is for...so these players can face major league pitching and learn to deal with the travel, the grind, the ups and downs of a 162 game season. With the versatility to spell Donaldson at 3B and Polanco at 2B, all Miranda needs to do at 1B is be a better fielder than Miguel Sano. It shouldn't take too long to see if that's the case. Backup C - Ryan Jeffers (24) There is no guarantee that the Twins sign Mitch Garver beyond 2023, and it's even less likely Garver would still be playing catcher in 2024 at age 33. Jeffers was a head-turner in 2020 and a head-scratcher in 2021, but I think it's reasonable to believe that he will take what he learned last year and turn himself into a better hitter. Unfortunately he and Garver both bat right handed. Much as I would hate to say goodbye to Garver's heart and intensity, I suspect he could draw attention (and a reasonable return) as a trade candidate by mid-season 2022, clearing the way for a future platoon of Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt. Backup OF - Max Kepler I'll come right out and say I'm not a big believer in super-utility players. Max can play all the OF positions and as the 4th OF he should get as many games as any of the regulars. Barring any long-term injuries, Rocco Baldelli will still rest the regulars 1-2 times per week, and Kepler should have the maturity to take the role in stride. Backup IF - Luis Arraez Yes, Arraez can play three infield positions, and corner outfield in a pinch. No, he's not going to win any games for you with his glove. But it's worth spotting a sub-par infielder in the lineup to give everybody a rest, particularly if he can produce runs. Arraez can also take Sano's spot as DH against tough righties. What is lacking in the above line-up? First of all, spots for Rooker and Larnach. I'm not a big believer in drafting relatively unathletic, hit-first prospects that are immediately relegated to the "we think he can play some corner OF, or perhaps 1B" log-jam. I don't track options closely but I assume both of these guys can ride the St Paul shuttle bus for another year in case of injuries. I don't think either of them should factor into the Twins' long term plans unless or until they show they can crush in the minors...and I mean 2021 Miranda-type numbers. Second, there is no reasonable backup shortstop without sliding Polanco over and slotting in Miranda or Arraez in his place, though I guess Martin could be pressed into service in an emergency. I guess that's the price you pay for a shortened bench (and a lengthened bullpen).
If you made it this far into my babbling, thanks for reading. I'm mostly writing this to sharpen my own thoughts and to pass the time on cold winter days now that the Minnesota pheasant season is over. But I'd love to hear your comments and critiques of my opinions.
gman reacted to Matt Braun for a blog entry, A Look Back At The Top Twins Prospects From 2011 (AKA... Yikes)
Recently I was messing around on MLB.com for no particularly good or suspicious reason when I stumbled upon their top prospects list. Now, we all are familiar with prospects because as Twins fans, they sometimes bring us more hope than the major league team. But even cooler than the updated top prospects list was an archived top prospects list from 2011 that included their top 50 prospects of the year along with top 10 lists for each team. An oh boy does nothing brew my fair-trade espresso like looking back at old prospects lists and chuckling at how their careers actually turned out. Guys like Machado, Harper, and Trout were all in the top 10 and have been excellent so far while guys like Jacob Turner, Martin Perez, and Shelby Miller haven’t quite lived up to their hype. Baseball is a funny game and how good of a prospect a player oftentimes does not correlate to major league success. So buckle in and get ready for some weird nostalgia. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2011/
I swear on my life that I didn’t plan this, but the news of Aaron Hicks’ new 7-year extension with the Yankees broke earlier this week and basically every part of that sentence just absolutely stings. Hicks was the OG toolsy centerfielder before Buxton was even in the picture and there was a lot to like about his game. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t end too well for us Twins fans; Hicks struggled in the majors for the Twins, was traded to the Yankees after the 2015 season for John Ryan Murphy, then struggled in 2016 for the Yankees before figuring it out in 2017 and is now coming off a fresh 4.9 fWAR season for the Yankees. There really isn’t any way that you can slice that trade that makes it look good for the Twins, but it does hurt a touch less considering how good the Twins OF is even without Hicks. And it makes me feel a little better if I think of it as a Hicks for Moya trade because good Lord, John Ryan Murphy was just awful for the Twins. Terry Ryan should have known not to trust a guy with 3 first names, but here we are. JRM was one of the worst Twins players I had ever seen and the only fond memory I have of him is when he got tossed in Houston after Jerry Layne’s ego got in the way of making a strike 3 call.
