The Twins have one glaring need as the offseason begins: pitching. I think everyone agrees that starting pitching is the number one need for the organization this winter if they are to get over the hump in the postseason. Of course, they need to restock their rotation because of free agency. Certainly, there will be options on the trade market and on the open market, but what should the Twins be willing to sacrifice to reach that end?
A look at this season’s postseason, however, reminds us that the best playoff rotations only need three primary starting pitchers. The Twins were hampered this year by injury and suspension, so they only really had two viable starters by playoffs end, but this might suggest that the first change the Twins make is one of strategy. In game one, in particular, the team made a move to the bullpen, away from the best pitcher on the roster, far too early.
Undoubtedly, thanks to the contract situations with the Twins, they will be in the market for starting pitchers, one way or another. A hard truth is that the Twins will be competing with the Yankees and Angels, among other teams for the top arms. Gerrit Cole, for example, is from Los Angeles and grew up a Yankees fan. Cole likely has no interest in signing in Minnesota, and if he did, it would take much more money than the Twins could tolerate spending.
If the Twins are going to add free agent starters, they should probably look at the next tier, and they should focus on the volume of innings pitched. The Twins will return much of what had been an effective bullpen next season, and the key to any good bullpen is that they remain well rested. Just ask Taylor Rogers about that. The best way to have a well rested bullpen is to have workhorse pitchers.
With all that said, an effective plan for filling some rotation spots through free agency is to find better pitchers that have been effective (say, an ERA better than 4.50), that had put in work (more than 100IP last year) and perhaps won’t be as expensive as the likes of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg (hopefully less than $20MM/yr). Let’s not look at pitchers older than 35 years old, either. What does that list look like?
Brett Anderson (Oak)
Wade Miley (Hou)
Tanner Roark (Oak)
Jordan Lyles (Mil)
That’s the list. I can see the Twins bringing Odorizzi and Pineda back, as well as making a trade for a bigger name. I should point out that Miley didn’t even make the World Series roster for the Astros. Any starter beyond the first two the Twins add via free agency or trade is only to get them to the post season, and the Twins had enough pitching in 2019 to get them there. Remember that when and manage your expectations as the team fills out their roster for 2020.