The Minnesota Twins should have one goal in mind this offseason: acquire pitching. As much pitching as they can find.
That’s not to say the Twins don’t have other warts. But after back-to-back seasons with win totals in the 60s, Minnesota isn’t going to turn its franchise around overnight. There needs to be a priority.
What do we know? Scott Diamond is coming back to provide what the Twins hope will be a steady option in the rotation. But beyond that, the starting staff gets pretty sketchy.
They probably won’t spend the big bucks it would take to get right-hander Zack Greinke in free agency, even though it’s been reported in the past that he would prefer to avoid large markets.
So their attention will likely turn to the trade market. And in order to get something, you have to give something up.
The most talked about trade chip for the Twins is outfielder Denard Span, who seems somewhat expendable with the emergence of Ben Revere. Span has been a reliable on-base threat at the top of the batting order and provides a great glove in the outfield. His contract is reasonable, and all of those factors make him coveted (this FanGraphs piece goes into further detail).
Tampa Bay’s James Shields is one of the bigger names being thrown around in rumors in early November. It would take quite a bit more than just Span to get Shields. And do the Twins dare deal with the Rays after what happened in the Matt Garza-for-Delmon Young swap? It’s a dangerous game swapping with the best front office in baseball.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote on Twitter that he thinks it would make sense for the Braves to deal one of their young arms to the Twins for Span. The Braves could lose Michael Bourn in free agency.
“Anybody that’s got numbers [of starting pitchers] or anybody that’s got a possibility maybe of having a lot of depth, then more than likely we have talked to them,” Twins GM Terry Ryan told O’Brien, without naming specific teams. “They aren’t just going to distribute pitching to other clubs unless they can get something back that fills a need. Some way or another we kind of know who we match up with.”
The Braves have Tommy Hanson and prospects Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran competing for the fifth spot in their rotation next season.
While Span could get the Twins one solid starting option, there’s still massive holes in the rotation. And that’s what makes Ryan’s job a difficult one.
And that’s also why I’m quick to defend pitching coach Rick Anderson, who was spared while other coaches were let go this offseason. Who have the Twins given Anderson to work with in recent years? Besides Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano, how many starting options has Anderson had in the last 10 years who had good stuff? Not many. A lot of pitch-to-contact guys in an era dominated by power pitching.
Ryan has turned the Twins around once before at the beginning of this century. I’m starting to wonder if this turnaround won’t be more difficult to orchestrate.