The American League postseason group looks pretty well decided, and the Minnesota Twins would be on the outside looking in. Considering the short runway that’s left before the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of this month, there’s not a lot of time to make up ground in the standings.
This column looks at the 6 pitchers that the Twins should look to trade without the waiver process, and it’s built on the assumption that Minnesota will be active sellers.
Lynn is pitching on a one-year deal after he turned down a $17.4 million Qualifing Offer in St. Louis last year. The job market was not kind to Lynn last season and ultimately he settled for more than $5 million less to change uniforms, all in the hopes that he’d get another crack at a new gig the following winter. Now, the Twins risk losing him for nothing this offseason.
He had a bad April but he’s bounced back to be a useful mid-rotation starter. The only question is whether or not a contender would be willing to trade anything of substance to add him to their mix. If the cost to trade for two years of Jake Odorizzi was a shortstop prospect in the low minors, it seems unlikely to me that two months of Lynn will net something exciting to Twins fans.
Duke is a quiet leader in the Twins’ bullpen, and he’s got a 2.90 ERA in 31 innings. He’s also sporting a career-high 61% groundball rate and has struck out more than 22% of the hitters that he’s faced. It wouldnt be too terribly surprising to see a veteran left-handed reliever generate interest on the trade market, I just don’t know how much a contender would be willing to give up to get him. If the Twins don’t trade him, they get to keep the veteran in their clubhouse, but they lose him to free agency at the end of the season.
Gibson has found his stride after a few years spent a a end-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. Thanks to an increased reliance on his high 4-seam fastball, Gibson has gotten great results on his breaking pitches and he’s dialed up the strikeouts. He currently holds a 3.59 ERA in 18 starts, with a 23.2% strikeout rate and 10.2% walk rate. Gibson now looks like a mid-rotation starting pitcher, and if any contender is light on starters you could reasonably envision him pitching in Game 3 of a postseason series.
As an added bonus, he has another season remaining of team control, meaning any good team looking to trade for him would get more than just 2 months of Gibson’s services. For that reason, Gibson’s price tag should be higher than Lynn’s. For the same reason, the Twins might decide to keep him and take their best shot at the postseason on their own in 2019.
Odorizzi is in the same boat as Gibson, in terms of pitching in the second-to-last season under team control before free agency. Whereas Gibson was once a first-round draft choice by the Twins, Odorizzi was acquired this winter in a trade for Jermaine Palacios, a decent but not outstanding prospect from Minnesota’s minor league system. The Twins decided they wanted a mid-rotation guy for the next two years, and the right to pay him was worth forking over a prospect.
So on one hand, it would be a little surprising to see them change their minds so quickly, despite wanting to compete again in 2019. On the other hand, Odorizzi does have a 4.28 ERA because of a rough June, and the Twins look like they’ll have several good starting rotation candidates for next year.
Pressly might not be the first reliever that you’d think of in terms of the trade deadline. He’s on this list because of strikeouts. Pressly has one more season before he can file his free-agent papers, so any acquiring team would get to take a shot at the postseason with another strikeout arm in the bullpen, and then they’d have him around for another year of below-market value. The downside of that is that Pressly will be relatively expensive next year for a non-closer reliever.
Pressly easily paces the Twins’ bullpen with a 32.6% strikeout rate — only 9 American League relievers with 30 innings have struck out hitters more often than Pressly. Yes, he’s given up some home runs and he’s got a 3.89 ERA. But I think if you’re a contender looking for that one extra reliever this July, you could do worse than to inject the strikeouts Pressly offers into the middle-to-late innings.
Rodney will be a popular topic of conversation this month among Twins fans. The team could trade the veteran closer to go pitch in the late inning for somebody else. Or they could keep him around and pick up his $4.25 million option for next season.
If you could wave a magic wand and eliminate Rodney’s bad April stats, you’d be looking at a closer with a 2.28 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, to go along with a 28.4% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate. He gets it done with a fastball that can be solidly in the mid-90’s, and a great changeup. Give the fact that he’s 41 years old and not one of the elite closers in the game, the return for Rodney could be limited. He’ll still be a popular name on the rumor mill given his relative effectiveness, his modest contract and the Twins’ place in the standings.