The free-agent reliever market has picked up in the last few days with the signings of Player Page for David Robertson, Zach Britton and Kelvin Herrera. Even with the Twins reportedly agreeing to terms with former Angels righty Richard Parker, Minnesota still has room to seek another reliever and perhaps
The free-agent reliever market has picked up in the last few days with the signings of Player Page for David Robertson, Zach Britton and Kelvin Herrera. Even with the Twins reportedly agreeing to terms with former Angels righty Richard Parker, Minnesota still has room to seek another reliever and perhaps a starter to round out the rotation. With that in mind, this week's Inbox questions focused on the Twins' pitching situation.
I think it makes sense for the Twins to sign another starter, but there are arguments both ways.
If the Twins keep it in-house and have Fernando Romero, Adalberto Mejia, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves and others battle for the fifth rotation spot, that leads to experience for one or more of those starters throughout the season that could be helpful if they're needed to fill a more significant starting role in 2020. As things stand right now, Jose Berrios is the only established starter under team control beyond '19.
But the Twins look to be building a hopeful contender in 2019, and if they stand pat and the young pitchers can't perform consistently at the Major League level, or if starters go down with injuries, that lack of rotation depth could be a liability for the team's postseason chances. There are plenty of young options, but there's not very much proven depth.
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On the other hand, if the Twins go after another starter, that means less guaranteed experience for the younger possible 2020 rotation options but more depth for the '19 team. With players getting banged up over the course of the season, and with an eye towards Michael Pineda's injury history, one or more of the in-house candidates will likely get some experience anyway.
And with manager Rocco Baldelli and the Twins' front office open to creative bullpen usage, some of these starters could still get some relief opportunities, though they could be acclimated to the bullpen in the Minors first. Stewart and Romero have both been named as players whose stuff could fit in either starting or relief capacities.
Talks are certainly possible. The Twins haven't had a potential top-of-the-line starter of Berrios' talent level since perhaps Johan Santana, and with Berrios' strikeout, walk and hit rates all trending well since he debuted in 2016, he could be an option to anchor the top of Minnesota's rotation for years to come.
Berrios is in his final pre-arbitration year in 2019, and an extension would give the Twins some cost certainty through much of his prime and guarantee Berrios a more comfortable, risk-free salary during his arbitration years. But the Twins would assume some risk in committing money to Berrios without an easy way out if, for whatever reason, he doesn't pan out.
Values of pre-arbitration extensions for pitchers don't traditionally have extremely high base values. Coming off of his 2014 American League Cy Young Award-winning season, Corey Kluber signed a five-year, $38.5 million deal with performance-based escalators and a pair of club options. Berrios likely wouldn't get that kind of money and could bet on himself to outgain that through his arbitration years.
On the Twins' side, one thing that might get in the way of extension talks now is a potential reluctance to sacrifice the significant payroll flexibility that they have built into 2020 and beyond.
I do think it's a stretch to call it a make-or-break year for Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, in that they both have the talent to be productive Major League players if they fall short of the stardom for which Twins fans have long hoped. Even if Buxton doesn't recognize his five-tool potential, his otherworldly speed and center-field defense at minimum give him value. Even if Sano doesn't rebound with 30 homers, he appears to be making strides in his conditioning, and his power and athleticism are undeniable.
If they can't rebound this year, the clock is ticking for Buxton and Sano to be the stars for the Twins' next sustained contender. But even if it's the next round of Twins prospects that proves to be the group that pushes Minnesota over the top, Buxton and Sano could still have significant roles on that team.
I definitely think Trevor May is a strong candidate. If the Twins don't add a more proven back-end reliever in the next month, we could see a competition through Spring Training for the closer role. But May posted career-best strikeout and walk rates upon his return from Tommy John surgery in 2018, and he was best among current Twins relievers in hard-hit rate (29.5 percent) and whiff rate (32.7 percent) last season.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.