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  1. Here’s the deal, Rob Manfred opened the floodgates and is allowing everyone and their dance partner into the Postseason. With a shortened 60-game sprint, there’s not going to be any significant distance between the top and bottom teams (except, well, sorry Pittsburgh). That means that with over 20 games to go teams with poor records aren’t incentivized enough to blow things up. A single hot streak could get you right back in the thick of things. Then you also have the added wrinkle of what is being swapped from the contenders. In a traditional year you’d have prospects moving to new homes in favor of proven big-league veterans. This year only players in the 60-man player pool are available to be traded. Guys outside of that group can be included in deals but must be done so as players to be named later or PTBNL. There’s also the reality that while Major League Baseball is making information from alternate sites available to clubs, there’s been no MiLB season and development in 2020 has likely been lackluster at best. Finally, consider that anyone being swapped could choose to opt out on their own volition, and well, we’re dealing with an incredible amount of volatility here. Now, back to Trevor Bauer. He’s the guy. Not Johnny Cueto, not Matt Boyd, and certainly not Lance Lynn. No, if the Minnesota Twins are set on bolstering their starting rotation for the Postseason the lone avenue to do so is grabbing an ace in the form of Bauer. He’s an impending free agent and currently playing on a prorated portion of a $17.5 million deal. He looks the part of a current National League Cy Young candidate, and he’s nuked 49 batters through his first 32.2 IP in 2020. After being largely mediocre for the first six years of his career, Bauer had a coming out party in 2018. He posted a 2.21 ERA and led the league with a 2.44 FIP. The Indians hurler made his first All-Star game and finished 6th in Cy Young voting. A slight step backwards in 2019 paved the way for where we are now. Bauer owns a dazzling 1.65 ERA, league leading 13.5 K/9, and also holds MLB best marks in WHIP (0.735) and H/9 (4.1). He’s always been a high strikeout guy, but command is now better than ever and he’s honed in on his stuff. Arguably the most interesting pitcher in baseball, Bauer certainly comes with his quirks. He was someone I misunderstood for a time in Cleveland but have now very much come to appreciate. It’s clear his intention is to grow the game and engage with fans. Through his , media company, and social media outlets, you may learn more about Trevor Bauer the person than you could ever understand about Trevor Bauer the baseball player. On top of that, it’s not an accident he’s a very good pitcher.As a Driveline disciple, Bauer works with his stuff as much as anyone in the game. His fastball sits at 93 mph this year, but it’s the spin and movement he puts on it that make him unhittable. He’s a nightly feature on Pitching Ninja peek-ins, and his results light up the Statcast leaderboards. In short, this is the pinnacle of what you seek to acquire or develop on the pitching front. Now let’s throw some water on all of this. The Cincinnati Reds are 11-16, but that’s just two games back in the win column from inclusion as the final Postseason participant in the National League. On top of that, the organization went in hard this offseason signing guys like Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. Those moves weren’t made with the idea of blowing it up just over 30 games into the season. If a deal is to be struck, it’s not going to come cheaply. While Bauer is a free agent at the end of the year, and he’s more than made it clear his intention is to go year-by-year the rest of his career, the Reds will want a healthy return right now. Minnesota has significant ammo with top prospects galore at their alternate site, but what price is too steep for a guy that may not be around a few months from now? Derek Falvey certainly has a familiar relationship with Bauer given their time together in the Indians organization. Maybe even Twins Daily can broker the deal with Bauer’s agent Rachel Luba having been featured among the Women in Baseball series. No matter what level of comfort however, the uncertainty regarding a move now, and how little value it may provide down the road, should be reason for all parties to pause. At the end of the day, Bauer is probably a pipe dream. There’s a reason Cueto is seen as the most likely prize on the starting pitching market. However, if it’s the rotation Minnesota wants to work on, there’s only one way for the organization to take a big step forward. It’s with the guy who plays with drones and mows down the opposition. Plus, the season series with the Royals is done, so we won’t have to worry about him sending anything the rest of the way. