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  1. 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 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. Potential trade: Twins trade RHP Jordan Balazovic and C Ryan Jeffers to the Reds for RHP Sonny Gray. Tyler Mahle 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. Potential Trade: Twins trade INF Luis Arraez and RHP Matt Canterino to the Reds for RHP Tyler Mahle. Luis Castillo 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. Potential trade: The Twins trade SS Royce Lewis and OF Max Kepler to the Reds for RHP Luis Castillo. 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?
  2. As we all know, the Minnesota Twins need pitching, and need some high-end pitching. Free agency is not the only way to acquire players. The Twins may have to investigate trade possibilities, and the Cincinnati Reds are a team looking to make deals and have a true, young ace. Jon Morosi reported Monday that Reds starter Luis Castillo could be on the move this offseason. His availability presents a prime opportunity for the Twins. THE PLAYER Luis Castillo, 28, is precisely the type of pitcher the Twins should be seeking. An established, hard-throwing right-hander who’s under team control through 2023 at modest salaries. Castillo is already an excellent, durable starter. He’s thrown 618 innings since 2018, the 10th most in MLB. His ERA+ of 123 since 2017 (100 is average) ties him with Marcus Stroman for the 11th highest. Castillo is elite at limiting home runs and missing barrels. Castillo’s 10.7 Wins Above Replacement since 2019 trails only Lance Lynn (15), Jacob deGrom (14.9), Gerrit Cole (14.4), Zack Wheeler (14.4), Max Scherzer (13.6), and Lucas Giolito (11). Most excitingly, Castillo’s stuff - a 97 mph fastball, a devastating 88 mph changeup, and a fantastic 86 mph slider - provide dreamable upside. Over his final 20 starts of 2021, Castillo posted a 2.69 ERA. He's a Cy Young candidate in 2022. THE COST Oh boy. A ton. For all of the reasons listed above, plenty of teams will vie for Castillo. He’s projected to make $7.6 million in 2022 and, with a strong season, could get $10 or $11 million in 2023. Call it two years and $18 million. That’s an incredible bargain. The Reds have signaled that they’re ready to slash payroll this offseason. Castillo and fellow starter Sonny Gray would likely be the most sought-after in an overhaul. Castillo’s upside, though, makes him the one to target. MLB Trade Simulators is an imperfect tool but can give us a sniff of player values. Castillo’s is predictably hefty. According to the simulator, the Twins would need to part with Austin Martin, Royce Lewis, and Matt Canterino (or a package of similar value). The Twins have no track record of paying such a price. But with three gaping holes in the rotation and an embarrassing summer to overcome, do they have the right to be conservative this winter? THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins must address at least one rotation hole via the trade market. It’s simply untenable to sign three quality starters via free agency. The Twins don’t have the payroll or the leverage. We’ve heard many excuses of why free-agent starters don’t choose Minnesota. The weather, the income tax, the contract offer, and so on. The Twins can rarely secure a player of Castillo’s ilk and upside. They can finally make a splash and a statement. By trading for Castillo, the Twins would signal that they are serious about 2022 and 2023. The move would alert free agents - Marcus Stroman, Robbie Ray, and others - that you’re committed to improving and winning. The Twins indeed had opportunities to make impactful moves in recent years. Those chances are gone. What matters now is how aggressive they are in living up to the notion that a “rebuild” is not in the cards. If you’re going to do it, do it. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email View full article
  3. Jon Morosi reported Monday that Reds starter Luis Castillo could be on the move this offseason. His availability presents a prime opportunity for the Twins. THE PLAYER Luis Castillo, 28, is precisely the type of pitcher the Twins should be seeking. An established, hard-throwing right-hander who’s under team control through 2023 at modest salaries. Castillo is already an excellent, durable starter. He’s thrown 618 innings since 2018, the 10th most in MLB. His ERA+ of 123 since 2017 (100 is average) ties him with Marcus Stroman for the 11th highest. Castillo is elite at limiting home runs and missing barrels. Castillo’s 10.7 Wins Above Replacement since 2019 trails only Lance Lynn (15), Jacob deGrom (14.9), Gerrit Cole (14.4), Zack Wheeler (14.4), Max Scherzer (13.6), and Lucas Giolito (11). Most excitingly, Castillo’s stuff - a 97 mph fastball, a devastating 88 mph changeup, and a fantastic 86 mph slider - provide dreamable upside. Over his final 20 starts of 2021, Castillo posted a 2.69 ERA. He's a Cy Young candidate in 2022. THE COST Oh boy. A ton. For all of the reasons listed above, plenty of teams will vie for Castillo. He’s projected to make $7.6 million in 2022 and, with a strong season, could get $10 or $11 million in 2023. Call it two years and $18 million. That’s an incredible bargain. The Reds have signaled that they’re ready to slash payroll this offseason. Castillo and fellow starter Sonny Gray would likely be the most sought-after in an overhaul. Castillo’s upside, though, makes him the one to target. MLB Trade Simulators is an imperfect tool but can give us a sniff of player values. Castillo’s is predictably