Minnesota Twins: Kyle Gibson’s departure not a major blow for the Twins

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 04: Kyle Gibson #44 of the Minnesota Twins throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning in game one of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 04, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 04: Kyle Gibson #44 of the Minnesota Twins throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning in game one of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 04, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /
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The Minnesota Twins lost the veteran right-hander when he signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

The Minnesota Twins carousel in their pitching rotation continued on Wednesday as veteran right-hander Kyle Gibson signed a free-agent deal with the Texas Rangers as first reported by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the deal is valued at $30 million over three years and sees the Rangers go back to the well after cashing in on former Twins castoff Lance Lynn last season.

While the Rangers are turning back to the Twins’ scrap heap, Gibson’s departure might have some Twins fans feeling different ways. On one hand, Gibson was a model player for the organization since being drafted with the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, but his on-field performance just wasn’t what the Twins needed moving forward.

Over seven seasons with the Twins, Gibson put together a 67-68 record and a 4.52 ERA. While he did show signs of turning things around during a career 2018 campaign (10-12 with a 3.62 ERA) things regressed during his final season in Minnesota despite winning a career-high 13 games.

Gibson’s win total was fueled by a strong start to the season as he overcame a bout with E. coli after an offseason mission trip to Honduras. Once he had his legs under him, he was solid on the mound, going 7-3 with a 3.70 ERA in his first 13 starts. The wheels came off from there as Gibson went 6-4 but carried a 5.85 ERA in his final 21 appearances (16 starts).

There are several reasons that led to Gibson’s decline in the second half of the season. Gibson wasn’t 100 percent as he dealt with ulcerative colitis that eventually landed him on the injured list but it was also his inability to throw strikes that have nagged him over his career.

Gibson’s supporters will point to his career-high chase rate (36%) from last season, but part of that came with the second-lowest percentage of pitches in the strike zone at 34.2%. By comparison, Jose Berrios ranked sixth in chase rate but ranked 24th with 43.4% of his pitches in the strike zone.

Going deeper, Gibson has an MLB-low 36.5 percent of his pitches in the zone in the past three seasons (min. 500 innings pitched) but still ranks 13th in chase rate at 33.2%. When you don’t throw pitches in the zone consistently, any time a batter swings at a pitch is going to be considered a “chase.”

Perhaps that’s why Gibson’s second-half collapse saw his walks per nine innings double from 2.03 BB/9 in the first half to 4.16 BB/9 in the second half. Hitters simply stopped swinging at his stuff and became more patient.

But then there’s the sickness that Gibby had to deal with in the second half that sapped his strength, but he somehow battled this to post a career-high 93.3 MPH on his fastball according to FanGraphs last season. Perhaps he wasn’t feeling his best, but the numbers indicate that his stuff didn’t seem to jump off at all.

All of these things factor into a decision to not bring Gibson back and with a track record that includes just two seasons with an ERA under 4.00 and one season with a WHIP under 1.30, it seems like that extra level that people keep thinking is coming isn’t going to happen with a pitcher who turned 32 in October.

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The Twins’ biggest priority this offseason was to upgrade their rotation and by bringing Gibson back, they would be spending significantly more to keep things at the same level. When that money could be used on someone with actual upside such as Zack Wheeler or maybe even Madison Bumgarner, the decision to let Gibson walk is an easy one even if there are emotional ties.

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