So you want a free-agent starting pitcher, Minnesota Twins? This is a good time to be shopping, as the proverbial shelves are stocked for those willing to enter the market. Feel free to fill your cart. To make a deep run in October it helps to have plenty of pitching, and some to spare.
Here’s a quick look at the best arms available to help Minnesota fill out its starting rotation. And note: We offer hear the phrase to fill out their rotation ‘behind José Berríos’; I think it’s worth tweaking our vocabulary to say that the Twins ought to fill in their rotation ‘in addition to’ José Berríos. It’s a small tweak but it does leave us more open to the possibility that the Twins will target a more impactful starting pitcher, the kind to which Derek Falvey alluded this week when he said that fortifying the pitching staff would be a top offseason priority.
After Berríos, you’re not exactly sure today what their starting staff will look like. Martín Pérez has a team option (or a very affordable buyout), Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda and Jake Odorizzi all could become free agents, and Randy Dobnak is young and still relatively unproven. Perhaps some of those arms are in the rotation to begin the season, and perhaps someone like Dobnak or Zack Littell or Brusdar Graterol or Devin Smeltzer will get a look as a starting rotation candidate come 2020.
Gerrit Cole, 29
The ace of aces pitched the Astros through Game 5 of the ALDS and into a semi-finals date with the New York Yankees. If Houston makes it to the World Series, you’d expect he’ll have something to do with it. How often is it that a guy who has a claim for Best Pitcher in Baseball becomes available for job interviews? And if you think it’s laughable that the Twins would enter discussions for the Astros pitching machine, I think we should hold them to higher standards.
Yu Darvish, 33
We know that they’ve shown interest in Darvish in the past, and ultimately he chose to pitch in Chicago. Now, after a rebound season in which he again looked like an ace, Darvish has the choice to remain with the Cubs or opt out of the final 4 years and $81 million left on his contract. Will he choose to become a free agent again? If so, would the Twins still be interested?
Stephen Strasburg, 31
A similar story to Darvish, although it’s fair to wonder if any of us really know what Strasburg is thinking — or what he wants. While some expect Darvish to opt in to his remaining years with the Cubs, it doesn’t seem on the outside like it’s as certain with the Nats co-ace. On one hand, the 4 years and $100 million would be a nice payday to pitch with Max Scherzer on a great Nats team. On the other hand, could you imagine the Scott Boras client wanting — and getting — more in free agency?
Hyun-Jin Ryu, 33
Among casual baseball fans around the country, Ryu might not have the same name recognition as some of the other more publicized aces who pitch in other parts of the country. His numbers sure look strong from the season he just completed with the Dodgers. The final tally showed a 2.32 ERA (sub-3.00 in his 6 years with the Dodgers), with a 22.5% strikeout rate and a minuscule 3.3% walk rate.
Let’s start with the guys the Twins will know quite well.
Jake Odorizzi, 29
Odo is a candidate for the Qualifying Offer, and I’ve already said that I’d try to bring him back if I was the Twins.
Michael Pineda, 31
Big Mike let the team down this year, that’s for sure. And he’d also have to serve two-thirds of his suspension at the beginning of the 2020 season. But if you can convince yourself that you can trust the guy and he just made an honest mistake, is there the case to be made for bringing him back for another go? You’d have to guess that his market will be suppressed beneath the actual value that he could provide (again), and he was pitching quite well at the time his suspension was announced.
Dallas Keuchel, 32
I guess he’s not cooked, is he? Seems like he made a smart bet to wager on his performance in the form of a 1-year pact.
Zack Wheeler, 30
He was a popular pick as a trade deadline target, and right up until the Mets showed us that none of us knew what they were thinking, I thought Wheeler made sense for Minnesota. Any reason to revisit that in the winter?
Madison Bumgarner, 30
Perhaps the most talked about name in the month of July. I don’t think the World Series winner with a great postseason pedigree would be the best name on this list, but he’s certainly shown that he belongs on this list.
Wade Miley, 33
Miley had to settle for $5 million in Houston over the winter. He should do better than that this time around, after making 33 starts and putting up a 3.98 ERA. But he struggled down the stretch and in a market that appears unpredictable for non-elite players, who do wonder what Miley will make this winter.
Homer Bailey, 34
One of the quiet July trade acquisitions, the former Royal put on an A’s uniform and made 13 starts with a 4.30 ERA. He’s all right. On the surface he would make the current rotation better but it would not be a wow pickup for the Twins.
Rick Porcello, 31
This would be a bounceback candidate that you’d hope to get working with Derek Falvey, Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner and the pitching group responsible for several strong improvements in 2019. Porcello had a 5.52 ERA and a middling strikeout rate, so you’d also look for bonus points as a leader and teammate.
Cole Hamels, 36
The case against singing Cole Hamels would be that he’s 36 years old. The case for signing Cole Hamels would be that he’s Cole Hamels. The veteran lefty had a good year with the Cubs (3.81 ERA, 23.2% strikeout rate, 91.% walk rate in 27 starts), and has really had a remarkable career. He’s pitched at least 190 innings in 10 of his past 12 seasons, although the two that he hasn’t hit the mark in that span were in 2017 and 2019. I don’t know if he still has it or if his inclusion on lists like these are due mostly to nostalgia. But he’s on this list as a candidate.
Martín Pérez, 29