Twins Daily: Spending the Twins' starting rotation tab

How would Zack Wheeler or Stephen Strasburg look in a Twins uniform?
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Although there is still major league baseball being played the Minnesota Twins can begin full offseason mode. Here at Twins Daily pre-orders for the 2020 Offseason Handbook are now live, and John jumped into the most pressing matter for Derek Falvey. If there was a takeaway from the stretch run and American League Division Series, it’s that Rocco Baldelli can’t continue to be hamstrung by his pitching staff. This team has money to spend, and there’s only one place to spend it.

To set up some initial parameters here, we need to understand the financial situation. The Twins are coming off a $120MM payroll after a $130MM payroll in 2018. A 2020 payroll should check in at no less than $135MM, and more realistically hover around $140MM. From a commitment standpoint there’s only a first base and backup catcher role open for position players, and then there’s something like one or two bullpen opportunities. As was the title of his article, John pointed out that Minnesota has around $70 million to hand out in the form of starting pitching contracts.

So, how does that break down?

Looking at what is available on the market, and a baseline understanding of what acquisition cost will be, there’s certainly not an abundance of players that will command more than $25 million annually. Although there is never a shortage of Martin Perez-types that can be had for less than $10 million, Minnesota must be aiming higher. With Jose Berrios as a given, and one spot tabbed for an internal candidate (think Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak, or Lewis Thorpe), the rotation gets remade with projectable talent.

To break down options I categorized the three opportunities into different salary buckets. This is what I’ve come up with.

SP1 ($25 million and up AAV)- Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner

I believe this group to be completely represented by the names above. Strasburg is not a lock to opt out of his current deal, but with just $100 million left over the next four years he should cash in for a final big payday. Cole is the premiere target on the market, and while even a blank check may be thwarted by a more enticing market, there’s no excuse for Minnesota not to make their best effort.
Bumgarner was not an appealing trade option at the deadline given the estimated return for a rental. He’s still not the pitcher he once was, but he’s only 30-years-old and proved his durability again this season. Competition for three arms that every team needs will be substantial, but the Twins are as well positioned as anyone to make it happen.

SP2 ($15-25 million AAV)- Zack Wheeler, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu

The youngster of this group is the former Mets pitcher Wheeler. He’ll pitch next season at the age of 30 and was one of the most intriguing names at the deadline. He wasn’t moved but posted strong numbers across the board and looks to be knocking on the door of another level. If the Twins are convinced Wes Johnson can provide the breakthrough, they should be all in. Keuchel has given Atlanta about what was expected, but most importantly has calmed health concerns. He’s not a velocity guy but saw and uptick in strikeouts. The new ball has burned him more than ever, but this is the type of two or three starter that a really good rotation employs.
Eldest of the bunch is Ryu, who was fully healthy for the first time since 2013. Getting below 1.0 HR/9 in the toughest season to do so implies he really has no flaws, but it also comes down to belief in him going forward despite a track record of unavailability due to injuries.

SP3 ($10-20 million AAV)- Alex Wood, Julio Teheran, Jose Quintana

Only Wood is truly a free agent among this trio. Both Teheran and Quintana have team options that the Braves and Cubs respectively could pick up. For Wood, 2019 was a throwaway season due to back issues, so he comes with caution tape unless the medicals all check out.

Teheran is a bigger name than he is talent, but there’s workable ability in his repertoire.

Quintana would be returning to a familiar division, and while the Cubs could move on, his 3.80 FIP suggests the 4.58 ERA wasn’t truly indicative of the stuff.
The Twins have two parting options that would both fit in this group as well. Michael Pineda pitched himself into a decent payday even with his suspension, and because of the games missed, he’ll likely offer an immediate discount. Jake Odorizzi could be handed a QO which would put him at the top of this range, but he should have no problem finding a longer-term pact that falls somewhere in the middle.

I don’t believe the Twins will sign an arm from all three of these buckets given the likelihood for a trade being swung. If they did only hand out paychecks though, a strong trio can be formed from the group above. To say Cole is immediately out because he’d have to chose Minnesota seems dismissive. He’s a long shot, but money talks. If Gerrit turns you down, I’m more into Strasburg than Bumgarner, but I’d make sure one of them is cashing a check from 1 Twins Way. Wheeler is the most exciting name from the second group, and I believe he’s got another level yet to unlock. I’d round out the options by making sure that Jake Odorizzi never gives up the lease on whatever rental property he calls home in Minneapolis.

This story originally appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared as part of a collaboration between Bring Me The News and Twins Daily. 

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