If you watched the Minnesota Twins last season, you know they need pitching. If you watched the Twins for a prolonged portion of the season, you know they need it in a hurry.
In a year where almost everything went wrong, the Twins’ efforts to build a starting rotation vaporized. Minnesota’s starting rotation ranked 24th in strikeouts (685), in ERA (5.18), and fourth in home runs allowed (147). Once injuries hit, they were scrambling even more to find someone to take the mound.
After trading José Berríos to the Toronto Blue Jays and seeing Kenta Maeda undergo Tommy John surgery, the Twins theoretically have all five rotation spots up for grabs next season, which makes diving into the free agent market a priority this offseason.
The Twins could spend heavily on a top tier pitcher, but investments like those don’t guarantee success. They could also go crazy in the middle tier, but that often results in an overpay. Instead, the best way to acquire pitching may be scrounging through the bargain bin.
Those words could be enough to make a fan’s head explode, but it matches the front office’s philosophy. In the first few years of the “Falvine” era, the Twins have signed several low-risk, high-reward pitchers.
Michael Pineda’s initial, two-year, $10 million deal coming off Tommy John surgery gave the Twins a middle-of-the-rotation starter while Martin Perez came out on fire in the spring of 2019. Even signing Rich Hill in 2020 provided some dividends, which makes this process worth it.
But that approach could also go terribly wrong. Last offseason, the Twins spent a combined $10 million on J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. Happ posted double-digit wins in his past seven full seasons, while Shoemaker was more of a wild card. In hindsight, both pitchers were flops, but that doesn’t mean the approach doesn’t work.
This year’s Cy Young Award voting was filled with pitchers signed to low-risk, high-reward deals. Robbie Ray and Carlos Rodón’s careers looked like they were heading toward a dead end, but both finished in the top five of voting and should cash in this offseason.
In other words, the Twins would be foolish not to throw some darts. But who are some pitchers worth looking at?
Jon Gray is a fan favorite. The third overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft hasn’t put up all-world numbers since his debut in 2015. However, he was pitching at high altitude and for bad Colorado Rockies teams.
Twins Daily’s Nick Nelson pointed out that Gray has had issues missing bats in the past, but a new voice like pitching coach Wes Johnson could help him out. After all, Perez looked like an ace through the first two months of the 2019 season before teams figured out his cutter. If they can do the same with Gray, he could be valuable in the middle of the rotation.
The Twins should also be interested in Danny Duffy. He is coming off a career year with the Kansas City Royals, posting a 2.51 ERA last season. With a chase rate in the 77th percentile, Duffy can provide an arm that can miss bats and slide in as a veteran piece to the rotation.
Like all of these pitchers, Duffy comes with risk. He’s pitched over 150 innings only twice over his 11-year career and didn’t throw an inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers after being traded at last year’s deadline.
If the Twins are hoping to cash in on a high-point, they could take a look at Alex Cobb. The 33-year-old has had an up-and-down career but seemed to rediscover himself with the Los Angeles Angels last year.
Cobb posted a 10.95 ERA just two seasons ago after a big free-agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles, but he went 8-3 with a 3.76 ERA with the Angels last season. A big key was his ability to add movement to his pitches, which resulted in a chase rate in the 93rd percentile and a barrel rate in the 94th percentile.
If they pay up for one starter from the top tier and possibly acquire another via trade, adding some mid-to-low tier arms could give the Twins enough to jump back into contention next season.