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Friday Files (12.3.21): 2022 Ceilings, SP Trade Targets & the Path to a Good (Enough) Rotation
Welcome back to a weekly edition at Access Twins called “Monday’s Mail.” Except today it’s going to be “Friday Files” this week and we’ll transition to Mondays as the offseason goes on.
If you’d like to be involved, there are a few ways you can do so:
Tweet @brandon_warne or @accesstwins with the hashtag #askBW
if Twitter isn’t your thing, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Monday Mailbag/Friday Files”
Watch for sporadic Facebook posts asking for questions
Should be pretty easy, right? Let’s talk to it:
I think we found the floor of what a team that wins a division in a given year is in the next season. True enough, the offense tailed off while the pitching was still solid in 2020, but in 2021 the pitching experienced a similar regression and the offense just couldn’t pick up the slack.
Is the floor another 89-loss season? It’s hard to say it’s not, but that’s with so much we don’t know yet. How many games will they play? Who will they fill their other two 40-man spots with after signing Dylan Bundy — and any other spots they open up?
The White Sox won the division this season with 93 wins, and I think next year’s division winner will win eve fewer because I think every other team in the division is improving.
If the division winner is an 89-win team, can it be the Twins? If they sign Carlos Rodon, trade for a No. 2 or 3 starter and get some help from within, it sure can.
Can they get back to 95-100 wins? I’m not ready to say that.
I’m sure Joe Mauer would do a fine job, but I’m just not sure a guy who made over $200 million would want the stress of it. Then again, Carlos Beltran was manager of the Mets for a half-hour or so, so who knows?
Justin Morneau would be a great manager, but he’s got too much of a good thing going with his farm in the west metro area someplace along with spending time with his young family. He’s already working a limited schedule as a broadcaster, so I can’t see him taking on a full-time coaching/managing role. He would be great, though, because from what I’ve seen from him, if there’s anything he doesn’t know or isn’t sure about, he has the curiosity to find out the answer. To me, that’s huge for a good broadcaster, manager or really anyone who is working in the game.
Michael Cuddyer was the backbone of some really good Twins teams in those days and I think he’d be a great leader and galvanizing force, but I also get the sense he’s better suited for a part-time role — be it roving instructor, broadcaster or hybrid of the two — being the family man he is. I could be wrong.
Torii Hunter, to me, would be the Twins’ version of Ozzie Guillen. Take that how you will, but he’d be anything but boring. Would he be good with the X’s and O’s, so to speak? I’d be willing to bet he’d be better than most think. He’s also fiery and emotional; how would he channel that into managing? For some teams with certain makeups, I think that could work. He could be a great manager for a super young team trying to break through.
But for a veteran-led team? I’m less sure. The same is true for Doug Mientkiewicz, who went from seemingly having a managerial job someplace lined up to out of the game altogether, last I heard.
To me, two guys who would be at the very least intriguing to see manage would be Matthew LeCroy, who is actually the manager at Triple-A Rochester — the Twins’ former Triple-A affiliate. The other would be Nick Punto, mostly just for the entertainment factor.
Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to love the work LeCroy has done as a minor-league manager, and I — like many — am a sucker for former catchers as managers.
With Punto, I’d just love to see how he writes the lineup card, manages a bullpen and handles disagreements. It would be must-watch TV — as long as you have DirecTV (smh).
Odorizzi was coming off a 0.0 fWAR season in 2017 when the Twins acquired him, but was generally worth anywhere from 2.0-3.0 wins per season when things were going well.
That gives us some parameters to work with.
To be similar to Odorizzi, one has to be in their later 20s, good in the past but struggling a bit of late and possess at least a little bit of name recognition. We’re not going to be strict on all of those facets, but again, it helps us dig deeper.
The following pitchers threw at least 100 innings last season with an fWAR of 0.0 or lower:
Mike Foltynewicz: minus-0.8
Kolby Allard: minus-0.3
Wil Crowe: minus-0.3
Jordan Lyles: 0.0
Jon Lester: 0.0
None of these guys really fit the bill. There isn’t much reason to believe Foltynewicz can bounce back, Lyles and Lester are free agents — well, Lyles was but has signed with Baltimore — and Crowe and Allard aren’t really anyone people know outside of draft fiends when Allard went 14th overall in 2015.
But four of the next five names on the list are interesting to me:
First is Arizona’s Caleb Smith. We have no idea what the Diamondbacks are going to do now that they’ve added Brent Strom to their coaching staff, but Smith was worth plus-0.1 fWAR last season and has done some things that indicate there could be a good pitcher in there.
He’ll be 31 in July, but he’s fanned a batter per inning over his MLB career, and his complete lack of grounders (27.3 percent career rate) could be mitigated by a Byron Buxton-fueled outfield defense. The primary issue to fix, outside of command I guess, would be keeping the ball in the park. A guy who gives up that many batted balls in the air is going to allow homers, and he’s no exception (1.67 per nine for his career).
Next is Zach Davies with the caveat that he’s a free agent — which is by no means problematic. He’s 28, has two seasons with plus-2.5 fWAR or better and is possibly best known by Twins fans for his time with the Brewers. He doesn’t light up the radar gun (89.0 mph career average fastball) and doesn’t really miss bats (6.6 K/9 for his career), but when he’s been good in the past, he’s kept the ball on the ground and in the park.