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. Over the coming week we’ll take a look which teams are buyers and sellers and who the Twins could look to acquire. We’ll start with the teams in the National League West division. STANDINGS Los Angeles Dodgers - 66-29 Colorado Rockies - 56-41 (11 games back) Arizona Diamondbacks - 54-40 (11.5 games back) San Diego Padres - 40-54 San Francisco Giants - 37-59 As things sit right now, the Rockies and Diamondbacks are the two Wild Card teams. The Cubs are currently five games out of the second Wild Card spot. We know they’ll make some moves, so will Colorado and Arizona be willing to add some players? THE BUYERS If the Twins decide to sell, which would be disappointing as things stand today (but may be different in a week), the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks could be calling. Brian Dozier, Brandon Kintzler and Ervin Santana will be the primary names tossed around (no surprise). The Dodgers wouldn’t trade Cody Bellinger for Brian Dozier in the offseason. I’m guessing he’s not available at this point either. THE SELLERS As of right now, the Twins should be leaning toward buying, and if that’s the case, the Padres and the Giants are teams that should be looking to sell. I assume that the Twins have already had discussions with the GMs from both teams. So, who could be on the table? The Padres While the Twins front office has indicated that it isn’t as interested in acquiring rental players (guys who will be free agents at the end of the season), those types of players can be had without getting rid of as big of a prospect, so they can’t be completely ignored. The Padres have a few starters who are likely very available. All three are free agents at the end of the season. Clayton Richard (33), who the Twins were said to be at least somewhat interested in before the season, has been terrible. He’s got a 4.75 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP through 19 starts. Jhoulys Chacin (29) has been mediocre. He’s got a 4.33 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP .He’s got 92 strikeouts in 108 innings. Trevor Cahill (29) missed two months earlier in the season, but he’s been pretty good since his return. He’s got a 3.38 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. In 50.2 innings, he walked 19 and struck out 63. I mean, if you want, you could go after Jered Weaver who has an ERA way over 7 and a WHIP near 1.50. He’s also been on the disabled list. He also throws 82 mph. Of course, the Big Fish of the Padres is Chaska native, left-handed reliever Brad Hand. He was a deserving All-Star this year and he’s controllable for at least another two years beyond 2017. Recently, the Padres made it known that they want and expect a return for Hand similar to what the Phillies got to Ken Giles. That is to say a package of three or four players, including a top prospect or two. The Giants The Giants have probably been the biggest disappointment in baseball this season. They have a top-5 payroll and have been unable to get things rolling at all in 2017. So they would likely love to make some trades and push toward 2018. While there will be some position players, like Denard Span or even Brandon Crawford at the right price, the Twins focus should primarily be pitching. The Giants have pitchers with names, and big contracts. Johnny Cueto’s name has not really surfaced in rumors, but he would cost a team approximately $22 million a year through the 2021 season (and a team option for 2022) along with a haul of prospects. The 31-year-old is 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA and a career-high (by a long shot) 3.2 walks per nine innings. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been discussed in rumors as several teams have inquired about him. He is owed about $19.5 million for the next two seasons. He is 4-11 with a 4.86 ERA this season. While he hasn’t been particularly good for the last three seasons (posting ERA+ of 79, 104 and 85), he does eat a ton of innings. He’s posted over 200 innings four straight years and is on pace to be close to that number again. Speaking of long-term contracts that didn’t work out well, Matt Cain was a top pitcher for the Giants for several years. Then he signed a six-year, $127.5 million contract and has been hurt a majority of the time since. He’s healthy this year, and his 5.49 ERA would be his lowest in three years. However, his 1.67 WHIP makes the 32-year-old pretty Colon-like. He can become a free agent at season’s end. The intriguing name in the Giants rotation might just be Matt Moore. He was one of the top prospects in baseball (he, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were consensus Top 3 guys) with the Rays. He went 17-4 in 2013. They signed him to a team-friendly deal soon after he debuted. early in 2014, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed most of that season and over half of 2015 as well. Last year, the Rays traded him to the Giants. This year, he is 3-10 with a 5.81 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP. He’s got options for 2018 at $9 million and 2019 at $10 million. So, while he’s been pretty bad this year, he just turned 28 in June. If pro scouts believe that