The flirtation period is over, as the apple-of-the-Twins-eye, Yu Darvish, has agreed to terms with the Chicago Cubs. Darvish reportedly earned a 6-year, $126 deal which could escalate to $150 million. That means his annual average value will fall between $21 and $25 million by the time all is said and done. This also establishes the baseline price for free agent starters. Where Lance Lynn, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Jaime Garcia end up, and how much they make was largely predicated on the result of Darvish’s deal, so lets look at which of these guys make sense for the Twins, and at what price.
Jake Arrieta is generally considered the number two available pitcher, behind Darvish. He is not without a large set of question marks however. A couple years ago, you could make a case for Arrieta being among the top pitchers in baseball. Since then however, his production has trended downward. His bWAR has fallen from a high of 8.7 in his Cy Young campaign of 2015, to 3.4 in 2016 and 1.9 last season. That puts him just a hair above Jose Berrios. At the same time, his ERA ballooned from 1.77 to 3.10 and finally 3.53. Strikeouts, home runs, and other peripheral numbers have followed the same trend. The other negative following Arrieta is a question of durability. He’s several years removed from Tommy John surgery now, but seems more likely to pitch 150 innings than 200 next season. On the plus side, his “down year” numbers last season would have made him the second-best pitcher on the Twins, just behind Ervin Santana. If the Twins think he can hold this form, let alone find part of his Cy Young performance, he could become a great buy-low candidate.
If I’m the Twins, I offer him: 5 years, 85 million.
After missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John Surgery, Lance Lynn gave the Cardinals 186 innings in 2017. Like Arrieta, his ERA last season would have bested any Twins starter not named Ervin Santana. He posted 3.1 bWAR, which is almost half of what all Twin pitchers did for the season, and again, better than all but Santana. While all his peripherals for 2017 were above his career norms, those may rebound in the second year following the major surgery. When rated by similarity scores, he and Arrieta are very, very close. He will likely come a bit cheaper, and is younger. He’d be my personal favorite for the Twins.
If I’m the Twins, I offer him: 4 years, 54 million, and probably add a vesting option or two based on innings pitched.
Alex Cobb looked like an ace, until missing all of 2015 and pitching very poorly in 22 innings in 2016. 2017 was a better season for him, providing 179 innings and a 3.66 ERA. his bWAR was 2.4, right between Lynn and Arrieta, and still good enough he would have been the second best pitcher on the Twins. Again, the injury history is the big red flag here.
If I’m the Twins, I offer him: 3 years, 37.5 million
Did you know Jaime Garcia is undefeated as a Minnesota Twin? While not quite providing the same production as the others, he is still a good pitcher, and is the only lefty here. That may play a role, given the current righty-heavy rotation the Twins are projecting. He put up a 4.41 ERA in 157 innings between the Braves, Twins, and Yankees last season. That still would have made him third among the Twin’s rotational mainstays. His 1.4 bWAR would score similarly, just behind Berrios. The Twins have already been linked to him.
If I’m the Twins, I offer him: 3 years, 32 million
Which starting pitcher do you prefer the Twins sign?
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