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A meaningful starter upgrade will be hard to come by for the Twins

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Look, it’s not gonna be easy to just trade for an “ace”

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Twins have a pretty good rotation this year. Right now, Jake Odorizzi is among the best pitchers in baseball. Jose Berrios is not far from that conversation either. Kyle Gibson has been the face of consistent success. Even Martin Perez has done well, and Michael Pineda is pretty doggone alright for a fifth starter. Devin Smeltzer and Kohl Stewart have both been adequate in a fill-in role, and there are other prospects that haven’t even been called up.

Let’s focus on the first four guys though, because that is what the Twins will need for a playoff run.

Top four Twins pitchers

PITCHER WIN-LOSS ERA K/9 K/BB FIP WHIP
PITCHER WIN-LOSS ERA K/9 K/BB FIP WHIP
Jake Odorizzi 10-2 2.24 10.0 3.54 3.00 1.009
Jose Berrios 8-2 3.01 8.4 4.94 3.79 1.104
Kyle Gibson 7-3 3.79 9.2 4.53 3.87 1.186
Martin Perez 7-3 4.09 8.6 2.18 3.64 1.416

I would put that up against any top-four starters in baseball right now, and it’s not just luck. Guys are being kept off the bases, and FIP suggests the Twins defense is a relatively neutral factor overall. Let’s look at some of the top available pitchers (in no particular order.)

Also, in Gibson’s favor, if we take out his first three games, when he was still recovering from e.Coli, his line is 2.82 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 1.02 WHIP, 3.40 FIP. (Hat tip to Cooper for these numbers. )The whole season counts, but Gibson has been really, really good for the last couple months.

Possible Trade Options

PITCHER WIN-LOSS ERA K/9 K/BB FIP WHIP
PITCHER WIN-LOSS ERA K/9 K/BB FIP WHIP
Madison Bumgarner 3-6 3.87 8.7 4.5 3.98 1.172
Marcus Stroman 4-8 3.18 7 2.43 3.63 1.312
Trevor Bauer 5-6 3.41 9.7 2.6 4.13 1.117
Noah Syndergaard 5-4 4.55 8.8 3.88 3.62 1.211
Mike Leake 6-6 4.14 6.5 4.31 5.33 1.223
Zack Greinke 8-2 2.65 8.1 6.07 3.37 0.884
Max Scherzer 5-5 2.81 12.3 6.8 2.28 1.077
Matthew Boyd 5-5 3.35 11.4 6.59 3.01 1.083

Out of these guys, only two of them represent any kind of upgrade from the Twins top two pitchers, and most of them are behind Gibson, as well, by the numbers. Those would be Scherzer and Greinke. Both players have rather onerous contracts. Boyd is also in the same echelon as Odorizzi and Berrios, but has a nearly prohibitive price tag in the trade market, due to his very team friendly payroll hit.

We can clearly throw Leake out, as he would be a downgrade. Syndergaard would also be a downgrade on the numbers, but does have team control and very attainable potential. I would seriously consider trading him, but he is not the “ace” savior that fans are looking for. Wes Johnson might be able to fix Thor, but now is not the time to look for a project. If the Twins traded for him, he would likely be the fourth guy in a playoff rotation, and bump Perez down, but no higher.

Trevor Bauer is problematic off the field, but even if we ignore that, isn’t a huge upgrade on field either. He might slot above Gibson statistically, but not by much. He clearly isn’t going to push down Odorizzi and Berrios. And that is assuming that culture, fit, and chemistry are all entirely non-factors. Add in the fact that he currently pitches for the only team with a chance of beating the Twins in the AL Central, and it seems like he wouldn’t be worth the price. I mean really, even if Cleveland punts on this season, I don’t see them going into a deep rebuild.

Bumgarner is another guy who fits into the “Kyle Gibson” tier of pitchers. This isn’t a bad thing, but it also means he’s not much of a meaningful improvement. He would be nice to have, to push Perez down, but how much is he actually worth giving up? He has, however, been the one guy most closely linked to the Twins via rumor.

As for Marcus Stroman, he is the player on this list I would be most excited about. He has team control that makes him expensive, but also possibly worth the price. He’s been pretty consistently good throughout his career, and no matter what they might say, the Blue Jays aren’t really competitive in their own division. He still would be behind the Twins top two starters though. Pushing Gibson down is net positive, but how much of a positive is it? This deal pays off more in future years than 2019.

Back to Matthew Boyd, he is a very similar pitcher to Odorizzi this season, statistically. That’s not a bad thing. He also has a short track record. More importantly, he has several years of control, and plays for a division rival. If Detroit expects their window to open in the next few years—which they very well might, Boyd will be very, very expensive for the Twins to acquire. The Tigers have already made it clear that Boyd won’t be cheap for anyone. Again, it could be an upgrade, but at what cost?

Greinke supposedly had Minnesota on his 15-team no-trade list. It’s possible he would waive that, but his contract is still an insane commitment. Arizona would have to pick up a lot of the money, and or nearly give away an ace pitcher for this to even become plausible. He is owed $32 million in 2020 and 2021, and has an additional 62.5 million dollars deferred until 2022-2026. I’m not the Pohlad family accountant, but I suspect I know what his advice would be there.

Scherzer’s contract is just about as bad, at roughly $35 million in each of 2020 and 2021, and $15 million deferred to each of 2022-2028. Again, the Twins could hypothetically afford that, but if fans hated the team paying Joe Mauer $23 million to play for them each year, imagine how they’ll feel about paying Scherzer $15 million to NOT play for the Twins. Once again, either Washington would have to pick up a lot of the money, or else give us a good deal in prospect costs.

If you’ve been clamoring for the Twins to trade for an “ace,” well, I have bad news. They already have two, and the price tag is problematic on any others they could acquire. That doesn’t mean it won’t, or even shouldn’t happen, just that I find it unlikely in reality. The more likely scenario is that the Twins find a guy who can complement the existing rotation by pushing Perez into a fifth starter role. That isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t think I’d call that the meaningful upgrade that people are asking the Twins to make.

Poll

Which starter should the Twins trade for?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Bumgarner
    (154 votes)
  • 24%
    Stroman
    (221 votes)
  • 3%
    Bauer
    (27 votes)
  • 11%
    Syndergaard
    (102 votes)
  • 0%
    Leake
    (6 votes)
  • 10%
    Scherzer
    (94 votes)
  • 8%
    Greinke
    (74 votes)
  • 3%
    Boyd
    (35 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone Else? (tell us who in the comments)
    (7 votes)
  • 19%
    No one — ride with the guys we have
    (177 votes)
897 votes total Vote Now