The Minnesota Twins are clear title contenders in 2020 and beyond, but they need one final piece to push them over the top: a true ace.
After just four games, the Minnesota Twins have shown the team that won 101 games in 2019 is still very formidable. They boast an unstoppable lineup, a shutdown bullpen, and a rotation with some very solid pitchers. They’re built for a season like this, but they are missing one key piece: a true ace level starter.
Make no mistake: the Twins’ starting pitchers are very good. Jose Berrios is dominant when he’s on. Jake Odorizzi is an All-Star, but would be best used as a fantastic third starter. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill (when healthy) are very good as well, while Homer Bailey, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and eventually Michael Pineda are all great back of the rotation options.
The only issue with all of these guys is there isn’t a pitcher on that list who can be counted on for a great start almost every time, a starter who will go at least six inning every time and shut down opposing lineups.
There were hopes that Berrios would be that guy. Over the past four seasons, his ERA has continued to go down, and he has struck out at least 195 batters in each of the past two seasons. Unfortunately, he’s now 26 and in his pitching prime, so I don’t know that he’ll get much better than this.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Berrios. I want him to establish himself as a superstar, win a Cy Young, and lead the Minnesota Twins to their first World Series since 1991. I just am worried that won’t happen, especially if he keeps putting up outings like he did against the White Sox on Friday.
Because of this, I think Berrios is best served as a No. 2 starter, similar to how Patrick Corbin is the best No. 3 starter in the league behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg for the reigning World Series champions. Corbin hides his inefficiencies behind two aces, and I think Berrios would thrive in that role as well.
This brings me to my main point. The Twins need an ace. Not an All-Star, very good pitcher, but a true ace who will take over games. An ace who will make the big playoff starts (oftentimes two starts in each series). Every World Series winner has them.
The Nationals had two (Scherzer and Strasburg) last year. The Boston Red Sox had Chris Sale and David Price (Price was the playoff ace) in 2018. In 2017, the Houston Astros had Justin Verlander. In 2016, the Cubs won their first World Series in 100 years behind Cy Young runner-up Jon Lester.
Even the Royals in 2015 had Johnny Cueto, the Cy Young runner up in 2014, who bounced back from a rough regular season to shut out the Mets in the World Series. He went all nine innings in a key Game 2 to help them bring in the title. The Twins need a guy like that.
They aren’t easy to come by. We know this. The Twins haven’t had a true ace since Johan Santana struck out 235 hitters in 2007. But trading a top prospect to land an ace from a sinking team will be how the Twins win.
This lineup will carry them to the playoffs. Not a doubt in my mind. The bullpen will be extremely clutch, and is very necessary to winning a title. The other six starters the Twins have will be key cogs for the team. But a true ace will be what sets this team apart.