hefty. According to the simulator, the Twins would need to part with Austin Martin, Royce Lewis, and Matt Canterino (or a package of similar value). The Twins have no track record of paying such a price. But with three gaping holes in the rotation and an embarrassing summer to overcome, do they have the right to be conservative this winter? THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins must address at least one rotation hole via the trade market. It’s simply untenable to sign three quality starters via free agency. The Twins don’t have the payroll or the leverage. We’ve heard many excuses of why free-agent starters don’t choose Minnesota. The weather, the income tax, the contract offer, and so on. The Twins can rarely secure a player of Castillo’s ilk and upside. They can finally make a splash and a statement. By trading for Castillo, the Twins would signal that they are serious about 2022 and 2023. The move would alert free agents - Marcus Stroman, Robbie Ray, and others - that you’re committed to improving and winning. The Twins indeed had opportunities to make impactful moves in recent years. Those chances are gone. What matters now is how aggressive they are in living up to the notion that a “rebuild” is not in the cards. If you’re going to do it, do it. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  4. As I write this, I’m two weeks away from turning 23 years old, which means I was seven when the 2006 Minnesota Twins won the American League Central. It also means I have no meaningful memory of a Twins playoff win, but whatever. I digress. The 2006 season was the first in which I really followed the sport on more than just a watch-guys-hit-ball level. It was that year that I figured out how the standings worked, what a wild card was, and how to calculate basic stats like batting average and ERA. So, of course, the Twins’ magical comeback from 10.5 games back in the second week of August to Division Champs on the last day of the season—their only division lead all year—made me fall in love with the team and the sport. But, the funny thing about falling in love with a team at seven years old is that the way I remember that team is very far from the reality of what actually happened. Obviously, I remember Mauer, Morneau, and Santana being awesome, and, looking back, that memory is absolutely correct; they were awesome. But things get a little more skewed as we move down the rest of the roster. As mentioned in the teaser, I remember thinking that Boof Bonser was some unique diamond in the rough that had a funny name but dominated on the mound. Turns out the opposite is true: he was a highly-touted first round pick that was always young for his level in the minors, but was never great in the bigs. His career lasted only four years and 2006, his rookie and best season, wasn’t even that great. In my mind, Luis Castillo (not the Reds starter, the other one) was THE Twins’ second basemen of the mid-aughts, and that he was one of the better hitters on the team. That just wasn’t true—he finished only seventh on the team in batting average (his main calling card) and Terry freaking Tiffee had a higher slugging percentage than him. Also, the 2006 season was his only full year in a Twins uniform, as he was traded to the Mets at the deadline in 2007. To this day, when I hear the word piranha, I think about Jason Tyner. Ozzie Guillen coined the term “Little Piranhas” to describe Castillo, Tyner, Jason Bartlett, and Nick Punto, but, for whatever reason, Tyner sticks in my head as the most piranha-like. And that’s weird, because according to WAR, he was the least productive of them all, probably because he only appeared in 62 games. And, as sacrilegious as it is to measure the Piranhas using WAR, it does show that he wasn’t nearly as big of a factor as I remember. I didn’t only remember guys for being better than they actually were, though. There were two guys in particular whose output was more significant than I remembered. I remember Nick Punto as a funny, light-hitting, loveable-loser kind of player, and I guess he was that in some sense, but he was a lot more. First, I was shocked to look back and see that he batted .290, and I was even more shocked to find out that he was fifth on the team in WAR, ahead of guys like Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, and Brad Radke. And he did so with one (1) homer. I guess that’s what 135 games of solid third base defense and not terrible hitting get you, but the idea of Punto being legitimately good (if only for a year) is still wild to me. Francisco Liriano will forever stick in my memory as the guy who gets arm surgeries and can’t throw strikes, but he was actually dominant in 2006. He only pitched twice after July and would get Tommy John the following winter, but he made the All Star team as a rookie and pitched to an ERA of 2.16, a WHIP of exactly one, and a K/9 rate of 10.7. His WAR was also third on the team, beating out AL MVP and 130 RBI man Justin Morneau. I also remember Kyle Lohse being an idiot, but I don’t think I’m wrong about that. There’s one more thing I misremember, though. I have very little recollection of the Twins getting swept in the playoffs. I’m sure I watched the games, but they just didn’t stick, though I think I remember my guy Boof starting one of them. That’s okay, though; I will always associate the 2006 Twins with good memories, even if those memories are completely wrong and I have no idea what actually happened. How do you remember the 2006 Twins? What's the first Twins season you remember? Let us know in the comments!