he is healthy and still has some stuff, Moore could be a relatively inexpensive option for two more years. I can’t imagine the prospect-return on any of these guys would be real high due to their contract size and/or performance this year. Evaluators just need to determine what they have left and whether or not they could help the team. Personally, Moore is the only one that is relatively intriguing. As for bullpen arms, the one interesting name might be Sam Dyson. He was good last year, but he began this year just terrible for the Texas Rangers. They let him go, and the Giants signed him. In 15 games, he has an ERA of 2.76 in 16.1 innings in San Francisco. He’s recorded five saves, taking over closer duties since Mark Melancon has been on the DL. Could he be available for cheap? Other Relievers: George Kontos, Cory Gearrin. SUMMARY There is a clear team at the top in the Dodgers who have proven they aren’t afraid to spend money. They have a smart front office that hasn’t been willing to just hand away prospects, but they could be buyers. Both the Diamondbacks and Rockies have been surprises in 2017. If the season ended now, which would be unfortunate for fans, they would both be wild card teams. They may have some interest in acquiring some additional talent at the deadline, particularly bullpen help. Meanwhile, winning teams will be frequently calling the Giants and Padres as those teams have been out of contention for quite some time already. Players are available. There are some big names who will be in the rumors, but the clear choice for best player available from the division is Brad Hand, and the steep asking price illustrates that well. What do you think? Could there be a match with the Twins somewhere in the NL West?
  3. We are less than two weeks away from the July 31 trade deadline. It is still fair to question whether the Twins are going to be buyers or sellers, both or neither at the deadline. They are 3-3 in six games against the Astros (1-2) and Yankees (2-1) and have stayed above .500. They are a half a game behind Cleveland in the American League Central, and they are half a game behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot. So who are the players that might be available in a trade?Over the coming week we’ll take a look which teams are buyers and sellers and who the Twins could look to acquire. We’ll start with the teams in the National League West division. STANDINGS Los Angeles Dodgers - 66-29 Colorado Rockies - 56-41 (11 games back) Arizona Diamondbacks - 54-40 (11.5 games back) San Diego Padres - 40-54 San Francisco Giants - 37-59 As things sit right now, the Rockies and Diamondbacks are the two Wild Card teams. The Cubs are currently five games out of the second Wild Card spot. We know they’ll make some moves, so will Colorado and Arizona be willing to add some players? THE BUYERS If the Twins decide to sell, which would be disappointing as things stand today (but may be different in a week), the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks could be calling. Brian Dozier, Brandon Kintzler and Ervin Santana will be the primary names tossed around (no surprise). The Dodgers wouldn’t trade Cody Bellinger for Brian Dozier in the offseason. I’m guessing he’s not available at this point either. THE SELLERS As of right now, the Twins should be leaning toward buying, and if that’s the case, the Padres and the Giants are teams that should be looking to sell. I assume that the Twins have already had discussions with the GMs from both teams. So, who could be on the table? The Padres While the Twins front office has indicated that it isn’t as interested in acquiring rental players (guys who will be free agents at the end of the season), those types of players can be had without getting rid of as big of a prospect, so they can’t be completely ignored. The Padres have a few starters who are likely very available. All three are free agents at the end of the season. Clayton Richard (33), who the Twins were said to be at least somewhat interested in before the season, has been terrible. He’s got a 4.75 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP through 19 starts. Jhoulys Chacin (29) has been mediocre. He’s got a 4.33 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP .He’s got 92 strikeouts in 108 innings. Trevor Cahill (29) missed two months earlier in the season, but he’s been pretty good since his return. He’s got a 3.38 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. In 50.2 innings, he walked 19 and struck out 63. I mean, if you want, you could go after Jered Weaver who has an ERA way over 7 and a WHIP near 1.50. He’s also been on the disabled list. He also throws 82 mph. Of course, the Big Fish of the Padres is Chaska native, left-handed reliever Brad Hand. He was a deserving All-Star this year and he’s controllable for at least another two years beyond 2017. Recently, the Padres made it known that they want and expect a return for Hand similar to what the Phillies got to Ken Giles. That is to say a package of three or four