The Twins Have Gotten What They Paid For In the Starting Rotation

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For better or worse, the Minnesota Twins are getting what they paid for in the starting rotation. Their minimal financial investment after shedding nearly $30 million from last year’s payroll level in the offseason rubbed many fans the wrong way, and now the fans’ pessimism is being justified. On the other hand, the investments they’ve made in some of their other arms have proven to be paying dividends or are at least headed in that direction.

Let’s start with the bad. After the Seattle Mariners traded for Anthony DeSclafani in November, they threw him into the Jorge Polanco trade. While he has the most big-league experience out of all the pieces they reeled in, he was not intended to be the centerpiece. Gabriel Gonzalez, the young outfielder mentioned in multiple Top-100 rankings last year, was the big get, and Justin Topa is a solid middle-relief option.

DeSclafani was more of a salary dump for Seattle and Minnesota after being ineffective and injured for much of the last two seasons. Oddly enough, he was the lone addition to a rotation picture that is promising at the top end and unstable at the bottom. The club clearly bought into the idea that DeSclafani would line up behind their front four of the rotation and in front of youngsters Louie Varland, Simeon Woods Richardson, and David Festa.

But they only invested roughly $4 million in their new right-hander, and it looks like it’ll be a sunk cost after the Twins announced that DeSclafani would be visiting Dr. Keith Meister to get another opinion on his ailing elbow. Meister is a prominent surgeon who has overseen countless Tommy John surgeries for MLB stars.

So the Twins invested little to improve the back end of their rotation, and now they’re probably going to get little in return. Go figure.

However, we’ve seen this front office make bigger deals with a heftier ante and come out with much more to show. Take the current staff ace, Pablo López. The Twins traded a beloved, budding star in Luis Arraez, betting they could identify an emerging ace before his big break. Then, they invested even more by signing him to a long-term extension worth almost $74 million. According to Fangraphs, they picked the first crop of fruit from that investment last season when the electric righty accrued 4.5 Wins Above Replacement. The expectation is that Lòpez will continue to build on that initial success because he’s one of the pre-season favorites to contend for the American League Cy Young award.

He also keeps building himself into one of the premier arms in the league while donning a Twins uniform. Why? Because they made not one but two gutsy investments in him.

Chris Paddack can be put in this same bin, but the club is still waiting to see as much of the promising results from him as they have from Lòpez. The club traded their All-Star closer, Taylor Rogers, for two seasons of control over Emilio Pagán and Paddack – which was a moderate risk, especially given the context of being hours before opening day that year. They then extended the latter after he was set to miss most of those two years while recovering from Tommy John surgery. There’s the second leap that they decided to take with an exciting arm that is still waiting on a breakout.

So, what does this mean for the other two locks for the 2024 starting rotation? Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are under club control for the next four seasons and are set to enter arbitration after this season. Could Twins fans see one or both of these exciting starters get notable investments from their club in the form of contract extensions?

I’d bet against that happening. Both players are under control into their age-31 season, but it would be telling if the club voted to try to lock them in – even if it stabilizes their arbitration years and adds option years where they would’ve reached free agency.
Like with López, that would show that they are invested in these players for the foreseeable future. If all goes well, it would establish a general shape for their starting rotation for years to come.

Another option would be to invest in their rotation by making another trade similar to the López and Sonny Gray swaps or trying to land a notable free agent. The former seems more likely than the latter, especially given that the financial woes that caused them to shed payroll this time are likely still in play for the next few years.

So, the Twins need to decide where to put their eggs when it comes to the rotation because we’re seeing what happens when they take a half-measure.

They get what they pay for.

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