Now that the World Series has ended, the MLB offseason is now officially underway. So now is a perfect time to take a look at some of the moves that the Twins can make this winter to put themselves right back in the playoff hunt in 2018. The obvious focus for the Twins this offseason should be the same as it has been for that past decade, GET BETTER PITCHING!
Probably the best thing that the Twins have going for them is they are still a very young team, and as a result, the list of players becoming free agents this offseason is short. These players include Matt Belisle, Bartolo Colon, Hector Santiago and Dillion Gee, along with Glen Perkins who had the final year of his contract bought out. This will clear roughly $18 million off of the Twins books heading into the offseason. Of these pitchers the only one that played all that well for the Twins was Gee with a 3.22 ERA. Yeah, Belisle served the role as the Twins closer down the stretch, but that had more to do with the fact that the only other decent relievers in the Twins pen were rookies, and Molitor didn’t trust them in that role quite yet.
Free Agents to Target
Going into this winter there is an abundance of pitchers on the open market, headlined by Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. While either one of these pitchers would be a great add to the front of the Twins’ rotation, it’s not really in the Twins nature to target high priced free agents like them. So, let’s turn our attention to pitchers that the Twins will probably be focusing on this winter.
Lance Lynn – Lynn has been an effective pitcher over his 6 seasons in St. Louis, amassing a career 3.38 ERA over 977.2 IP. Lynn has also shown that he can be reliable as he has never had an ERA above 3.97 in any season in his career. He did miss the entire 2016 season after having Tommy John surgery, but other than that Lynn has shown his durability by pitching at least 175 innings in each of his 5 full seasons.
Alex Cobb – In 2013 and 2014, Cobb was showing signs of becoming one of the game’s premier young pitchers after posting back to back seasons with an ERA under 3. However, just like Lynn, Cobb underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss all of 2015 and most of the 2016 season. However, Cobb bounced back with a good year in 2017, making him an enticing candidate for the Twins to pursue.
Wade Davis – Ever since moving to the bullpen in 2014, Wade Davis has become one of the most effective relief pitchers in baseball, posting an MLB low 1.45 ERA in that time. Davis isn’t an overpowering pitcher, nor does he feature an unhittable breaking pitch like some of baseball’s other great relievers. However, Davis features a strong four pitch mix, and is a very similar pitcher to what Joe Nathan was in his prime.
Greg Holland – A former teammate to Davis in Kansas City, Holland was the closer on in the great Royals bullpen that helped lead them to back-to-back AL pennants in 2014 and 2015. Holland is yet another player on this list who underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the 2016 season. He bounced back well from this with a good start to 2017, but he fell off as the season progressed. His 3.61 ERA should be taken with a grain of salt, as he was pitching for the Rockies in Coors Field.
Brandon Morrow – Morrow made a name for himself this postseason as the shutdown setup man in the Dodgers’ bullpen, including pitching in all 7 games in the World Series. Morrow has pitched well in limited time over the past 3 seasons, as he has a 2.23 ERA over 92.2 innings in that time. Morrow features the most electrifying fastball of any pitcher in the group, which averages 97.9 MPH.
Juan Nicasio– As you would expect from a Colorado Rockies starting pitcher, Juan Nicasio’s career didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a 5.03 ERA over that 4-year span. However, in the 3-years since leaving Colorado, and becoming a full-time reliever, Nicasio has turned his career around. Since 2015, Nicasio has had a much more respectable 3.80 ERA, including a 2.61 ERA last season. A big reason for this is Nicasio’s improved strikeout rate, which has risen from 6.9 K/9 as a starter, to 10 K/9 out of the bullpen.
Addison Reed – Reed had a quick rise to the top in his career, after being named the White Sox’ closer in just his first full season in the bigs. Despite this however, Reed struggled to produce, accumulating a 4.22 ERA in his three seasons as a closer with the White Sox and Diamondbacks. Since then Reed as seemed to turn the corner and pitched well over the past three seasons, mostly with the Mets. The Twins should still be cautious with Reed, as it appears a big part of his success came from his decreased home runs allowed rate, which is most likely attributed to playing in the spacious Citi Field.
Brandon Kintzler – Many Twins fans were not happy to see journeyman relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler traded to the Nationals this past July. Ever since the trade happened, there have been ongoing rumors that the Twins and Kintzler would be interested in a reunion this offseason, to the delight of many Twins fans. A Kintzler return would bring a familiar veteran presence to the young Twins bullpen.
*All projected salaries based off of MLB Trade Rumors’ projections.
With the new front office entering their second offseason at the helm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them become more aggressive, especially after receiving the backing from owner Jim Pohlad to spend more money on pitching. If the Twins target some of these quality pitchers listed above, they could land as many as 3 of them for roughly the same price it would take to sign Darvish or Arrieta by themselves.