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Maeda’s effect on the other rotation candidates

Some guys’ paths to the show just got harder

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If you went to bed early last night, not only did you miss the annual State of the Union address, you also missed some surprising baseball news. Around 8:30 central, news of an official trade sending Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox to the Dodgers broke. That wasn’t the surprising part—that trade has been speculated for weeks. The surprising part was that it became a three-team trade involving the Minnesota Twins. There hadn’t even been rumblings of that happening until the deal happened. Brusdar Graterol will be joining Boston, while Kenta Maeda moves from Los Angeles to Minnesota.

While Maeda has been used as both a starter and a reliever by the Dodger, its probably safe to assume he will be a starter in Minnesota—the Twins bullpen is stacked while their rotation had several question marks. Lets take a look at how this trade impacts the dozen-or-so guys who are in or hoping to be in the Twins 2020 rotation to start the season.

Jose Berrios: No impact. He’s actually a fairly similar pitcher to Maeda (961.4 similarity score on baseball reference) but is established in the organization as the “ace,” or at least the closest thing the Twins have to one.

Jake Odorizz: No impact. The Twins aren’t paying him nearly 18 million dollars this season to bump him from the rotation. Some people might slot Maeda just slightly ahead of Odorizzi, but after the season Jake had for the Twins last year, he’s likely to stay in the number spot to start the season.

Homer Bailey: Slightly decreased chance of making the team. The Twins signed Bailey to a $7 million deal, so they will obviously give him every chance to succeed with the team. He does, however drop from the third starter, and a virtual lock, to the fourth starter. Adding another veteran arm also gives the Twins another to turn to if Bailey does have a weak spring, and makes it easier to cut him loose.

Jhoulys Chacin: Moderately decreased chance to make the team. I just learned how to pronounce his name! I still think Chacin has an inside track to the fifth rotation spot, and will likely be added to the 40-man roster as soon as Rich Hill can be moved to the 60-day injured list. Chacin has been a successful pro in the past, and even his dreadful 2019 showed reasons for optimism. While the fifth spot is his to lose, he now has much steeper competition from the trio of rookies who would have been competing for the fifth spot, with Chacin in the fourth, before this trade.

Randy Dobnak: Greatly decreased chance to make the team. Dobnak would have been my first choice for the fifth spot, now he becomes the first man up if a player is injured or ineffective. As he has MiLB options, the Twins can have him bide his time at Rochester until they need him. As nearly every MLB team uses 10-12 starters each season, he will have plenty of opportunity later in the season, even if he doesn’t go north when camp breaks.

Lewis Thorpe: Greatly decreased chance to make the team. Thorpe was probably Dobnak’s main competition for the fifth starter role. Thorpe had the worst 2019 of the three rookies, but has the best prospect status and pedigree. Just like Dobby, he’ll get plenty of opportunity in 2020.

Devin Smeltzer: Greatly decreased chance to make the team. Smeltzer is the third of the three guys who had the best chance to fill the fifth spot. Any of the three could still displace Chacin with a good camp, but the odds have gotten longer for them all. He’ll also have plenty of opportunity to pitch in the show, even while starting the season in Triple-A. Rochester is going to have a legit rotation to start the season.

Sean Poppen: Basically no chance now. Sorry Cooper. Poppen is an interesting prospect at this point, as he pitched fairly well prior to injury last season. Due to the injury, he’s been surpassed in most Twins fans’ minds by the aforementioned trio, but also will likely have a chance this year.

Charlie Barnes: Basically no chance now. Barnes was always a dark horse. He made it to Triple-A last season, but did not get a call up to the Twins. They clearly think highly of the young lefty, as they invited him to big-league Spring Training. Another year in the minors might put him into a real conversation for next season, and he may make a cameo or two in the majors, if the Twins get bit by the injury bug.

Michael Pineda: No impact. Pineda won’t be able to start the season with the Twins, due to his suspension, but this helps take the pressure off for him to be hurried back. Given the way he pitched prior to suspension last season, he’ll still easily bump someone else out of the rotation, and his position shouldn’t be in danger.

Rich Hill: No impact. Like Pineda, Hill won’t be starting the season with the Twins. Like Pineda, if he comes back strong, he’ll be a guy the Twins find a way to get into the rotation. Both guys are worth mentioning though, because when they do come back, they will also have a huge impact on the rotation.