players, including a top prospect or two. The Giants The Giants have probably been the biggest disappointment in baseball this season. They have a top-5 payroll and have been unable to get things rolling at all in 2017. So they would likely love to make some trades and push toward 2018. While there will be some position players, like Denard Span or even Brandon Crawford at the right price, the Twins focus should primarily be pitching. The Giants have pitchers with names, and big contracts. Johnny Cueto’s name has not really surfaced in rumors, but he would cost a team approximately $22 million a year through the 2021 season (and a team option for 2022) along with a haul of prospects. The 31-year-old is 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA and a career-high (by a long shot) 3.2 walks per nine innings. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been discussed in rumors as several teams have inquired about him. He is owed about $19.5 million for the next two seasons. He is 4-11 with a 4.86 ERA this season. While he hasn’t been particularly good for the last three seasons (posting ERA+ of 79, 104 and 85), he does eat a ton of innings. He’s posted over 200 innings four straight years and is on pace to be close to that number again. Speaking of long-term contracts that didn’t work out well, Matt Cain was a top pitcher for the Giants for several years. Then he signed a six-year, $127.5 million contract and has been hurt a majority of the time since. He’s healthy this year, and his 5.49 ERA would be his lowest in three years. However, his 1.67 WHIP makes the 32-year-old pretty Colon-like. He can become a free agent at season’s end. The intriguing name in the Giants rotation might just be Matt Moore. He was one of the top prospects in baseball (he, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were consensus Top 3 guys) with the Rays. He went 17-4 in 2013. They signed him to a team-friendly deal soon after he debuted. early in 2014, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed most of that season and over half of 2015 as well. Last year, the Rays traded him to the Giants. This year, he is 3-10 with a 5.81 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP. He’s got options for 2018 at $9 million and 2019 at $10 million. So, while he’s been pretty bad this year, he just turned 28 in June. If pro scouts believe that he is healthy and still has some stuff, Moore could be a relatively inexpensive option for two more years. I can’t imagine the prospect-return on any of these guys would be real high due to their contract size and/or performance this year. Evaluators just need to determine what they have left and whether or not they could help the team. Personally, Moore is the only one that is relatively intriguing. As for bullpen arms, the one interesting name might be Sam Dyson. He was good last year, but he began this year just terrible for the Texas Rangers. They let him go, and the Giants signed him. In 15 games, he has an ERA of 2.76 in 16.1 innings in San Francisco. He’s recorded five saves, taking over closer duties since Mark Melancon has been on the DL. Could he be available for cheap? Other Relievers: George Kontos, Cory Gearrin. SUMMARY There is a clear team at the top in the Dodgers who have proven they aren’t afraid to spend money. They have a smart front office that hasn’t been willing to just hand away prospects, but they could be buyers. Both the Diamondbacks and Rockies have been surprises in 2017. If the season ended now, which would be unfortunate for fans, they would both be wild card teams. They may have some interest in acquiring some additional talent at the deadline, particularly bullpen help. Meanwhile, winning teams will be frequently calling the Giants and Padres as those teams have been out of contention for quite some time already. Players are available. There are some big names who will be in the rumors, but the clear choice for best player available from the division is Brad Hand, and the steep asking price illustrates that well. What do you think? Could there be a match with the Twins somewhere in the NL West? Click here to view the article
  4. Something drastic will need to be done in order to keep this team relevant. The front office turnover made some waves, but it was followed by a typically quiet offseason for the Twins. To be fair, with a free agent pitching class "headlined" by Rich Hill and Ivan Nova, this wasn't the winter to make a huge signing. Next offseason it'll be a different story, however, and the Twins should be in a great position to make a big splash. Can't imagine the Pohlad's approving a marquee signing? Well, they have very little money tied up beyond 2018, so there should be plenty of room in the budget. The only guys signed through the 2019 season are Phil Hughes ($13.2M), Jason Castro ($8M) and ByungHo Park ($3M). So without further ado, let's play my favorite game: Spend the Pohlad Family's Money! MLB Trade Rumors released its top 10 free agents for the 2017-18 off season this week, and the