I know we’re all waiting for something - anything - to happen, so while I don’t bring you something good, I do bring you something, and that is what’s most important. With everything stuck in neutral as teams await the decision of top free agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish, the Twins have checked in on former Orioles starter Chris Tillman, according to Darren Wolfson. However, Wolfson adds that they would not proceed with a deal for Tillman until they sort out what’s happening with Darvish first.
Tillman will turn 30 years old a couple weeks after Opening Day and has spent his entire 9-year career with Baltimore. The tall righthander toiled for his first three years, pitching to a 5.58 ERA (5.31 FIP) over 36 starts while tallying 180 2⁄3 innings. However, he gained a few MPH on his fastball in 2012 and became a quietly good pitcher, throwing a 3.80 ERA (4.27 FIP) from 2012 to 2016 while reaching 200 innings pitched in 2013 and 2014 and at least 172 innings apiece over the next two years. Last season was a disaster though as Tillman had a 7.84 ERA (6.93 FIP) over 24 appearances (19 starts) as his fastball dipped to 90.7 MPH, though he did average that same velocity in his solid 2014 campaign.
Tillman throws a fastball in the low-90s that he cuts and sinks, a slider/cutter, curveball, and changeup. Never a dominant pitcher (career 17.5% strikeout rate), Tillman always succeeded on generating weak contact as evidenced by his career .283 BABIP. However, he’s always been a bit prone to giving up home runs and that was a huge issue for him in 2017.
I’m not a fan of considering Tillman unless the Twins think they have some secret that can make him a better pitcher. In the best case scenario, Tillman would give them similar numbers to Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn for a fraction of the cost, but Tillman feels like a pitcher that should be destined for a pitching-starved non-contender. Without using any hard evidence for a comparison, I think of him as being similar to Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, and Ricky Nolasco, pitchers that didn’t offer much promise before coming over and then had varying levels of success. Now that the Twins are looking like a playoff contender, I would hope that this is just them doing their due diligence and checking in on a free agent’s price rather than strongly considering him as an option. Long story short, I’d only want Tillman as a Twin if they missed out on every other starting pitcher.