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We looked at the potential for offensive upgrades when we last met. Since that time, the number one target I listed as a potential free agent addition – Eduardo Escobar — re-signed with the Diamondbacks. Let’s hope the pitching outlook can hold up longer than a day.
I don’t think much ink needs to be wasted on the pitching situation. While there are a few players that will certainly be in the rotation next year (Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios) and some that will probably have a foot in the door (Michael Pineda, Fernando Romero) and some guys who should get a long look (Kohl Stewart, Adaleberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves) but one fact will always hold true: the Twins and any team in baseball can always get more pitching.
I’ve maintained one tenet for many years when it comes to signing pitchers in free agency: Don’t. Extend pitchers, if you feel comfortable with their medical future. Maybe add them via minor league contracts, particularly when looking to build a bullpen, but never sign pitchers to Major League deals. Free agent pitchers have at least 6 years of Major League experience, as well as all the innings that they burned through before they made it to the big leagues. At the very least, free agent pitchers are an injury waiting to happen. Either that, or they are at the end of their utility, and they won’t match the productivity you are expecting. Rare is the free agent deal that pans out for the team.
The Twins have a bucket of cash though, and the layperson may be inclined to disagree. The Twins should use that wealth to bolster their rotation. That’s a fine assertion, but I would say the more effective way to do that would be to acquire a young pitcher and hope to sign him to an extension. That brings us to the available trade candidates. The top of the list will be the trio in New York. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndegaard and Zack Wheeler are all talented, on a bad team and will see a new General Manager come to town.
After last season’s bevy of top pitching trades (Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer were two guys that a lot of Twins fans wanted to see come to town), the Mets’ trio looks like the only sow in town, if the Twins want a young, controllable arm at the top of the rotation. I suspect that the Twins, if they are going to angle for a big name starter of that trio, would go after Syndegaard. deGrom is already 30 and only has one year of team control left. Too steep a price for too little return. Wheeler has missed two years with injury, and doesn’t quite have the long track record of success (though he would be the most attainable option) Syndegaard is much younger, has been mostly healthy, and recovered quickly after injuries last year. He has plenty of team control left, which means he would be very expensive.
But hey, who cares, right? The Twins have depth in certain areas with top prospects. If the Mets want a package built around Byron Buxton, that’s incredibly fair, and probably what it would take. Buxton’s best year, last year, saw him accrue a higher WAR than any of Syndegaard’s seasons. Inconsistency and health problems would likely require the Twins to include a prospect. If Syndegaard is in town, that would mean the Twins could probably part with one or two of the pitchers pushing for time in the rotation. Since the Mets would be looking for prospects, that means Romero and/or Gonsalves. There would be other pieces, almost certainly, in a blockbuster trade like this, but that’s probably where it would start.
Then, sign Syndegaard to a long term extension with that bucket of cash.
What do you think of the pitching plan? One grand plan for the rotation, followed by minor league free agents in the pen