As the trade deadline looms large before us, the Twins’ position (buyers) and targets are glaringly clear. The Twins need to pick up a reliever or two, and maybe a starter. While the entire National League seems to still be in the wild card hunt, the next few days will likely clear up the “buy or sell” issues for a few more organizations. One of those clubs on the bubble is the Colorado Rockies. Full disclosure, they’re my favorite non-Twins team, but I don’t follow them very closely. Ben Kouchnerkavich, however, does follow them pretty closely. Ben is a writer over at Purple Row, our sister site covering the Rockies, so we had a bit of a conversation about some possible trade scenarios. While the Rockies aren’t sellers for sure, Ben’s best guess of who will be available includes pitchers Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, and Jairo Diaz, along with position players Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond, and Chris Iannetta. The Twins don’t need any of the position guys, and Diaz doesn’t quite fit the profile either, Shaw and McGee could both be intriguing options.
If you don’t know who Jairo Diaz is, don’t worry. He’s basically their version of Tyler Duffey.
Anyway, Bryan Shaw is the same guy who you probably remember from Cleveland’s very scary shut-down bullpens a couple years ago. He moved from the AL Central to the NL, and his stats promptly suffered. In Cleveland, he posted five straight seasons with ERAs at 3.53 or below, and another two seasons with ERAs below 3.00—he was pretty much the definition of consistency in a reliever. Shaw has always had a slight issue with the longball, as his career HR/9 is 0.8. That is inflated a bit by last year, when he gave up dingers at a rate of 1.5 per nine innings. This season is still higher than his career average, at 1.1 HR/9, although he does pitch half his games in the thin mountain air of Coors Field. He also struggled with giving up walks last season, at a career high 4.6 BB/9, while his strikeout rates stayed high. This season he has brought the walks down, but at the cost of a few Ks. Perhaps Wes Johnson can work some magic with Shaw—or perhaps a move to a lower altitude will. He’s making an AAV of $9 million for this year, as well as next year, and has a team option in his contract for 2021, so he wouldn’t break the bank for the Twins.
Jake McGee has an in-built advantage over Shaw, as he throws with the opposite hand. Since the only lefty in the Twins pen at this time is de facto closer Taylor Rogers, picking up another southpaw should be a priority. McGee struggled mightily last season, but has also had some great seasons in his tenure with the Rox. Furthermore, he came up in the Tampa system and pitched for the Rays for several seasons, so should have familiarity with Rocco Baldelli and Bullpen Coach Jeremy Hefner. While McGee’s 3.43 ERA looks great, ERA+ and FIP aren’t quite so kind to him. He’s given up a hit per inning this season, and struck out 6.9 per nine innings. He’s currently making the same salary as Shaw, and also has a 2021 team option.
I asked Ben to give us a quick synopsis of each pitcher, to either explain why we should ignore the stats, or explain them away.
Shaw no longer appears to be the dominant reliever he once was with Cleveland, but he’s still serviceable. Despite a high ERA in his Rockies’ career, DRA has shown him to be better than league average. He struggled with walks for the first time ever in 2018, but has remedied that in 2019, although his strikeout rate has also decreased. His home run rate has also returned to normalcy for him after a career-high 1.5 per nine in 2018. He’s a veteran reliever who I’m sure still knows his way around the AL Central.
McGee came to the Rockies along with German Márquez in the Corey Dickerson trade with the Rays prior to the 2016 season. The Rockies tried utilizing him as their closer, but he struggled. Then, he had a great year in a setup role in 2017, which convinced the Rockies to hand him a three-year contract, which is how we learned the hard way that such deals for relievers may not be such a bright idea. He struggled immensely in 2018, but has rebounded in 2019, at least in terms of his ERA. Such is the fickle nature of relievers, but McGee can still strikeout-to-walk numbers, even though, like Shaw, his K-rate has fallen a bit in 2019 as well.
We also discussed some potential players in the Twins system that could be sent over to the Rockies in an exchange. While Shaw and McGee are both veterans, they do have reasonable contracts with a couple of years remaining. Someone like that is usually a pretty fair trade for a prospect in the lower third of the top thirty, and Ben thought that the Rockies would prioritize a pitching prospect, so I suggested either Griffin Jax or Luis Rijo as a fair starting point for a trade talk.
As a reminder, Jax is pitching well as a starter at double-A this season, but is a bit old for the level due to his military commitment. He also will be rule-5 eligible this offseason, so will need a 40-man spot to remain protected.
Rijo is a few years younger, and has one more year before rule-5 eligibility, but has been in the Twins system since he was 16. He’s been pitching fairly well at Cedar Rapids, but hasn’t seen a ton of run support.
If you were the Twins GM, which trade would you like the best?
This poll is closed.
Shaw for Jax(63 votes)
Shaw for Rijo(49 votes)
McGee for Jax(126 votes)
McGee for Rijo(70 votes)
None of these(222 votes)