The Twins were busy on New Year’s Eve, signing pitchers Rich Hill and Homer Bailey to one year deals. Hill will be joining the Twins for $3 million guaranteed with the chance to earn a total of $9.5 million with performance bonuses. Bailey will join the team on a $7 million deal guaranteed with some extra performance bonuses based on innings pitched.
In the second part of my 2020 rotation plan, I simply wrote “No” in regards to Homer Bailey as an option for the Twins in 2020.
Knowing what we know now about the state of the pitching market (Kyle Gibson getting $27+ million for three years and Tanner Roark getting $24 million for two years), getting Bailey for just $7 million guaranteed isn’t a bad deal for a veteran #5 pitcher.
After all, Bailey was worth 2.9 fWAR in 2019 after posting a 4.57 ERA (4.11 FIP, 4.43 xFIP) in 163.1 innings with a 21.4 K% and 7.6 BB%.
Bailey was especially effective after his trade to the A’s and down the stretch run:
Bailey was particularly good in his final 8 starts as Oak solidified a wild card: 2.25 ERA, .578 OPS against, 7 BBs/48Ks in 48IP. It included 2 starts vs. the #Yankees (3 R/11.1 IP, 17 Ks/1BB) and 1 at the #Astros (1 run, 5.1IP). #Twins— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 31, 2019
Bailey’s success in 2019 came after greatly increasing the usage of his Split-Finger Fastball, throwing it 740 times in 2019 (.302 SLG against) compared to just 292 times in 2018.
Considering the success the Twins have squeezed out of Jake Odorizzi and his Split-Finger, perhaps there is even a little room for improvement for Bailey. If not, he is a solid #5 starter who has success against good teams in 2019.
Hill had a modifed Tommy John Surgery in 2019 and will be out until mid-2020, which is why the soon-to-be 40 year old signed such a bonus-heavy contract with the Twins.
When healthy, Hill has been elite despite his advances age, posting a 2.45 ERA (but just a 4.10 FIP and 3.41 xFIP), 29.8 K% and 7.4 BB% in 58.2 innings in 2019.
While his fastball only averages about 90 mph, Hill is a statcast darling, ranking in the 91st percentile in fastball spin rate, 95th percentile in curveball spin rate, 98th percentile in exit velocity and 97th percentile in hard hit percentage, per Statcast.
Signing Hill now effectively works as an early trade (without losing prospects), as Hill will come off his rehab assignment (assuming no setbacks) in late June or July and work either as a mid-rotation starter or even as an opener/long reliever and then be ready to be a shut down arm in the playoffs (3.06 career ERA in 53 playoff innings).
And the man’s nickname is Dick Mountain, so there is that.
If you had told me in October that the Twins would have resigned Odorizzi and Pineda and then also signed Homer Bailey and Rich Hill to address our rotation, I would not have been very happy.
But to be completely honest, these sorts of moves are smart and cost effective ways of sustaining success in 2020 without putting the team in a bad spot financially for 2021 and beyond.
With Pineda out until May and Hill out until June or July, the opening day rotation of: Berrios — Odorizzi — Bailey — (rookie?) — (rookie?) isn’t particularly inspiring. But in a weak division our offense might be able to help sustain early success until Pineda and Hill return. This plan also gives Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Lewis Thorpe plenty of time to audition for starting roles in 2021.
The biggest issues I have with these moves is that it still leaves the Twins with only two veteran starting pitchers, Berrios and Pineda, signed for the 2021 season. So we may have to spend another offseason trying to find the majority of our rotation unless the rookies really solidify themselves this spring and early summer.
That being said, this still leaves room and money on the table for another big acquisition. Josh Donaldson is still available, with the Twins reportedly being one of the few teams to offer him a 4 year contract. Of course the trade market, as outlined in the third part of my 2020 rotation plan, is still open. Perhaps these signings mean that the trade market isn’t going well for the Twins, but the moves could also alleviate the perception that the Twins are desperate and help bring trade costs down, too.
Like with any moves, we can’t judge these signings completely until the offseason is over, but I think they are solid moves if the next domino falls in the right direction for the Twins.