It's going to be an interesting offseason for the Minnesota Twins given their unique situation. Earlier this month, there were reports that the Twins are expected to cut payroll heading into next year. Coming off an AL Central title and ending the dreaded playoff game losing streak, as well as winning a playoff series for the first time since 2002, this was not the most exciting news to hear.
A big reason for the payroll slashing is a result of the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports Group, who has Bally Sports North under their umbrella, causing the Twins to immediately look for a new partner for their broadcast rights.
In a report from Dan Hayes of The Athletic, Hayes mentioned that the Twins received $55 million from their Bally Sports North TV deal. That is a large chunk of change that unfortuantely, the Twins are now left looking to find ways to fill that void.
Having $55 million go out the door that a team is typically used to having is a direct cause for needing to adjust payroll, even though it's news no one wants to hear. There are still uncertainties as to what the Twins will do with their broadcast rights for the upcoming season and beyond, and it could take a little bit of time for them to feel the financial benefits of a new deal.
Given the unique situation that the club is in, they still have holes to fill in the starting rotation and it seems more likely that they won't shell out big money for some of the best starters left on the market. The team already lost Sonny Gray to the St. Louis Cardinals and Kenta Maeda to the Detroit Tigers via free agency, so there is work to be done in ironing out the rotation.
Although swinging a trade for a starting pitcher could make the most sense, with the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the franchise as they figure out their next TV deal, signing a starting pitcher to a one- or two-year deal makes sense as well. Let's take a look at a few free agents that fit that bill.
Budget free agents who make sense as Twins targets this winter
Coming off an All-Star Game appearance in 2019 and two top ten Cy Young Award finishes in 2019 and 2020 respectrively, right-hander Lucas Giolito seemed to be primed for a big pay day whether or not he hit the market after his time with the White Sox.
Since then, however, things have gotten rocky for Giolito. After being traded to the Angels last year and posting a 6.89 ERA in 32.2 innings with his new team, Giolito was sent to waivers and signed with the Guardians. That downward trend continued, with Giolito posting a 7.04 ERA in 30.2 innings during his brief stint with the Guardians.
Once seeming in line to earn a long-term contract, Giolito now might be best suited to sign a one year "prove it" deal to help improve his stock. At 29-years-old, he still has a lot of baseball left in him and can give himself the opportunity to earn a bigger contract if he can show consistency and can get back to the pitcher he was a few years ago.
The Twins can give Giolito a chance to join a team looking to contend, while likely not costing the team an arm and a leg. There is obviously familiarity with divisional opponents as well, having played for nearly half of the AL Central up to this point.
Following the trend of someone who could use a "prove it" deal to their benefit is another right-handed pitcher in Frankie Montas. After putting together a 2022 season in Oakland that saw Montas own a 3.18 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 28 walks in 104.2 innings pitched, multiple teams were calling the Athletics to acquire his services.
Winning the sweepstakes were the Yankees, who acquired Montas via trade that same year. His time in New York, however, was something he would like to forget due to a combination of struggling on the mound and health.
Between the remainder of 2022 and 2023, Montas had a 6.15 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 16 walks in 41.0 innings and just eight starts for the Yankees. Last year, he only tossed 1.1 innings, giving up two hits and a walk.
Montas too, like Giolito, is not far removed from being a very good starting pitcher and now has a very intriguing situation as a free agent this offseason. Health, however, is another factor involved with the decision to bring him into an organization.
There is risk involved with a move like this, but also plenty of reward if Montas can revert back to his old form and be able to eat up innings. Perhaps a one year deal with a vesting option is something that could make sense if the Twins were to explore Montas as an option.
In addition to those two and many other options, it wouldn't hurt for the Twins to explore some left-handed pitching options, whether that be via free agency or a trade. On the open market, there are a few arms that make sense.
Alex Wood, Sean Manaea, and Wade Miley with Miley being the best of the trio. Wood and Manaea, however, would give the Twins a little bit more flexibility as they have more recent experience being both a starter and bullpen arm.
Like I mentioned before, if the Twins want to make more of a splash at starting pitcher, doing so in a trade gives them better options. These names, however, seem to make sense if they are looking for something more short term as they iron out a new TV deal and cut back payroll.