The Minnesota Twins will unveil their new-look pitching staff as Opening Day approaches. The Twins traded for Sonny Gray to be a veteran presence and the staff ace. It’s a good step for a team that badly needs pitching. Still, they need more high-quality arms, and at this point, it means trading for one.
Minnesota tied for 25th last season with a 4.83 team ERA. A pitching staff with an ERA that high won’t cut it if the Twins want to get back into the postseason.
The Twins signed Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer as other experienced options, although both are seen as projects with boom-or-bust type arms. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are two young starters who came on strong late last season for the Twins, but they are not locks to be productive all year.
The team has plenty of young arms in Double- and Triple-A. However, the Twins need some additional top-of-the-rotation arms. Outside of Gray, the team doesn’t really have that. They’re banking on significant development or improvements from the rest of the rotation to become a playoff-caliber staff.
Reports have suggested that the Twins have been in the mix for a couple of the Oakland Athletics starting pitchers, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea. Montas has been seen as the prized pitching option on the trade market, but Oakland has been hesitant to move him. Meanwhile, they just traded Manaea to the San Diego Padres over the weekend.
San Diego’s addition of Manaea adds to a surplus of value on the mound. Naturally, if the Twins don’t feel like they can work out a deal with Oakland for Montas, the Padres would be the next option.
An option with more experience is probably the focus to pair with Gray. The Padres have a good mix of veteran and younger arm options. Pitchers who fit that description would be Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Paddack.
Darvish could add some high-pedigree pitching to the Twins rotation. The five-time All-Star has a strikeout rate sitting around 30 percent and his exit velocity of 88 MPH over the last four seasons. The Twins have also been linked to Darvish thanks to Thad Levine’s connections with the Texas Rangers – Darvish’s first team when he was a free agent in 2018. Darvish would be a big get, but he is owed $19 million this year and $18 million next season.
Snell is a 2018 All-Star and Cy Young winner who could give the Twins some much-needed left-handed pitching. Snell finished with a 4.20 ERA but generated some swings and misses with an 11.89 K/9 clip last season. Rocco Baldelli started coaching in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, so he would be familiar with Snell. But Snell’s ERA and exit velocity have been going in the wrong direction since that Cy Young season.
Those two arms could be in play but seem to be longshots since San Diego isn’t trying to trade away assets quite like Oakland is. Plus, their salaries make them harder players to move. The Twins don’t need to get a Cy Young candidate or even an All-Star. What they need is a reliable arm.
Clevinger is a familiar face for Twins fans because he started his career in Cleveland. However, he’s starting the season on the IL with knee issues after missing the entire 2021 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery. Clevinger boasts a career 3.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP before injuries hampered him. Still, Clevinger could be a nice addition if he can stay healthy and regain most of his footing early on. However, the Twins would have to be comfortable waiting for him to return.
Chris Paddack’s name was floated around already after the Padres nearly traded him to the New York Mets over the weekend. Trading for Paddack, 26, would be the cheapest route because he is still raw. He has three seasons of experience under his belt, with a 5.07 ERA last season. Paddack’s fastball has some heat, with an average speed of 95 MPH despite being used 61 percent. The Twins can make something out of it if he can develop some secondary pitches to complement his fastball.
Musgrove is a sneaky-good pitcher that would fit nicely on the Twins. Sliders are his go-to pitch – he throws them nearly 28 percent of the time. High spin rates have been his go-to despite not having elite-level velocity. Musgrove finished his age-28 season with a career-best 3.18 ERA during his first full year in San Diego.
He’s not a flashy option, but Musgrove pitching at Target Field could be an ideal move for the Twins. Musgrove was brought over to San Diego at the deadline in 2020 to stockpile pitching for a team that had to lean too much on their lineup. He could provide the same production for Minnesota in 2022 by pitching with a sub-3.50 ERA, over 150 innings, and another veteran presence along with Gray to allow the younger arms to develop at their own pace.
Musgrove or Paddack seem like the two most logical options. With a surplus of MLB-caliber outfielders, Minnesota has some players to offer that San Diego could use to round out their lineup.
Compared to a Padres farm system whose outfield prospects are years away from the majors, the Twins seem to have a logjam of players vying for time in the big leagues. Trevor Larnach would likely intrigue San Diego because he’s on the verge of starting in left field. Brent Rooker and Gilberto Celestino are two right-handed bats who are big-league ready and have experience.
However, to get a good player, you need to give up some good pieces. To different degrees, all three players mentioned have a good shot at becoming solid big league players. The Twins could go bold and try to deal proven starter Max Kepler in hopes of bringing in someone like Musgrove. Kepler hasn’t quite been able to capture his 2019 form and slashed .211/.306/.413 with 19 home runs in 2021. Still, he could still be valuable to the Padres because he’s a veteran, and they’re in win-now mode.
The Twins could also pursue Eric Hosmer to help land a better pitcher. San Diego may be willing to move on from him for payroll relief, and the wins still have room to spend compared to last season. By taking on most of Hosmer’s contract, the Twins could get a better pitcher in return. Hosmer will make $20 million this season, but his AAV goes down to $13 million for the remainder of the deal.
Ownership may not be thrilled with taking on Hosmer’s deal, though, given that Correa is making $35 million next year. Still, Falvey and Levine would be wise to run the idea by the Pohlads because they could send a lesser prospect over in the trade if they’re willing to take on Hosmer’s money. It’s the difference between trading away Larnach or someone like Rooker or Celestino.
The Twins have hinted that they are done making moves with Opening Day just days away. Montas might be the best option, but the Twins may be better positioned to strike a deal with San Diego. Whatever deal they could make, another high-end starter could be the difference between the Twins making or missing the postseason.