The Twins need starting pitching. It was their biggest need going into the offseason, and remains their biggest need with just under three weeks left until Opening Day. It’s not that the Twins haven’t done anything — they acquired Jake Odorizzi in a trade with the Rays, and took a flier on questionable starter Anibal Sanchez — but the rotation could still use some fixing, especially with Ervin Santana out for at least the first month of the season.
The good (?) news is that this has been one hell of an offseason. As of Tuesday, only 61 of 166 players who declared free agency had signed deals, compared to 99 of 158 at a similar time last year. A lot of legitimate starting pitchers remain out there unsigned, including three of the top four available this offseason: Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb.
Amusingly, the Twins are currently the odds-on favorite to sign Lance Lynn and to sign Alex Cobb. They remain fifth to sign the more-expensive Jake Arrieta, behind the Brewers, Padres, Nationals, and Phillies.
I can tell you right now that I don’t really know how sports betting and betting odds really work. I’ve never bet on sports. The only bet I can ever remember making is betting my friend Annie a stick of gum that O.J. Simpson would be found not guilty back when we were in fifth grade. She was really pissed about that.
What I can tell you is that the Twins are not going to sign both Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb (though I don’t think that’s what the odds mean anyway). First of all, it would likely be too expensive to sign both, unless they both accepted extremely low-ball offers. The Twins already offered one of those to Lynn, and he wasn’t biting. Secondly, the Twins would have to clear two spots on the 40-man roster, likely leading to the loss of one or two players. Sure, it might be easy to DFA Anibal Sanchez and return Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Kinley, but Lynn and Cobb are older and/or more expensive alternatives, and would likely be around for more than one year. Do the Twins really want to give two roster spots to over-30, mid-rotation starters for the next couple years? It seems like an overkill to me.
Then there’s this little nugget from Jim Souhan (and remember, he has access, so he’s really in-the-know on these things):
Except they don't like Lynn and think Cobb is overpriced.— Jim Souhan (@SouhanStrib) March 9, 2018
Obviously, Bovada’s odds for each free agent are calculated independently, so the fact the Twins are the favorites for both Lynn and Cobb just means people strongly feel the Twins are going to sign someone. It makes sense, since, as mentioned, the Twins could really use the help.
The Twins’ 2018 Opening Day payroll is currently sitting somewhere around $118 million. Though that’s technically the biggest payroll in team history, it lags far behind the average MLB team payroll, and hasn’t kept up with inflation. Earlier this offseason I predicted the Twins would wind up at about $122 million, which would currently leave $4 million left to spend. It will obviously take more than $4 million to sign Lynn or Cobb, even in this abysmal market; however, it seems the Twins are actually willing to go even higher than $122 million, as evidenced by the $10 million the Twins offered Lynn for next season.
Honestly, I’m not sure the Twins will sign Lynn or Cobb. The offer the team made to Lynn, combined (perhaps) with Souhan’s note on them finding Cobb expensive, make me think the Twins aren’t making a hard push for either starter. It sounds more like the Twins are just staying in contact with their agents, waiting to swoop in if they can get a good deal on either of the two. Considering the deal Mike Moustakas just settled for, it could happen. The top free agent third baseman signed a one-year deal with the Royals yesterday worth $5.5 million (plus $2.5 in incentives) for 2018, with a $15 million mutual option for 2019. For some perspective, MLB Trade Rumors estimated at the beginning of the offseason that Moustakas would receive a five-year, $85 million deal, and the Royals originally extended him a $17.4 qualifying offer for 2018, which Moose rejected. Bet he’s feeling pretty bad about that around now...
Obviously, this year’s trend of not paying free agents is somewhat troubling, as Louie Opatz so eloquently explained in his great piece about Joe Mauer. At the same time, it’s also Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s job to try and get the best possible deal for the team (unless they are doing so by colluding with other teams, which is a big no-no).
What I’m saying is that this offseason is so bonkers, I wouldn't bet on the Twins signing either of these two guys. It’s too hard to tell. Of course, I don’t bet on sports anyway.
Which free agent starter do you think the Twins are most likely to sign?
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