Twins

The Twins Need To Acquire A Starting Pitcher With Postseason Grit

Photo Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

While there are certainly many different routes that the Minnesota Twins can take in their pursuit of making notable additions at the trade deadline, one area is sorely needed. They need grit.

The team needs somebody who can grab the steering wheel and lay the pedal to the metal. While team leaders like Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco have the natural talent and ability to carry a team to the postseason, they haven’t been able to take the next step by nailing down any concrete success in the playoffs. Of course, Carlos Correa could accomplish that feat. It was surely a factor in bringing him in before the season.

But what the club can realistically accomplish at the deadline will almost certainly focus on the pitching side, and the biggest impact in the final two months will be a playoff-caliber addition to the starting rotation. Sure, high-talent workhorses like Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas would be exciting and welcome additions. However, there is bound to be stiff competition for their services. Virtually every contender will be shopping for an ace.

Still, there’s a tier just below those two that might be a perfect fit based on the team’s needs. Those pitchers could come with a reasonable price tag for a front office that has yet to show they are willing to trade significant prospect capital. At the very least, there would be a level of comfort in giving playoff starts to proven veterans. And after seeing short starts from guys like Randy Dobnak and Brian Duensing, fans are ready for that kind of security.

Below are a few arms that have seen playoff action and have had relative success.

Noah Syndergaard

2022 stats: 3.83 ERA, 80 innings pitched (15 starts), 7.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9

Career postseason stats: 2.42 ERA, 26 innings pitched (four starts, one relief appearance), 12.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9

The once mighty Thor may not wield the same hammer he did in his heyday with the New York Mets, but he is slowly making his way back to prominence on a not-prominent team. The Los Angeles Angels remain stuck in baseball purgatory, somehow on their way to another losing season while boasting two generational talents in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. They will surely consider trade offers for Syndergaard, who will be a free agent at season’s end and has some decent value thanks to his performance. Notably, his strikeout rate started lower than expected but has increased in each month of the season.

If those punch-out totals continue to rise, the hope for an acquiring team is that Syndergaard can be the guy fans saw when the Mets won the National League pennant in 2015. That was his rookie season, and he impressed so much that New York entrusted him with three critical starts in October. He had a 3.32 ERA in those games, with 26 strikeouts and only a .214 batting average allowed. That’s the kind of performance that gives a team a fighting chance to win a game in October, and it should be exactly what the Twins are looking for.

Corey Kluber 

2022: 3.91 ERA, 99 IP (19 starts), 7.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9

Postseason: 3.97 ERA, 45.1 IP (9 starts), 9.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

With the Tampa Bay Rays struggling to hold their playoff spot (currently 2.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Guardians for the last wild card), the next five days will be pivotal for how they attack the last two months of the season. While unlikely, there is a very real scenario where they decide that 2022 is not their year. Kluber could be an enticing target for the Twins if they choose to sell some veteran pieces.

The veteran hurler has ties to Derek Falvey from their time in Cleveland. Kluber was a popular target of the Twins’ front office in the last two off-seasons when he was a free agent. If the price is right, he would be a suitable option to take the mound alongside Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan in a playoff series.

At 36 years old, Kluber’s velocity is no longer a weapon. But his control has kept him in elite company, especially in walk rate (97th percentile) and chase rate (91st percentile). Those strengths came into play when he made nine postseason starts for Cleveland, especially in their World Series run in 2016, where Kluber had a 1.83 in six games. Since that was six years ago, he would undoubtedly be a different version of himself this year. Nevertheless, he knows how to get opponents out and would provide veteran leadership down the stretch.

Nathan Eovaldi

2022: 4.30 ERA, 75.1 IP (14 starts), 9.4 K/9, 1.7 BB/9

Postseason: 3.14 ERA, 43 IP (six starts, five relief appearances), 8.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9

Much like he did for the Boston Red Sox in 2018, the Twins would be looking for Eovaldi to be a true hired gun for a playoff run. He helped lead Boston to a world championship after Tampa traded him at the deadline. Eovaldi had a 3.33 ERA in 11 regular season starts to finish the year, then a fantastic 1.61 ERA in six postseason games.

The Red Sox currently find themselves at the bottom of the AL East standings, and all signs seem to point to them listening on just about any player not named Rafael Devers. A free agent at year’s end, it’s hard to imagine Eovaldi costing that much in return. At the very least, the Twins wouldn’t have to include MLB-ready talent such as José Miranda and Trevor Larnach, and their top-tier prospects such as Spencer Steer and Matt Wallner would also presumably be safe.

Eovaldi’s only Achilles heel seems to be his propensity to give up home runs. He has surrendered a whopping 18 long balls this year, and roughly 23% of fly balls he has allowed have landed over the fence. That in itself is cause for some concern, especially when talking about a potential playoff start. But Eovaldi’s fastball is still electric (80th percentile), and he avoids walks (95th percentile) while getting misses (61st percentile) from his opponent. If he can carry those peripherals into a postseason run, Eovaldi would surely get the starting nod from manager Rocco Baldelli.

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Photo Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

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