What an interesting career Gibson has had so far. Gibby was originally taken as a 1st round college arm in 2009 because the Twins philosophy at the time was “take college pitchers in the 1st to get them here as quick as possible”. Gibby took a little longer than expected due to getting Tommy John surgery late in 2011, but he eventually debuted in 2013. After some solid yet unspectacular seasons in 2014 and 2015, the metaphorical feces hit the fan in 2016 and the first half of 2017 for Gibby as his standard groundball special became obsolete and hitters started to tee off on the poor guy. After being sent to AAA in 2017 and changing how he pitched (along with probably “finding himself” or something equally deep), Gibby started to strike people out and he pitched well in the 2nd half of 2017. All of this led to a full breakout 2018 campaign at the ripe age of 30 for the converted groundball man and he looks to stabilize the rotation again in 2019.
Here we have yet another unusual career path because God forbid a Twins prospect develops normally into a quality MLB player without a speed bump or 7 along the way. Sano was one of the few good moves made by Bill Smith as he was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 as a 16-year-old (allegedly, according to Joe Simpson). He mashed through the minors before losing an entire year in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery but skipped AAA the next year and made his MLB debut in 2015. And oh boy did he make a debut. He absolutely mashed to the tune of a 149 wRC+ and was seemingly crushing clutch homers every single night. 2016 was less kind to Sano as he struggled with injuries and dumbassery when the Twins attempted to move him to RF to keep elite third baseman Trevor Plouffe on the roster. 2017 was kinder as he made the All-Star game but still struggled with injuries later in the season. 2018 was just absolutely turrible in the full Charles Barkley sense of the word for him but let’s not dwell on the past. Sano is still around as a 25-year-old (allegedly also to the dude who cares about that kind of thing) with All-Star upside but needs to have a good 2019 year to show that he can stick in the Twins’ future plans.
Oh man, Oswaldo Arcia, what a headache this guy was. All the talent in the world but couldn’t make contact, or hit the ball to left field, or field, or run… Really, it isn’t much of a surprise that this guy flamed out. Arcia is pretty much the cookie-cutter bust as he hung around for a few years with meh numbers and was finally DFA’d in 2016 when the team had enough finally. I mean seriously, when you can’t even make the 2016 Twins better, that isn’t a great sign for where you are skill-wise. Arcia bounced around to a number of teams that year and then chilled in Arizona’s minor league system in 2017 before going international to further his career. He was actually supposed to play in the AAA All-Star game in 2017 but didn’t end up going for some reason. I don’t know who would turn down a nice trip to Tacoma, Washington like that. Now we get to watch his brother, Orlando, do things for Milwaukee and then get the cold 1000-yard stare whenever the word “Arcia” is mentioned. Apparently, he signed a contract with a Mexican league team about 2 weeks ago, so that’s neat.
Y’all remember Joe Benson? This absolute legend has all of 74 major league plate appearances and holds a career wRC+ of 67. Benson was in the minor league system for the Twins for what felt like forever but never really got a major shot until 2011. Ironically enough, Benson lost the starting centerfield job to Aaron Hicks in 2013 during spring training and was placed on waivers later that year to make room for P.J. Walters. Benson bounced around some other minor league teams afterward and was last recorded as signing with the Chicago Dogs in Indy ball. Also, as a fun fact to use whenever at the bar, Benson’s first career hit came off of Max Scherzer, so use that for a pickup line whenever you need.
That was not a fun trip down memory lane, but I do think it is necessary for us to check our hype on prospects occasionally. As fans, we always expect the perfect outcomes for them as we envision them as future All-Stars who lock down the team for years to come, but the truth is, they don’t always pan out, and that was a big reason for the Twins struggles in the early Target Field era, the Twins couldn’t develop an actual prospect to save their life. Under the new regime, however, a great number of excellent coaches and modern technologies have been implemented to make sure the next wave of top prospects in Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and Brusdar Graterol, among others can succeed when they hit the majors.
gman reacted to Twins in 6 for a blog entry, We should Be Happy Darvish Signed Elsewhere
Now that we Twins fans have had a few days to take in (and get over) the fact that Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs we can start thanking the Falvey and Levine brain-trust for saving the Pohlad dollars. It’s easy to say “Darvish was never going to come here” or “the Pohlads were never going to cough up what it takes to sign a real star” but let’s think about this for a moment… Not signing Darvish was the smart move.