class looks to be flush with starting pitching. The list is topped by Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Johnny Cueto and Masahiro Tanaka. It's worth noting that both Cueto and Tanaka would have to opt out of their current contracts to become free agents, and it's possible between now and then one of those top guys signs an extension. None of those big four free agents has even turned 32 yet, with 28-year-old Tanaka being the youngest. Arrieta was a Cy Young winner in 2015 and both Darvish (2013) and Cueto (2014) have a runner-up finish for the award. I'm drooling just at the thought of any one of these guys in a Twins jersey, but each of them will command a hefty salary and all have some questions to answer in 2017. Arrieta looked human from June on last season, posting a 4.05 ERA, then had a 3.63 ERA in the playoffs. There are some durability concerns with both of the Japanese imports, but at least we know Darvish's UCL has been repaired. Tanaka had an elbow injury in 2014, but he elected to forego surgery. Seems to have worked out for him, but that arm could be a ticking time bomb. Cueto has been a workhorse, but his underwhelming run with Kansas City in 2015 may cause AL teams to shy away. But even beyond that impressive foursome, is yet another group of less tantalizing, yet still intriguing names. Chris Tillman, Micheal Pineda and Alex Cobb are among that next tier, and could dramatically improve their stock this season. Here's a quick look at the numbers: LAST THREE SEASONS Arrieta: 2.42 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 2.55 BB/9 Darvish: 3.20 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 11.55 K/9, 2.94 BB/9 Cueto: 2.80 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.21 K/9, 2.08 BB/9 Tanaka: 3.12 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 8.18 K/9, 1.54 BB/9 Tillman: 3.99 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.68 K/9, 3.19 BB/9 Pineda: 4.10 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 1.77 BB/9 Cobb: 3.54 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 2.58 BB/9 Assuming the 2017 Twins put the worst season in franchise history behind them and look to be playoff contenders in 2018, which of these guys would you prefer? Would you pay top dollar, or wait out the market to see if there's a bargain? Or do you avoid free agency all together? Is it too early to be speculating on such things? Absolutely, but c'mon, let's have some fun. The guy I'd personally most like to see would be Darvish, and perhaps having Thad Levine around could be helpful in landing the strikeout machine. Levine was with the Rangers when they signed Darvish out of Japan, so he likely knows a thing or two about what makes the big righty tick. Even if the Twins can scrounge up the $150 or so million it'll cost to sign one of the top flight guys like Darvish, will they even want to come to Minnesota, or take less to play for a World Series contender? That's where Derek Falvey is going to have to earn his salary. Between now and next winter, he will need to get the franchise in good enough shape to be able to convincingly tell free agents "this team will be in the playoffs next season." The front office was apparently unable to deliver that message to Mike Napoli, who took less money and a shorter commitment to play for the Rangers. Continuing failure to attract free agents is going to result in a continuing failure to attract fan interest.
  5. The Gophers are (correction, were) in the Big Dance, the Wild are Stanley Cup contenders, even the Timberwolves are fighting for a playoff berth and 35,000 fans recently attended the first Major League Soccer game in Minnesota. The Twins, meanwhile, have averaged 94 losses the past six seasons, haven't won a single playoff game since 2004 and are expected to post another losing record in the season ahead. Opening Day is right around the corner, and they're essentially an afterthought in the Minnesota sports scene.Something drastic will need to be done in order to keep this team relevant. The front office turnover made some waves, but it was followed by a typically quiet offseason for the Twins. To be fair, with a free agent pitching class "headlined" by Rich Hill and Ivan Nova, this wasn't the winter to make a huge signing. Next offseason it'll be a different story, however, and the Twins should be in a great position to make a big splash. Can't imagine the Pohlad's approving a marquee signing? Well, they have very little money tied up beyond 2018, so there should be plenty of room in the budget. The only guys signed through the 2019 season are Phil Hughes ($13.2M), Jason Castro ($8M) and ByungHo Park ($3M). So without further ado, let's play my favorite game: Spend the Pohlad Family's Money! MLB Trade Rumors released its top 10 free agents for the 2017-18 off season this week, and the class looks to be flush with starting pitching. The list is topped by Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Johnny Cueto and Masahiro Tanaka. It's worth noting that both Cueto and Tanaka