As evidenced in the Minnesota Twins AL Wild Card sweep of Toronto, a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the pitching rotation is a necessity for success. I
To be fair, the Twins have been chasing that white whale for over a decade but finally struck gold with the combo of Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray in 2023.
Minnesota rightfully locked in Lopez through 2027, but Sonny Gray turned down a qualifying offer to test the market and ended up in St. Louis with a 3 year $75 million deal. The Twins were just not set up to compete with a such a deal and now must find a way to replace the Cy Young runner-up in the rotation.
As it sits now the Twins are not actively in the free agent market looking for a Gray replacement, nor have they found a suitable deal for trade pieces Jorge Polanco and/or Max Kepler. The Twins might not have to look far to find a suitable replacement, though, as a perfect candidate already exists in-house.
Chris Paddack could be the perfect Sonny Gray replacement for Twins
He was brought in from San Diego via the Taylor Rogers trade in the spring of 2022 to bolster the rotation, and Chris Paddack might be the perfect guy to try and replace Gray in the rotation.
Last April Paddack blew out his UCL -- for a 2nd time -- resulting in an 16 month rehab from Tommy John surgery. After making a triumphant return in September, Paddack came strong late and flashed a fastball that rode into the upper 90's and averaged near 96 mph, the best of his career. He also flashed command of his reformed change up and has a nice 12-6 curveball, making him tough to barrel up. He pitched well in 3.2 innings of work in the play-offs, looking eager and ready for a fresh start in 2024.
The Twins have two more years of control on his contract before he becomes a free agent and there will be plenty of motivation to prove himself as a legit MLB starter to further his career.
His early career metrics are similar to Gray in many ways, so there's reason for optimism that he can use a chance to bounce back the same way his predecessor did. Gray provided eight wins in 2023, and is it that far-fetched to think Paddack couldn't match that?
Perhaps it's a bit speculative or overly hopeful but it's not crazy to think that Paddack can revive his career in the same way we saw Gray do, even if it's not to such great Cy Young-sian heights. Kenta Maeda had a revival of sorts, so there's a precedent for veteran pitchers rediscovering themselves in Minnesota. I'm high on Paddack heading into 2024 and feel he could be an ace in hole to hold down a solid rotation spot for the Twins.
How's that for a New Year's resolution?
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