This story first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News.
There’s no doubt that the Twins have one of the better top-heavy pitching rotations in the American League. To take things to the next level they need another layer. Insert Yu Darvish.
The 2020 MLB winter meetings struck a similar chord to the return of the McRib Sandwich at McDonald’s; heavily surrounded with anticipation and hype, yet little action. Outside of the White Sox ruffling some feathers, this year’s offseason reunion consisted of unfulfilled rumors, Zoom fatigue, and minimal transactions.
Don’t lose hope just yet. Despite the lack of action thus far, there’s a lot of offseason left and the chances of activity picking up are high. With a majority of free agents still unsigned there surely will be an influx of movement in the future, especially among pitchers.
The pitching market is flooded with names like Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell, and Masahiro Tanaka. Yet as of late, a new name who isn’t a free agent has popped into the conversation. Cubs ace and 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish.
Coming off a strong resurgence in 2020, Darvish has become a household name across the league. Despite having a flush of rocky seasons throughout his career, Darvish has proven to be a top-tier pitcher whose versatility knocks on the door of “elite-ness.”
Darvish is signed for three more years and owed $59 million by the Cubs. In normal circumstances, one would be crazy to trade such a high-level player on a successful team. These, however, are not normal times for the Cubbies.
As Thomas Harrigan of MLB.com pointed out in a recent piece on Darvish, the Cubs are in an immense period of transition as a result of the legendary Theo Epstein leaving the organization. Regardless of who replaces Epstein, there’s an even greater problem surrounding the North-Siders.
After a historic World Series victory in 2016, the supposed dynasty of Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, and Wilson Contreras hasn’t come to fruition. Yes, they’ve been good...but not at the level expected. The bottom line? There could be holes to fill in the Cubs roster and new ownership would have opportunities to make long-term fixes by trading the lucrative Darvish.
If the Twins were to trade for Darvish it wouldn’t be without a pretty penny. Given Darvish’s career numbers and name-recognition, the Twins would almost certainly send over a top prospect in addition to a high-value player.
We can worry about that later. Here are three reasons why trading for Yu Darvish could put the Twins rotation atop the league.
1. Good to Great
It’s no secret that depth is key to a solid pitching rotation. Kenta Maeda, José Berríos, and Michael Pineda boasted a 2020 season that rivaled the performance of Jack Morris, Scott Erickson, and Kevin Tapani in the 1991 regular season.
Yet uncertainties remain for the 2021 rotation. There’s a chance that free agent Jake Odorizzi could remain with the team next season though health remains an issue. Randy Dobnak was excellent in the first half of the 2020 season but faced difficulty getting outs deeper into the year. Both these guys have the potential to be excellent candidates to round out the rotation, the only question is consistency.
Not only would Darvish beef up the Twins rotation as a potential ace, but he would also naturally create more versatility that would put less pressure on the back of the rotation. Having a consistent fourth arm in the rotation allows players like Odorizzi and Dobnak to work their way back into the rotation through confidence built by favorable matchups.
For example, if the Twins were set to face a ground-ball heavy team the Twins could start Dobnak over Odorizzi. If there’s a matchup that favors Odorizzi (over Dobnak), Rocco Baldelli could select him to start that game. Darvish’s impact would extend far beyond his own talent, paving an opportunity for a dynamite fifth starter platoon.
2. Go Deep!
While Kenta Maeda electrified Twins fans with long outings in 2020, crafting starts that stretch into late innings hasn’t been and isn’t the Twins forte. In 2020 Michael Pineda and José Berríos each averaged 5.2 innings per game (five starts for Pineda, 12 for Berríos) while Maeda averaged roughly six innings (11 starts).
Darvish isn’t a consistent eight-inning starter, but statistically, he goes longer than any of the Twins’ current pitchers. In 2020 Darvish averaged north of six innings per game through 12 starts. Seven of those 12 outings were seven innings and only one was under six. Yes, it’s a small sample and no, his numbers haven’t been that high every year. Yet it does prove that Darvish has the capability to go deep in games and can do it often.
This could perhaps be valuable given the blows the Twins bullpen has received. With Trevor May, Matt Wisler, and Sergio Romo all gone it’s clear that young talent like Jorge Alcala, Cody Stashak, and perhaps Edwar Colina will be given ample opportunities. And while these youngsters have a wealth of talent, there are bound to be blunders, just as there are with any young player. Having a seasoned vet like Darvish could help control damage by going deep into games, preventing overuse of the bullpen, and preventing potential opportunities for wreckage.
3. How things Stack Up
As mentioned earlier, the Twins would need to offer up a wealth of talent in exchange for Garver. This is where things get complicated. The Cubs are in need of starting pitching, bullpen help, and consistent yet powerful hitting. While things could change amidst free agency, uncertainty looms over who the Twins would trade for Darvish.
Miguel Sano’s name comes to mind in regard to power hitting. The only problem? Third base is occupied by Kris Bryant (for now) and first base is locked down by Anthony Rizzo. Young second baseman Nico Hoerner has struggled at the plate, making him a potential swap for someone like Jorge Polanco. The Twins could offer up a top pitching prospect like Jordan Balazovic or even a current starter, yet this would defeat the purpose of building an elite and deep rotation.
If there is a position where the Twins have some leeway, it's the outfield. Despite non-tendering Eddie Rosario, the Twins have the luxury of possessing young talent like Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, and Trevor Larnach. One of those names could anchor a puzzle piece of a potential Darvish trade.
All in all, the Minnesota Twins trading for Yu Darvish would be a bold move, one that could either go brilliantly or crash and burn. Coming off of one of the strongest pitching campaigns in the franchise’s history, making this move could capitalize on a strength and put the Twins in a position to seriously contend.
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