Minnesota Twins: 10 possible undervalued free agent pitchers to pursue
Tyler Chatwood, RHSP
Age on Opening Day: 28
2017 Salary: $4.4 million
2017 Stats: 33 G, 25 GS, 147 2/3 IP, 8-15, 1 save, 4.69 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 12.2% BB, 19% K
Info: If there is a pitcher that is less ideally suited for Coors Field, yet has found success as a Rockie to some degree, I don’t know who it would be. Mike Petriello had a great look at Chatwood for MLB.com, looking at a number of factors that we’ll discuss here.
Chatwood’s best pitch as an amateur was a curve that had a very tight, firm break due to its high spin rate. Anyone who’s watched baseball at Coors knows exactly how spin does at Coors, whether it’s a fastball, curve, or whatever. Interestingly, Chatwood also has an extremely good spin rate on his fastball as well.
This is seen fairly drastically in Chatwood’s splits. In 2017, Chatwood had a 6.01 ERA and 1.68 WHIP at home and a 3.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP on the road. While Chatwood did struggle with his control in 2017, he was coming off of Tommy John and in his first full season back, still finding his feel on his pitches.
Chatwood is also an extreme ground ball pitcher, but if he doesn’t get a ground ball, he tends to get high fly balls, which would play into the Twins defense very well with the athletic outfield behind him and an improved infield defense to handle the ground balls as well.
Chatwood was compared by Petriello to Charlie Morton, and while I’m not sure Morton’s playoff performance puts a proper spin onto that comparison, but looking at Morton’s 2017 regular season would be a very nice year to have in the Twins rotation – 14-7, 25 starts, 146 2/3 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.1% BB, and 26.4%K.
While there’s some level of gamble in hoping that Chatwood can become that level of pitcher, it’s not the type of gamble that couldn’t be mitigated with smart incentives into a contract. At his age, Chatwood could be lured well with a 3-year deal with a 4th year option, likely with an average base salary of $6 million with incentives based on performance added into the salary for the first three years that could take it as high as 3/$27M with incentives, and perhaps vestings in the 4th year option that vests at a $12 million option if he meets certain innings and performance standards in the first three seasons.
For a guy who’s not had a contract bigger than his 2017 salary previously, this would be a significant raise, and it would still give some risk mitigation to the Twins rather than going in too head-strong as they’ve done previously with contracts like the one given to Phil Hughes.
Tim Cooney, LHSP
Age on Opening Day: 27
2017 Salary: *minimum* (not on major league active roster)
2017 Stats: (rookie ball rehab appearances) 4 GS, 3 IP, 6.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 20% BB, 26.7% K
Info: It may seem very odd to have a 27 year-old who hasn’t thrown a pitch outside of rookie ball since 2015, but after a shoulder injury kept him out in 2016, he suffered a flexor strain in his elbow in 2017, and he was able to rest and rehab the joint, but he is a minor league free agent this winter.
Cooney wouldn’t require a major league deal, but he could pay off big, as he was an extremely promising young pitcher in the Cardinals minor league system in 2015 when he made his pro debut, showing well in 6 major league starts, throwing 31 1/3 innings, with a 3.16 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and a 10/29 BB/K ratio.
He has had a long road back to health, but he would certainly be worth the minor league deal to give him a shot as his previous level of performance would be an asset as a 3/4 starter in a major league rotation from the left side, and that’s not something you come across just every day, especially with someone who has had some level of success at the major league level.