There are a couple of pieces recently flung into the internet by major authors or websites that hint at an expensive off-season for the Twins. First, Jon Heyman suggests that the Twins could “target top-tier free-agent starters” and MLB Trade Rumors suggests that the Twins are “in position to spend.” Great, just what a cantankerous fan base needs: a specific reason to complain when Yu Darvish inevitably signs elsewhere this winter.
Without a doubt, these opinions make sense, even though the evidence is circumstantial, rather than grounded in statements made by the Twins organization. And both of these pieces take care to say that they will be “targeting” a free agent, or they “can” spend, not that they will spend money on a big name free agent. Still, there is no falsehood in saying that the Twins theoretically should be in the market for some free agent pitchers.
With money on hand, I think it is more likely that the Twins will dig a little bit deeper into the well of free agent pitchers. Yes, the Twins will likely work hard to get one of the marquee names on the free agent market to come here, but I can’t imagine that Yu Darvish is their ultimate goal. Everyone seems to point to Lance Lynn, but I think Jake Arrieta ticks a few more boxes for the Twins, even with his decline last year. Again, I’m simply suggesting that there will be an attempt to acquire someone of his ilk.
In the effort to sign a big name free agent, I think we will find that money isn’t the only thing some free agents are after, and some free agents will go to other markets despite a better offer from the Twins. I do think winning is a vital concern for a lot of guys, though, and the Twins will be well served to distribute their cash reserves to multiple players, as opposed to simply signing the biggest name they can. Some tandem options for free agent acquisitions might appreciate the opportunity to be the biggest fish in the small pond in the Twin Cities, in addition to the cash on the table, while some other free agents might just want to play somewhere warmer, or they could be attracted to the bright lights along the coasts.
Breaking down the skills that some free agents bring to the table in these charts put together by MLBTR, two names stick out to me. Tyler Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin are both top ten candidates in fields that the Twins seem to value, namely ground ball and hard contact rate. With the Twins defense, those skills will definitely play up at Target Field, and according to Heyman’s predictions, this would only cost the Twins about 45 million over 2 years. Most importantly, they are the 5th and 6th rated pitchers on the market according to Heyman, and their predicted salaries are less than the 4th rated pitcher.
One other option still on the table is Japanese import Shohei Ohtani. Every team has a chance to sign the 23 year old phenom, but the Twins have the second most money in their international bonus pool. If speculation about Ohtani is to be believed, he would be the ace that the Twins rotation would need for the long term. Ohtani is expected to be posted for the maximum of $20m before his entry level contract. For an investment of $65m, the Twins could theoretically add three starting pitchers.
The money is there, and there are pitchers available. There is no argument to be had there. I find it hard to believe that going hard after the top names on the market is definitely the best thing to do.