With Zack Wheeler no longer available, the top two free agent starters the Twins could realistically target are Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. There is a lot of conflict or indecisiveness among the fans about which of the two would fit better on the team, so I’ll be diving right into that. I actually ran a Twitter poll recently to see who the fans prefer. The results leaned towards Bumgarner.
If you could only have one of Hyun-Jin Ryu or Madison Bumgarner, who would it be? #MnTwins— Cooper (@Carlson_MnTwins) December 5, 2019
Why the Twins might prefer Bumgarner:
Everyone who knows anything about baseball has probably heard of Madison Bumgarner. The former San Francisco Giant is known for his postseason heroics (2.11 ERA in 102 playoff innings) and his dominance during the last decade. He is 12th in ERA among all starters since 2010 at 3.14, so he has been elite since his debut.
If he was a free agent with his stats five years ago, teams would be all over him, but teams are smarter now and pay for future performance instead of past. Despite that, the 30-year old Bumgarner will still get paid around $20 million per year over four years because he is still effective.
His 2019 season was actually very encouraging as he was coming off two seasons where injuries caught up to him, limiting him to around 20 starts and 120 innings. Luckily, he got back to a good version of himself last season. He started 34 games and pitched 207 innings.
His ERA was 3.90 (highest of his career), but there were encouraging signs with his K/9 rising and BB/9 lowering from 2018. His batted ball stats were a bit weird with his hard hit% going to a career high at 43%, but his soft hit% was at a career low at just 14.5%. There have been some rumors that his velocity is decreasing, but he is actually still right around his career average at 91.4 MPH.
There are certainly some concerning things about Bumgarner as well, most notable are his home-road splits:
2019 league average wOBA: .324
This is concerning because he will be coming to the American League—where he will face the designated hitter regularly and he will be leaving San Francisco, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks. Maybe it’s nothing, but maybe coming to a cold new ballpark in Minnesota could have some negative effects.
Why the Twins might prefer Ryu:
Hyun-Jin Ryu is a couple years older than Bumgarner at 32 years old, but that will likely mean he is cheaper for fewer years so maybe the “cheap” Pohlads can pull this one off, am I right? Ryu is coming off a career year in 2019 where he was the NL ERA champion with a 2.32 ERA in 29 games started.
He does not have the same resume as Bumgarner, but he has been more effective over the last few seasons:
Hyun-Jin Ryu 2017-2019: 391 2⁄3 IP, 2.71 ERA, 3.61 FIP .679 OPS, 8.5 K/9, 1.9 BB/9
Madison Bumgarner 2017-2019: 448 1⁄3 IP, 3.57 ERA, 3.94 FIP, .707 OPS, 8.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Ryu has been the better pitcher over the last three seasons although Mad Bum does hold a pretty large edge in total innings.
To get Ryu it would likely cost around $55-$60 million over three years and that seems like the perfect deal if you are the Twins. They have seemed reluctant to ever commit a lot of money for a lot of years, but three might be the sweet spot.
When it comes to playoff experience and success, Bumgarner will be better than most but Ryu has seen his fair share of the playoffs. In 40.0 total postseason innings, Ryu has a 4.05 ERA and a 3.60 FIP. Those aren’t Bumgarner stats, but it will still get the job done.
There are of course a few concerns with Ryu and the most obvious one is injuries. He had Tommy John surgery in high school, shoulder and hip injuries hurt him early in his career, and he has only started 30 games one time. He actually missed the entire 2015 season and all but four innings of 2016 because of the shoulder and elbow.
When he is not hurt he has always performed well. His career ERA is under 3.00 heading into his 8th career season so he has proven he is one of the better pitchers in baseball who quite honestly doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
Which one should the Twins target?
Before you comment and say to go get both, I’ll tell you right now that won’t happen. The money is available, but with so many teams in the bidding war for these two it doesn’t make sense for one team to land them both.
With that said, I think the Twins should definitely target Hyun-Jin Ryu over Madison Bumgarner. You know what you are getting with both guys, and Ryu has been the better pitcher over the last few seasons. He also seems like the guy the Twins would target because he seemingly won’t be getting more than three years.
Who do you think would be a better fit for the Twins as they hope to chase a World Series title in the coming years? Both would definitely be solid additions, but I think Ryu is the better option.