His most Odorizzi-esque season was 2016, though, and that’s five years ago: 7.4 K/9, 3.97 ERA, 2.1 BB/9. And while that’s a half-decade ago, he again is only 28. There’s some upside here. This would not be a surprising target at all.
Then there’s Patrick Corbin. He is 32 and was terrible last season (0.2 fWAR in 171.2 innings). He was the pitcher who sort of kicked off the craze of signing ascending guys in their late 20s as we’ve seen with Zack Wheeler and Robbie Ray.
Does he have anything left? It’s really hard to say. He stayed healthy enough to throw 171.2 innings last season, and he threw 65.2 in a pandemic-shortened 2020. His fWAR in 2020 was a full win above last season (1.2 in 2020, 0.2 in 2021). Before that, he was a good bet for 180 innings per year.
A big issue here is the money owed to Corbin — almost $85 million over the next three seasons. The Nationals would have to eat half of that to even have another team interested in just taking him.
Let’s say the Nationals were willing to pick up all but $36 million — is Corbin worth a three-year, $36 million commitment when looking at the pitching landscape we see now? Seems risky to me.
Finally, there’s Ross Stripling, who is going into his age-32 season and best known as a swingman type for the really good Dodgers teams of the past few seasons. He was even an All-Star in 2018, which I did not immediately recall.
He’s pitched for the Blue Jays for the last season-plus and it hasn’t been super great — 5.00 ERA in 117.0 innings, 5.01 FIP and 1.32 WHIP. With that said, he strikes guys out (8.6 K/9 for his career), is projected for a salary of just $4.4 million per MLB Trade Rumors, has just one year of club control left and starting pitching is a position of strength for the Jays.
I’d say he’d be a sneaky pickup.
Yeah, I think so. I think Carlos Rodon is the best-case scenario for this front office. Do they want an ace? Yes. Do they want to have them under control longer than one presidential term? Not if they’re over the age of, say, 26.
Rodon fits the bill there. He’s absolutely nasty, and you can hit me with the “wHeN He’S HeALThy” caveat but yeah, that’s why he’s available without a qualifying offer attached and for something like three or four years rather than five or more like basically every other good starter is getting this winter.
Rodon turns 29 next Friday, and is one year removed from signing for $3 million dollars in free agency when he was available for literally anyone else to sign.
While he might feel some loyalty to the White Sox for sticking with him over the last six years, this is also likely his only chance to cash in. He finished fifth in the Cy Young balloting this past season despite throwing only 132.2 innings. He had a 2.37 ERA, fanned 12.6 batters per inning and allowed opponents to hit just .189/.255/.306 against him. He’s basically the reincarnation of Johan Santana but with a slider instead of a changeup.
The Twins have never had a pitcher like this — ever.
Beyond that, I think the Twins would like to fill out the rotation with Nos. 3-5 internally. Bundy can’t be the team’s No. 2 — no how, no way as of this writing — but if they can fill the top two spots they’d have to at least feel like they have a shot of competing in the near future with Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino and Jhoan Duran either in the big leagues or not terribly far off.
It’s probably either a member of the Reds or A’s, you’d probably have to guess, right? Maaaaybe the Diamondbacks — Zac Gallen,,,,,hello — but again, the Strom factor has to be accounted for.
Sonny Gray feels like a good fit. He’s making just enough money — up to $22.2 million over the next two seasons — that, when combined with his age (32) could mean the Reds won’t get an insane amount for him. He’s also really, really good. Might they trade Tyler Mahle? Sure. How about Luis Castillo? I guess. But I think Gray is the guy to target here.
They already dumped Wade Miley for literally nothing. They’re not going to do that with Gray, but I think the return would be much more palatable for Twins fans to stomach than a Mahle or Castillo trade would.
As for the A’s, it really comes down to Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea — and what your preferred flavor is. Montas turns 29 in March, throws hard and has alternated very good seasons with inconsistent ones. He’s a free agent after 2023.
Manaea is a tall lefty who is a free agent after next season. He’s really only popped in the last season or so — career highs in fWAR (3.3) and innings (179.1) — but he’s reliably been anywhere from pretty good to great. He’d be the kind of guy you’d want to finesse from the A’s, then sign to a relatively lucrative extension rather than letting him hit the market, if possible. he’s 30 in February and has respectable velocity (91-92 mph) for a southpaw.
Bassitt is exactly three years younger than me — you can look it up, I’m not going to say how old that is — and he’s eligible for free agency after next season. If it feels like he’s been around a long time, it’s because he has — his big-league debut came with the White Sox on Aug. 30, 2014.
After missing the 2017 season, Bassitt has found another gear. In his first three seasons, he had a 4.13 ERA in 143.2 innings pitched with 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Since returning in 2018, he has a 3.23 ERA in 412.0 innings with 8.7 strikeouts per nine — along with two top-10 finishes in the Cy Young balloting the last two seasons.
Bassitt is probably the safest and would no doubt be a star if he didn’t play in Oakland, but his ceiling might not be as high as the other two. Any of the three would be a great choice, though I suspect Gray would be the easiest for the Twins to acquire this winter.
I’d have to imagine it’s off the table unless something gets passed — and fast. Imagine the logistics of TwinsFest — especially booking players and their availability and flights and accommodations and all that. Now add in the wrinkle that all of that would have to be canceled in relatively short order if canceled, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a decision is made on TwinsFest before the New Year, if not sooner.