Entering the offseason, it sounded like it would be the same old, same old from the Twins. Despite needing pitching depth, they’d likely shy away from the ace pitchers and instead look for the classic “innings eaters” which often was just a euphemism for a pitcher that wasn’t particularly good but hopefully wasn’t disastrous, either.
While Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb aren’t quite in the “innings eater” tier of starting pitchers, they still weren’t quite that ace pitcher the Twins absolutely need to contend in the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, another Ervin Santana-like pitcher would be nice, but a team would need a dragon slayer atop their rotation. Fortunately, the Twins are willing to consider that dominant pitcher such as Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta.
Between the two, Darvish is clearly the better pitcher at the moment. Arrieta had the better peak (32-11, 2.08 ERA, 2.31 FIP, .191 batting average allowed, 27.2 K% from 2014-2015) but has been trending in the wrong direction over the past couple seasons and has regressed back to that Ervin Santana echelon. Again, still a good pitcher, but not someone that will regularly shut down a top offense. Meanwhile, Darvish strikes out hitters nearly as often as a Miguel Sano strikeout, has had success in the AL (and in Texas’ hitters park, an even bigger plus), and throws about 2 MPH harder than Arrieta. Hell, one could even argue that the presence of Darvish might help lure Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani to that same team as well.
I don’t blame myjah, we’re used to the Twins going bargain-hunting and Terry Ryan being risk-averse. Try to name the worst Twins free agent signing in their history. Off the top of my head, it’s probably Ricky Nolasco. Keep in mind though that Nolasco was a Twin for just 2 1/2 seasons and he also cost $12 million per year, which was a luxury sedan for the Twins but a standard four-door compact for most MLB teams. After Nolasco, it’s a steep drop-off to Mike Pelfrey, who was bad but didn’t hurt the team salary-wise during his tenure.
My point is that these were deals under the old front office. The refrain we often heard from the Pohlads was that they’d be willing to add payroll if it made sense, but Ryan wasn’t interested in the large free agent contracts. While there’s certainly risk, Thad Levine and Derek Falvey are not Terry Ryan. Sure, Falvey came from Cleveland, a team that’s also notoriously cheap, but Levine was with the Rangers, a team that also struggled with finding top-tier pitching. Levine helped bring Darvish over from Japan while he was with Texas, so it’s not out of the question to think that Levine could sign him once again.
Falvey and Levine are new to the organization and I’m sure their original plan was to bide their time until the young core matured and carried the team into playoff contention. However, their surprise visit to the postseason this year likely accelerated that timeline, and now they could be looking for another pitcher to solidify the rotation with Santana and Jose Berrios. A multiyear contract for Darvish would signal that the Twins are serious about making it a two-team race in the AL Central with Cleveland for the next couple years, plus the rotation would be looking like a strength if Kyle Gibson kept up the promise he showed at the end of last season.
Realistically, will the Twins sign Darvish or Arrieta? No, probably not. However, we should remember that they are being run by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, not Terry Ryan, so there’s more of a chance this offseason for us to witness a big-name signing than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.