C.C. Sabathia could be a good comparison to look at as a predictor for what to expect from Darvish over the life of his new $126 million contract. Six seasons ago, Sabathia was entering his age 31 season (Darvish will be 31 the majority of this season) and had thrown 2,135 professional innings, roughly 100 fewer than Darvish has to this point. He had just finished fourth in the Cy Young voting the season prior and was widely regarded as one of the best pitchers in the game. Sabathia went on to throw exactly 200 innings, went 15-6 and had a 3.38 ERA. His peripheral stats showed that he earned those marks as his FIP was a solid 3.34 and his SO/W rate was the second best of his career at 4.48. Okay, we can chalk that one up as a win. So what’s the point here? Well how about C.C.’s next five seasons. Sabathia has averaged 173 innings over the past five seasons. Not terrible, but a far cry from what you’d expect from your frontline horse who’s making $20+ million a year. His Average ERA of 4.48 and FIP of 4.46 are okay for your fourth of fifth guy in the rotation (especially for our Twins) but are you going to live with that from your biggest free agent signing of all time? In the last five years, C.C. has only bested his career K/9 rate once, in 2014, but he also saw his WHIP balloon to 1.48 that season too. So looking over Sabathia’s past six seasons, one of them was what you’d expect from your ace, and the rest showed more like a guy at the back end of a lousy rotation. Felix Hernandez, another long time ace, entered his 30 year old season with 2263 major league innings and had just wrapped up his eighth season in a row of 200+ innings. He’s thrown 153 and 86 innings respectively the past two season with career worst FIP’s of 4.63 and 5.02. Even Jon Lester, Darvish’s new teammate took a step back to a 180 inning, 4.10 FIP season last year. He entered last season with 2004 innings pitched.
There is something to be said about the usage of these players. It’s one the reasons why Jake Arrieta could be argued to be a better free agent option than Yu Darvish was (1669 professional innings pitched). Players break down eventually, and Darvish has already shown signs that his arm may be nearing the end of its effective pitching life. Let’s not forget he had Tommy John in 2016.
Okay fine, comparisons aside there has got to be more reasons why not signing Darvish was a great decision. Darvish is his own guy, Tommy John isn’t the career ender that it used to be and there were plenty of good stats to pull from Darvish’s 2017. Fine, I get that. I’ll even concede that I would have loved to have Darvish on the Twins…. For a three year deal, four at most. Yu Darvish will be 37 years old when this deal with the Cubs is over. Go ahead and tell me a current 37 year old starter in the league today that you’d pay $18 million…. I’ll wait…. Zach Greinke is 34, and a case could be made for him to be worth that number in three years. Justin Verlander is 35 and could also have a case made to be worth that as well. Those guys are also Cy Young award winners who have not had Tommy John. On top of that Verlander just married Kate Upton, and having her at the ballpark alone has to sell a few seats, further lifting his value.
Let’s finish this talking about the Twins payroll situation. The Twins currently sit with just under $100 million committed, so clearly there is room to spend money. Not only that, but it’s been a big talking point for the last 6 months that they only have $39 million committed for 2019 and nothing in 2020. That’s the flexibility that a General Manager and President of Baseball Operations would drool over, and I’m sure somewhere Falvey and Levine are doing just that. But there’s a problem underlying all of that payroll flexibility. The Twins have guys by the names of Buxton, Rosario, Kepler, Berrios, and Polanco that will all need to be signed to contracts as some point. That doesn’t even include Sano, who could very well be at the top of the expense list depending on the results of his investigation and where the Twins decide to go with him (that’s for another post). On top of that, a decision has to be made with Dozier, and if that decision is to sign him, he won’t be on the same, ultra team friendly contract he’s currently signed to. This is still Minnesota, the Market hasn’t changed just because we have a new front office. The owners are the same and unless I missed something there haven’t been any signs that prove they are truly willing to aggressively increase spending. Teams with spending limits can’t afford to sign a guy to a six year deal that sees them making $18 million in the last year of the deal, they just can’t. Never mind the fact that Darvish will be at the end of his career by the time his new deal expires. Look at Joe Mauer’s contract. Say what you want, but his $23 million a year deal crippled the Twins flexibility. His deal made the Phil Hughes contract extension, and the Nolasco deal hurt that much more. When a guy takes up 20% or more of your payroll, you better hope he lives up to that contract for its entirety, or you end up with what we watched for the last handful of seasons at Target field.
Maybe Falvey and Levine are kicking themselves for not getting Darvish. Maybe they’re thinking, “shoot, we should have given that guy 8 years and the key to the city”. If they are, then my bad for believing we should thank them for not making the deal, but the fact of the matter is we should be happy they didn’t over invest in a guy who will no doubt under perform his contract. The Twins have saved themselves the payroll flexibility everyone covets and can now go after other options and sign their own players. Will they make this team better with the money that didn’t go to Darvish? Only time will tell but for now, lets be happy that 6 year $126 million contract is property of the Chicago Cubs.