would have to opt out of their current contracts to become free agents, and it's possible between now and then one of those top guys signs an extension. None of those big four free agents has even turned 32 yet, with 28-year-old Tanaka being the youngest. Arrieta was a Cy Young winner in 2015 and both Darvish (2013) and Cueto (2014) have a runner-up finish for the award. I'm drooling just at the thought of any one of these guys in a Twins jersey, but each of them will command a hefty salary and all have some questions to answer in 2017. Arrieta looked human from June on last season, posting a 4.05 ERA, then had a 3.63 ERA in the playoffs. There are some durability concerns with both of the Japanese imports, but at least we know Darvish's UCL has been repaired. Tanaka had an elbow injury in 2014, but he elected to forego surgery. Seems to have worked out for him, but that arm could be a ticking time bomb. Cueto has been a workhorse, but his underwhelming run with Kansas City in 2015 may cause AL teams to shy away. But even beyond that impressive foursome, is yet another group of less tantalizing, yet still intriguing names. Chris Tillman, Micheal Pineda and Alex Cobb are among that next tier, and could dramatically improve their stock this season. Here's a quick look at the numbers: LAST THREE SEASONS Arrieta: 2.42 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 2.55 BB/9 Darvish: 3.20 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 11.55 K/9, 2.94 BB/9 Cueto: 2.80 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.21 K/9, 2.08 BB/9 Tanaka: 3.12 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 8.18 K/9, 1.54 BB/9 Tillman: 3.99 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.68 K/9, 3.19 BB/9 Pineda: 4.10 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 1.77 BB/9 Cobb: 3.54 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 2.58 BB/9 Assuming the 2017 Twins put the worst season in franchise history behind them and look to be playoff contenders in 2018, which of these guys would you prefer? Would you pay top dollar, or wait out the market to see if there's a bargain? Or do you avoid free agency all together? Is it too early to be speculating on such things? Absolutely, but c'mon, let's have some fun. The guy I'd personally most like to see would be Darvish, and perhaps having Thad Levine around could be helpful in landing the strikeout machine. Levine was with the Rangers when they signed Darvish out of Japan, so he likely knows a thing or two about what makes the big righty tick. Even if the Twins can scrounge up the $150 or so million it'll cost to sign one of the top flight guys like Darvish, will they even want to come to Minnesota, or take less to play for a World Series contender? That's where Derek Falvey is going to have to earn his salary. Between now and next winter, he will need to get the franchise in good enough shape to be able to convincingly tell free agents "this team will be in the playoffs next season." The front office was apparently unable to deliver that message to Mike Napoli, who took less money and a shorter commitment to play for the Rangers. Continuing failure to attract free agents is going to result in a continuing failure to attract fan interest. Click here to view the article
  6. The dominoes began to fall in terms of the market for starting pitchers when David Price signed with the Boston Red Sox earlier this week. There has been a flurry of moves in the aftermath, both in free agency and on the trade market, but one of the top options heading into the winter is still available: Johnny Cueto. With so many moves going down of late, it's starting to feel like Cueto may be running out of landing spots. Tuesday, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee took a look at potential destinations for the 29-year-old right-hander and came to the conclusion Minnesota would be an ideal fit. It's not that he feels particularly strongly about that opinion, however, calling it a dumb idea, but he defended it by saying Cueto to any team seems like a dumb idea at this point. Which is kinda true. The freshest images of Cueto in our minds is him being wildly inconsistent after a deadline move to Kansas City. But last I checked things worked out pretty well for those guys, though. In 13 regular season starts with the Royals, Cueto had a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. That was before October, when things got especially weird. He had a poor first start against the Astros in the ALDS, pitched a gem with his team facing elimination in Game 5 of that series, got absolutely shelled in an ALCS start against Toronto before pitching a complete game two hitter against the Mets in Game 2 of the World Series. Throw in some past concerns about his arm and back and you get a very confusing picture. Taking a look back further at his excellent run with the Cincinnati Reds makes things look a heck of a lot more exciting, but his uneven performance with KC seems to have left a bad impression, despite his dominant performance