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Zulgad: Here’s why Taylor Rogers — not Jose Berrios — could be on the move at trade deadline

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Jun 6, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Taylor Rogers (55) celebrates after defeating the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

There is no question the Twins are getting calls on Jose Berrios ahead of the July 30 MLB trade deadline. Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, would be foolish not to listen to offers for potentially the best starting pitcher on the market, but the reality is Falvey’s asking price likely means the righthander will remain in Minnesota.

The Twins would be gambling that they could sign Berrios long term — he is set to become a free agent after the 2022 season — but trading him also eliminates one of two reliable starters (Kenta Maeda is the other) the team has under contract for next season. There is another issue for clubs, such as the Mets, who might be pursuing Berrios.

The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players association expires this offseason and the threat of a work stoppage to begin next year is very real. Falvey will approach trade talks for the 27-year-old with the following outlook: I’m giving you a top of the rotation guy for the rest of 2021 and all of 2022. Rival executives will see it this way: I’m getting a good pitcher for the rest of 2021 but who knows about 2022? Thus, what Falvey is asking for, and what is being offered, could be very different.

This doesn’t mean the Twins might not move a valuable pitcher who remains under team control for next season. Reliever Taylor Rogers has been of the few bright spots in a bullpen that has been a disappointment for much of the year. He is 2-3 with a 3.35 ERA — he had a 4.05 ERA in 21 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — with eight saves, eight walks and 54 strikeouts in 36 games.

Rogers had a rough outing on Sunday, blowing a save for the third time this season and giving up a grand slam to Jake Rogers that put the Tigers ahead by a run in the ninth inning before the Twins rallied for a 12-9 victory in 10 innings. Despite the hiccup, Rogers has had a solid season and on Monday he was named a late addition to the American League All-Star team for Tuesday’s game in Denver.

So why trade the lefthander? The answer comes down to finances and age. Rogers will turn 31 on Dec. 17 and the Twins aren’t likely to attempt to lock him up long term because of his age. More importantly, he, like Berrios, is again eligible for arbitration this offseason. Last December, Rogers and the Twins avoided arbitration by settling on a one-year, $6 million deal but that price will increase this winter.

Rogers, who had 30 saves in 2019, would be a nice bullpen fit for a contender. There are numerous teams that could be interested and use Rogers either as a closer or earlier in games in high-leverage situations.

One potential landing spot would be the surprising San Francisco Giants, who split their closing opportunities between Jake McGee (18 saves) and Tyler Rogers (10 saves). Tyler and Taylor are identical twins — the 10th set to play in the big leagues — but Tyler is a righthander. The Giants entered Sunday with a big-league leading 33 saves but were tied for fourth with 17 blown saves.

The downside to trading Taylor Rogers is, if and when the 2022 season begins, he would be a key piece of the bullpen who would need to be replaced. This would be a larger issue because of how much reworking the Twins’ bullpen is going to need before next season. Veterans Alexander Colome, who has had a disappointing season, and Hansel Robles are on one-year contracts and unlikely to return.

But if the Twins can acquire a fringe top 10 prospect (and maybe a lesser one as well) for a veteran reliever they don’t want to commit to long term, Falvey likely would be more willing to make that trade than dealing a starter whom the Twins feel (or at least hope) they have a chance to retain.