It's no secret that the Twins are looking for pitching. Proving my point, Jesse listed 7 free agent pitchers yesterday that have had various connections to the Twins this offseason and can be considered possibilities for the 2015 rotation. Now, I definitely don't see Jake Peavy coming to Minnesota and I severely question the logic in chasing Edinson Volquez, but the other names have decent chances of donning a Twins jersey next season.
This may sound absurd, but there are some teams out there that actually have too much starting pitching. No, really! One team that is interested in trading away a pitcher is the New York Mets, and quickly delving into their options easily demonstrates why they want to clear some space. Bartolo Colon, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, and Matt Harvey are all pitchers that arguably deserve to be on the 2015 Opening Day roster. Toss in prospects Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard and yeah, the Mets seem to be stacked on the pitching front. With plenty of other needs on the roster, the Mets have let other MLB teams know that they are making Colon, Gee, and Niese available for a trade, and the Twins should be interested in making a deal.
Of all the players I mentioned above, perhaps it's no coincidence that those three are not only the most expensive Mets pitchers, but also the ones that offer the least upside. Having players with big salaries and low performance is not an effective way to build a competitive team, so the Mets are hoping to clear a path for their collection of young guns.
In his heyday, Bartolo Colon was a workhorse. He didn't do anything flashy other than pound the strike zone with fastball after fastball and give you 30 starts or more for 8 consecutive seasons. However, from 2006 to 2009 Colon could not stay healthy and he even took a full year off in 2010. He signed with the New York Yankees in 2011 and resurrected his career at the spry age of 37, tossing a 4.00 ERA in 164 1/3 innings. The Oakland Athletics, always taking gambles that other teams wouldn't make, signed Colon to a pair of one-year contracts and were handsomely rewarded with a combined sub-3 ERA in spite of a 50-game PED suspension.
Teams were still wary of Colon's resurgence but the Mets thought he would be worth the risk when they signed him to a 2-year, $20 million last offseason. Although Colon put together some of the worst at-bats we've ever seen out of a major league pitcher, he did still throw 200 innings and have a reasonable 4.09 ERA, showing that he's still got some left in the tank. However, turning 42 years old midseason, along with being owed $11 million for 2015 are two big reasons why I think the Twins would not be interested in him.
Dillon Gee is the second player the Mets are dangling. He'll be 29 years old for most of the 2015 season and has spent his entire career in the Mets organization, including about 3 1/2 seasons in the major leagues. His best year was 2013 when he threw 199 innings with a 3.62 ERA and outside of that, he's been a slightly below-average pitcher. He throws in the high-80s to low-90s with his fastball and doesn't do anything exceptionally well (6.53 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 1.04 HR/9, 45.6 GB%) which does still have some value but I feel that he's the one that would give you the least upside of these three Mets. However, Gee is also the cheapest as he's still going through arbitration after earning $3.625 million last year. Still, I feel like if you want a soft-tossing righthanded pitcher, you might as well just throw Yohan Pino out there again.
Finally, this brings me to Jon Niese. He's the youngest of the bunch as he just turned 28 but also the most expensive as the Mets signed him to a 5-year, $25.5 million contract right at the start of the 2012 season. On a per-year basis he's reasonably affordable at $7 million this upcoming season and $9 million for 2016. Plus, he has a pair of team options for 2017 and 2018 of $10 million and $11 million, respectively, with $0.5 million buyouts for each team option. Of course, that also means he's owed a minimum of $16.5 million if his team wants him for only two more seasons.
Niese does have some durability issues as he's never pitched 200 innings in his career, but he's never suffered any crippling injuries as he's made at least 24 starts each season since becoming a full-time starter in the Mets rotation in 2010. He's also been the best pitcher compared to Gee and Colon as he's had an ERA of 3.71 or lower in the past three seasons with respectable FIPs as well. Additionally, he's a lefthanded pitcher, something that teams seemingly are always attempting to find.
It should be noted that all three pitchers called Citi Field home which has been notoriously stingy on home runs, but only Niese had an above-average home run per 9 innings rate of the three. None of the three strike out a lot of hitters, but their walk rates range from decent (Niese and Gee) to excellent (Colon). While they wouldn't represent massive upgrades to the rotation, they do also allow the Twins to knock the Logan Darnells back a spot on the rotation depth chart.
Will the Twins actually trade for one of these guys? Eh, I don't think they will, I feel they could just sign a comparable or better pitcher for a similar amount of money on the free agent market. But, if that well happens to run dry, it does appear as though Sandy Alderson and the Mets will keep their phone line open.