on the grandest stage. Prior to being dealt, Cueto had a 2.62 ERA and 0.93 WHIP for the Reds. He would have been the 2014 NL Cy Young if it wasn't for Clayton Kershaw's historic MVP season. He missed most of 2013, but finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2012. That kind of resume would have made him the top free agent in some years. It was reported that Cueto rejected a six-year, $126 million offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They were so heartbroken they gave all their money to Zack Greinke and all their prospects to the Braves for Shelby Miller. So we know what Cueto hopes to get. The real question is what will it actually take to get him? Many of the big market teams have already made moves to solidify their rotations. The Cardinals are unlikely to be open to signing Cueto due to bad blood over a brawl a few seasons back. There will still be plenty of suitors, his agent made a good point that all 30 teams could use a Johnny Cueto, but the market has already shrunk to some extent. The money going to some of these pitchers ($90 million for Jeff Samardzija!?!?!?) is getting crazy, but it would not shock me if Cueto fails to beat that offer from Arizona. The big hangup will be that whoever signs him will have to forfeit a draft pick. For the Twins, that would be the 16th overall pick. The Twins already have quantity when it comes to options to fill their rotation. Adding another middle of the road veteran would make little sense. Guys like Mike Leake or Wei-Yin Chen are not going to vastly improve the Twins chances at winning over the next few years. What the club could use is some quality at the top, and when you look at Cueto's resume it's undeniable that he's been among the best pitchers in baseball If you don't think now's the time to spend money on a starter, just take a look at next year's market and try to find your guy there. Stephen Strasburg is the headliner, after that it's ... I don't know, Brett Anderson? The Twins could trade prospects for a starter instead, but did you see what Arizona gave up for Miller or what Miami wants for Jose Fernandez? No thanks. So unless you like the idea of the unknown and want to see the team make a run at Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, Cueto is the club's best bet to move the needle in terms of making a splash in free agency between now and the 2017 offseason. What do you think? Is the price plus the pick too much, or would it be worth it to add an ace?
  7. Chris Young (RH, 3.15 ERA 78K/41BB/117 IP) vs. Ervin Santana (RH, 4.10 ERA, 79K/33BB/101 IP) If Tommy Milone was right-handed, 36 years old and 6’10” he would be Chris Young. OK, he wouldn’t be. He would still be Tommy Milone, because that’s in the premise of the statement. But he would throw as hard as Young. Actually harder, Because Chris Young doesn't throw very hard. That's my point. Young was moved to the bullpen when the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline, but returned to the rotation last week and threw five innings of no-hit baseball in his first start. His last two games versus the Twins also went very well, completing 11.2 IP and giving up just one earned run. This is going to much trickier to win than it looks on paper. Yordano Ventura (RH, 4.20 ERA, 145K/55 BB/156.1 IP) vs. Tommy Milone (LH, 4.04 ERA, 86K/34BB/122.2 IP) You may have heard that Ventura was struggling this year and sent to AAA. He was – for about 24 hours. The next day the Royals found out that Jason Vargas had a torn left UCL and Ventura was brought back. He’s been a little bit better since then, but was absolutely outstanding in his last start against the Cubs on Monday. He pitched seven shutout innings, striking out six and giving up just two hits. He also might be certifiably insane. If the Twins get worked up about a bat flip, it’ll be interesting to see what could happen if Ventura starts getting all loco. If you’re into anarchy or nihilism or hockey, this is the game I would recommend. By the way, the Royals don’t struggle much with left-handed pitchers, hitting just slightly lower against them. In particular, you might want to do that weird thing you do "for luck" when Lorenzo Cain (934 OPS vs LHs) and Alex Gordon (819 OPS vs LHs) are up. Johnny Cueto (RH, 4.95 ERA, 52K/13BB/76.1 IP) vs. Kyle Gibson? (RH, 3.84 ERA, 145K/65BB/194.2 IP) And if the Twins are facing a must-win game on Sunday, all they have to do is beat last year’s NL Cy Young Award runner-up. Sigh. The good news is that Cueto hasn’t been nearly as good since he joined the Royals. In fact, he had a five game stretch at the end of August and beginning of September in which he was terrible, posting a 9.57 ERA. He’s been better his last three starts, but far from dominant: 3.60 ERA, 11K and 5 BB in 20 IP. The recent improvement is from him not giving up quite as many home runs. If it looks like the Twins are making solid contact (or if the wind is blowing out), their task might not be as hard as it seems.
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