  5. There is almost exactly nothing happening in baseball right now, so it’s a good time for some nostalgia. Follow me on a trip down memory lane to 2006 and the team that made me a baseball fan (and made me think Boof Bonser was good). As I write this, I’m two weeks away from turning 23 years old, which means I was seven when the 2006 Minnesota Twins won the American League Central. It also means I have no meaningful memory of a Twins playoff win, but whatever. I digress. The 2006 season was the first in which I really followed the sport on more than just a watch-guys-hit-ball level. It was that year that I figured out how the standings worked, what a wild card was, and how to calculate basic stats like batting average and ERA. So, of course, the Twins’ magical comeback from 10.5 games back in the second week of August to Division Champs on the last day of the season—their only division lead all year—made me fall in love with the team and the sport. But, the funny thing about falling in love with a team at seven years old is that the way I remember that team is very far from the reality of what actually happened. Obviously, I remember Mauer, Morneau, and Santana being awesome, and, looking back, that memory is absolutely correct; they were awesome. But things get a little more skewed as we move down the rest of the roster. As mentioned in the teaser, I remember thinking that Boof Bonser was some unique diamond in the rough that had a funny name but dominated on the mound. Turns out the opposite is true: he was a highly-touted first round pick that was always young for his level in the minors, but was never great in the bigs. His career lasted only four years and 2006, his rookie and best season, wasn’t even that great. In my mind, Luis Castillo (not the Reds starter, the other one) was THE Twins’ second basemen of the mid-aughts, and that he was one of the better hitters on the team. That just wasn’t true—he finished only seventh on the team in batting average (his main calling card) and Terry freaking Tiffee had a higher slugging percentage than him. Also, the 2006 season was his only full year in a Twins uniform, as he was traded to the Mets at the deadline in 2007. To this day, when I hear the word piranha, I think about Jason Tyner. Ozzie Guillen coined the term “Little Piranhas” to describe Castillo, Tyner, Jason Bartlett, and Nick Punto, but, for whatever reason, Tyner sticks in my head as the most piranha-like. And that’s weird, because according to WAR, he was the least productive of them all, probably because he only appeared in 62 games. And, as sacrilegious as it is to measure the Piranhas using WAR, it does show that he wasn’t nearly as big of a factor as I remember. I didn’t only remember guys for being better than they actually were, though. There were two guys in particular whose output was more significant than I remembered. I remember Nick Punto as a funny, light-hitting, loveable-loser kind of player, and I guess he was that in some sense, but he was a lot more. First, I was shocked to look back and see that he batted .290, and I was even more shocked to find out that he was fifth on the team in WAR, ahead of guys like Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, and Brad Radke. And he did so with one (1) homer. I guess that’s what 135 games of solid third base defense and not terrible hitting get you, but the idea of Punto being legitimately good (if only for a year) is still wild to me. Francisco Liriano will forever stick in my memory as the guy who gets arm surgeries and can’t throw strikes, but he was actually dominant in 2006. He only pitched twice after July and would get Tommy John the following winter, but he made the All Star team as a rookie and pitched to an ERA of 2.16, a WHIP of exactly one, and a K/9 rate of 10.7. His WAR was also third on the team, beating out AL MVP and 130 RBI man Justin Morneau. I also remember Kyle Lohse being an idiot, but I don’t think I’m wrong about that. There’s one more thing I misremember, though. I have very little recollection of the Twins getting swept in the playoffs. I’m sure I watched the games, but they just didn’t stick, though I think I remember my guy Boof starting one of them. That’s okay, though; I will always associate the 2006 Twins with good memories, even if those memories are completely wrong and I have no idea what actually happened. How do you remember the 2006 Twins? What's the first Twins season you remember? Let us know in the comments! View full article
  6. Update: It appears that the Padres will be also landing Yu Darvish from the Cubs. While that takes a target away from the Twins, they have less competition on the Reds front. Arms like Joe Musgrove and Jon Gray also remain enticing. Late on Sunday night the market for starting pitching pursuits took a drastic change. After the Tampa Bay Rays had announced they’d make Blake Snell available, the San Diego Padres decided to cap off their Christmas weekend with a blockbuster trade. This provides a blueprint for the Minnesota Twins, and also removes some potential competition. Thus far during the offseason things have been quit from the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine camp. Minnesota has made a few smaller moves on the reliever front, but they have not addressed their rotation or lineup. For what seems like weeks we’ve now heard about the Twins being a team potential waiting in the weeds and ready to strike. One big name discussed has been that of Marcus Semien, but it remains true that starting pitching is a must. You can probably bet on veteran Rich Hill not being a guy brought back for 2021, and while Jake Odorizzi looks like one of the best arms not named Trevor Bauer, he will have some options. For Minnesota, sustainability could be the key and finding