As I’ve alluded to, I don’t think there’s a big need to make much noise in the starting pitching free agency pool this year. Last offseason, I was a big advocate for trying to get Yu Darvish, who appeared to be a true #1 and would be a big boost to the rotation (yeah, that didn’t quite turn out to happen. Oops). This year, I just don’t see any free agent starter out there as being good enough and safe enough for the Twins to risk signing.
We could go out and pay big money to someone like Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin, but both are fairly risky (Keuchel is aging and appears to be starting a decline, while Corbin just doesn’t have a long enough history of being a high quality pitcher for me to be able to justify paying him big money). Minnesota is a franchise that can’t afford a big contract to backfire on them, and I just don’t see the rewards outweighing the risk in this situation.
Similarly, I don’t see the point in signing a back end of the rotation guy. There’s a handful of free agents out there that would probably pitch well in a #3 or #4 role with the Twins, but I just don’t see the point. We already have so many guys that can fill those slots just fine, and there’s much bigger holes elsewhere in the team (i.e. the bullpen and basically half of the infield).
Plus, guys like Romero, Gonsalves, and Mejia are fast approaching the point where they will no longer benefit from getting more time at AA or AAA. It would be best for both those individual players and the Twins to let them get some reps in the MLB and improve there, rather than paying a free agent significantly more money to come here and probably get about the same level of production out of them.
I think this year or next year would, however, be a good time to start seriously looking at adding a true ace via trade. The Minnesota Twins have a ton of assets in the minor leagues that could be available for a young, controllable, top tier starter. This year might be a little bit early to pull the trigger, but if we are in serious contention at the trade deadline this year, it could make sense to pay up for a good pitcher that has a few years of control left. I don’t predict the Twins land any big names this offseason, but I do think they should (and will) start testing the trade waters a bit to start prepping for a trade a year or so down the road.
So, my prediction is that the 2019 rotation will built entirely in-house. I could see the Minnesota Twins signing a back half of the rotation arm via free agency, despite my wishes, but at this point I would venture to say they’ll be content to roll with what they have. Berrios, Gibson, and Odorizzi will almost certainly fill up the first 3 slots in the rotation. After that, it’s really hard to say who it will be since there are so many different options. As previously mentioned, Romero, Gonsalves, Pineda, Mejia, Littell, Stewart, and others are all reasonably in the running.
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Ultimately, I think it’ll come down to a good old-fashioned spring training battle for the final 2 slots in the rotation. It’s nearly impossible to say who will win it because it really could be any combination of that group.
My personal hopes are that Romero and Pineda win the battle. I think Romero has the most upside of any starter the Twins have had since Berrios joined the big leagues, and Pineda was a quality pitcher before going through Tommy John surgery. I would like to see more from Gonsalves and Mejia in 2019, but I think we will regardless. There’s always the need for temporary fill-ins through spot starts and injuries, so I’m not too worried about each guy getting their shot.
No matter what, the team will likely be left with 3+ starters on the outside looking in. To circle back a bit, this could be a good trade opportunity. While it’s certainly nice to have pitching depth, and the Minnesota Twins shouldn’t get rid of all of it, there isn’t a need to have 4 extra guys ready to step into the rotation. If whoever the Twins go with first as the #4 and #5 to start the year are pitching well, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see whoever is left out between Gonsalves, Mejia, Stewart, and Littell shipped off for an area of need. It’s all speculation at this point, but the Twins could wind up in a good spot to trade away a position of strength to bolster a position of need.
After nearly a decade of poor starting pitching, we seem to finally be entering a new era of Minnesota Twins baseball. Jose Berrios is primed to become the league’s next ace, Kyle Gibson has finally found the consistency he’s always been looking for, Odorizzi is a nice fit in the middle of the rotation, and the team has multiple options with good upside to fill out the rest of the rotation. There are so many options after Berrios, Gibson, and Odorizzi that it’s difficult to say who will earn the last 2 slots in the rotation, but it’s a good spot to be in for the Twins after years of lackluster starting pitching options.