Arms race begins: Twins express interest in big-name, free agent starter

The Twins’ pursuit of starting pitching almost certainly won’t end up with them getting Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t add a big-name such as Madison Bumgarner or Zack Wheeler.

In fact, the Twins have had talks with representatives for Wheeler at the general managers’ meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV and SKOR North.

Wheeler, 29, is a free agent after going 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts last season with the New York Mets. The righthander missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He returned to post a 3-7 record and a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts and 86.1 innings in 2017 and was 12-7 with a 3.31 ERA in 29 starts and 182.1 innings in 2018. He pitched 195.1 innings this past season.

The Mets are reportedly interested in keeping Wheeler, but he has plenty of options and is in for a significant payday. Wheeler has until Thursday to accept the qualifying offer of $17.8 million from the Mets for 2020, but Jon Paul Morosi of has reported that the pitcher will reject it. Morosi reports the Angels, Padres and White Sox are among the other teams that have expressed interest in Wheeler.

One thing teams will like about Wheeler is the velocity on his fastball was at a career-high 96.7 miles per hour this past season. That is the second-best velocity of any starter on the free-agent market behind Cole.