The 2017-2018 offseason is here for the Minnesota Twins. Who could be Twins be targeting in the free agent market?
Now that the Minnesota Twins have entered the offseason, they are looking to improve the roster through trades and through free agent signings. In this series, we’re going to examine individual players that the Minnesota Twins could have interest in this offseason through free agency.
We will not have any specific order to which player we highlight in this series, but we will look at each player’s past history, why he would be a good fit for the Minnesota Twins, and, last, the sort of contract likely to be required to sign the player.
We will continue the series with another look at a starting pitcher available on the market…
Tyler Chatwood, RHP
Chatwood was an elite prospect coming out of high school, a 2nd round selection by the Angels out of high school in California in 2008. He was a two-way guy with impressive skills in the outfield, but with a 90-93 MPH fastball and a plus curve, he moved to the mound as a pro.
Chatwood worked his way up the major leagues with the Angels in 2011, making an impression with his elite curve and movement on his fastball. The Rockies thought enough of him to have him be the only return when they traded away their starting catcher, Chris Iannetta, to the Angels after the 2011 season.
In 2012-2013, Chatwood posted a 3.99 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, and a 74/107 BB/K over 176 innings for the Rockies. Then, 4 games into 2014, he felt something in his elbow pop. That led to his first Tommy John surgery. He hadn’t made it back to the majors when the ligament failed again, requiring another TJS.
Finally in 2016, Chapman made it back to the majors. Over the last two seasons, Chapman has thrown 305 2/3 innings with a 4.27 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and a 147/237 BB/K ratio. Those aren’t exactly numbers that would scream “sign him!”
However, when you dig deeper on Chapman, you see that he has been excellent on the road over his career away from Coors. While Chapman has a career 4.31 ERA and 1.41 WHIP overall, his road numbers over his career are a 3.31 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.
The more impressive thing to look at with Chapman lie in the underlying numbers, especially this season. Much has been written about how Chatwood’s elite curveball spin rate could have him in line to perform akin to how Houston’s Charlie Marton did this year.
An article yesterday on MLB.com showed the Statcast most improved pitchers in 2017. Chapman was in multiple places on the list, including having the largest velocity increase in 2017 (92.7 average to 94.8 average). He improved the average launch angle he allowed by reducing it 4.8 degrees, which would keep the ball in the park more often. Outside of those improvements, Chatwood generated the sixth-highest ground ball rate at 59.3%.
How he would fit?
Chapman’s not a guy to sign for a front of the rotation spot, but Chatwood could fill a similar role to Morton did for the Astros, working as a solid #3/#4 pitcher. He can generate a ton of grounders, give 6+ innings per start, and could produce plenty of swing and miss.
One other thing he could do is that he could end up lengthening the rotation to allow for guys like Adalberto Mejia, Aaron Slegers, Stephen Gonsalves, and more to open in AAA and fill into the major league rotation as the year goes on.
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Things like Statcast have become very common in evaluation for teams around the league, and the buzz seen on Chatwood on Statcast pages is going to be seen around the league in negotiations.
Chatwood will likely draw multiple years, and he did make $4.4 million last year, so thinking he’ll go much under that is rather foolhardy, but a deal much like the one that Miles Mikolas signed today with the St. Louis Cardinals with a base of 2 years and $15 million would be ideal. Anything less would be a bargain, and even up to $17-18 million over 2 years would make sense or even 3 years at a similar annual salary.
It is good to keep in mind that Chatwood will only be 29 for the majority of the 2017 season.
Should the Twins do it?
It all depends on dollars. Chatwood’s notable improvements in 2017 after his surgery recovery should likely make him one of the most sought-after free agent arms beyond the top 4 this offseason, so the money could get tough to match, but if the Minnesota Twins could get Chatwood for the dollars mentioned, I’d say the Twins would be not just silly to not do it, but irresponsible!