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ESPN’s Jeff Passan: Twins starter Jose Berrios looks like the best pitcher on the trade market

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Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios leaves the the mound during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, in Cleveland, Monday, April 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

Is Jose Berrios entering his final month as a Minnesota Twin?

Jeff Passan of ESPN became the latest MLB insider to write that the team’s top starter could be dealt for the right price before the trade deadline arrives at 3 p.m. on July 30.

“Barring a team like the Washington Nationals cratering and making Max Scherzer available, the Twins’ Jose Berrios looks like the best pitcher on the market,” Passan wrote in a trade deadline preview that appeared Wednesday on ESPN’s website. “The belief among teams is that Minnesota will entertain dealing Berrios but will necessitate a massive return.”

Berrios has been mentioned as a trade candidate for several weeks by prominent baseball writers. The Twins are one of the biggest disappointments in the big leagues this season and sit at 33-44, 12.5 games back of first-place Chicago in the American League Central. The White Sox beat the Twins, 7-6, on Tuesday in Chicago.

Minnesota began a stretch of games last Thursday in which it will play within its division until July 21. It remains to be seen if Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, will wait that long before he begins to deal. Berrios almost certainly would be kept until the deadline to increase the potential bidding on him.

What the Twins must find out is if they have a realistic chance to sign Berrios to a contract extension before he becomes a free agent after the 2022 season. If they don’t, it makes sense to trade him now when he still has a year of team control remaining and, thus, is more attractive to any club that would want him. That could be a long list.

Wrote Passan: “Berrios is 27, is under club control through 2022, as durable as it gets and in the midst of the best season of his career. He’d be perfect for the New York Mets, who are in first place in the National League East, or Atlanta, which isn’t. He’d fit in Chicago (North Side edition) and Los Angeles (Orange County edition), even if neither is a playoff team. That’s the beauty of Berrios. If he’s out there — and an increasing number of executives believe Minnesota will deal him — his market is everyone.”

Berrios is 7-2 with a 3.41 ERA in 15 starts this season and is 55-40 with a 4.10 ERA in 131 games and 130 starts in six seasons with the Twins. He has never become the top-end ace that the Twins hoped he would but he is their best starter and, with Kenta Maeda struggling, it’s not even close.

Passan also wrote that lefthanded reliever Taylor Rogers “is very popular among teams that want bullpen help.” Rogers, 30, who is 2-3 with a 2.53 ERA and seven saves in 31 games this year, also will be a free agent after the 2022 season. Rogers’ name, however, hasn’t appeared in nearly as many reports as Berrios’ has in recent weeks.

This might come down to whether any of the teams that get into the Berrios sweepstakes are willing to give the Twins the massive return that Passan writes will be necessary to complete a trade.