a trade partner with an arm having some team control could be as enticing as anything. Although it’s not known to what extent Minnesota may have been intrigued by Snell, the reality is he’s a good pitcher and was available. At the very least that made the two organizations a match. Following that logic, the Cubs and Yu Darvish as well as the Reds and their arms Luis Castillo or Sonny Gray could all be fits. Darvish comes with the hefty price tag, while both Gray and Castillo are more affordable options that should command a premium in prospect capital. It’s fine to still call this relatively early in the offseason, but the reality is that we’re over the halfway point. Despite the fact that Rob Manfred still hasn’t solidified the 2021 Major League Baseball schedule and we still have no idea what the exact set of rules are going to be, time is not waiting, and Spring Training will soon be around the corner. Minnesota’s front office hasn’t been afraid of being a last-minute suitor, but getting guys acclimate could hold some weight given how the Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison moves ultimately worked out. When the Padres decided to spring for Snell with a package centered around their second-best pitching prospect, they effectively took themselves out of any discussion regarding another deal. The money is still there for them to target Trevor Bauer, but they don’t seem likely to move Mackenzie Gore or C.J. Abrams, so swapping for another top arm would be difficult. This benefits the Twins as it’s one less club vying for the same prizes. Given the organization he played for it was probably a near-guarantee that Snell would be moved. I think Chicago still flips Darvish, but Jed Hoyer will want to get his first big move right. Castillo and Gray don’t necessarily need to be shipped out, but Cincinnati appears intent on tearing it down after a one-year run at going for it. Asking Minnesota to be engaged on all of those fronts is hardly a leap. It’s not yet clear where the Twins will turn, but I’d bet a decent amount that they have plenty of irons in the fire, and it’s clear there’s a decent amount of smoke. Having a better bargaining position than they did yesterday, and also a representative idea of a framework, Falvey and Levine have more clarity now than they may have a few days ago. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  7. Sonny Gray Contract: 2-years, $20.33 million ($12 million team option for 2023) Gray has revamped himself since joining the Reds rotation. Over the last two seasons, he has a 3.07 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and 277 strikeouts in 231 1/3 innings. He might be the best starting pitcher available on the trade market this winter and the asking price will likely be high based on his recent performance and his years of team control. Gray would help bolster the top of Minnesota’s rotation that already includes the trio of Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, and Michael Pineda. Gray would help the team in the short-term, but the asking price might be higher than the front office wants to pay. Luis Castillo Contract: First-year arbitration eligible (Earliest Free Agency 2024) While Gray can help the Reds to cut cost, Castillo is still relatively cheap since he is entering his first year of arbitration. A team looking to acquire Castillo might also have to be willing to take on a veteran with a higher salary to help the Reds cut costs (see below). Since the start of the 2019 season, the 28-year-old has posted a 3.35 ERA and a 3.42 FIP in 260 2/3 innings. He has an electric fastball that sits in the upper-90s and his slider is improving. It seems like someone Wes Johnson would love to help take to the next level. https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1340696149972365326?s=20 Nick Castellanos Contract: 3-years, $46 million ($20 million mutual option for 2024) Twins fans are likely familiar with Castellanos from his time in a Tigers uniform and his contract might be one that a team will have to acquire to have a chance at Castillo. Castellanos can fit multiple roles with the Twins including corner outfielder or designated hitter. Over the last two seasons, he has hit .273/.327/.515 with 41 home runs and 69 doubles in 211 games. Making a deal that includes Castellanos likely puts the Twins out of the running for Nelson Cruz, but it can mean the club acquires a big-time arm like Castillo. Amir Garrett Contract: First-year arbitration eligible (Earliest Free Agency 2024) Garrett is one of the players that will have a chance to take over the closer’s role in Cincinnati following the departure of Iglesias. Like Castillo, he is in his first year of arbitration so there won’t be urgency to trade him unless a perspective team is willing to take on other salary. Since the start of 2019, he has a 3.03 ERA and a 4.19 FIP while racking up 104 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. Minnesota has multiple holes to fill in their bullpen, so would the team be willing to overspend to get a very good left-handed arm. Lucas Sims Contract: Pre-arbitration eligible (Earliest Free Agency 2025) Sims was a first-round pick in 2012 out of high school and he joined the Reds organization back in 2018 in a deadline deal with the Braves. He hasn’t even reached arbitration yet and so the cost to acquire him will be steep. Over the last two seasons, he strikes out nearly 12 batters per nine innings with a 1.08 WHIP and a 125 ERA+. Cincinnati can put him in the closer’s role for a couple seasons and get a higher return for him after he has the “proven closer” label applied to him. Which players would you like the Twins to target? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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