Pitchers in this tier will be the most likely targets for the Twins this free agency. While they don’t have the appeal of Cole and Strasburg, they should fit the mold of “impact pitching” that the Twins declared they were out to seek this season. While the pitchers in the first tier will command triple-digit contracts, these should stay below the $100 million mark.
Outside of Cole and Strasburg, Wheeler might be the most coveted pitcher on the market. The 29-year old (who will turn 30 in May) struggled with arm issues during the early part of his career but has rebounded nicely to go 23-15 with a 3.65 ERA over the past two seasons with the New York Mets.
Those numbers aren’t great, but a lot of teams figure there’s room for more in terms of pitch selection and his control. Wes Johnson did a great job getting the most out of his staff last season, so it’s not a surprise that the Twins have already kicked the tires of adding Wheeler to the roster.
The Twins had a flirtation with Bumgarner last summer as they looked to upgrade their pitching rotation at the deadline. While it was the deal that the Twins would have rather done with the San Francisco Giants as opposed to the one they did make, there’s a chance those conversations may have intrigued the former World Series hero and entice him to come to Minnesota.
Although there are positives (such as his seventh career 200+ inning season in 2019), there are also plenty of concerns before giving him a deal. If the Twins were to acquire Bumgarner, they would have to hope that Johnson could pull off a renaissance similar to the one that Justin Verlander has experienced late in his career with the Houston Astros. With the projected contract (four years, $72 million) not a major investment, it might be worth rolling the dice to find out.
Another name that the Twins have had an interest in is former Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. The reigning National League ERA champion is hitting the market at the right time in theory, but a laundry list of injuries to his arm has many teams scared to invest in a pitcher that will turn 33 in March.
For all his shortcomings, the one thing that Ryu knows how to do is win games as he’s collected 54-33 record and a 2.98 ERA in six major league seasons. In addition, Ryu might have a larger market than expected after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, meaning teams won’t have to give up a draft pick to sign him. Ryu would not be for the faint of heart, but he carries enough upside for the gamble to pay off.