Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Minnesota Twins Starting Pitching Trade Targets Part II

Yesterday, I started to delve into starting pitchers who I want the Twins to target in potential trades.  I outlined five starters, three from the Cincinnati Reds.  If you missed it, click here.  Today, I have five more pitchers for you, free of charge!  There are two legitimate "aces" on this list and both are almost certainly pipe dreams.  That being said, it's fun to aim high.  I hope the Twins aim high, because I'd love to be surprised by my favorite team. 

Rick Porcello - Age 25 in 2014, arbitration eligible until 2016

If the Twins trade for Porcello, we could officially start the tally on who says "Por-cello" and who says "Por-chello."  Personally, I say "Por-ceyo" in honor of the Spanish language.  Regardless of how you incorrectly say his name, Porcello might represent the best buying opportunity of the ten players I am outlining.  Porcello reached the Majors at age 20 and he's more than held his own since then.  His career 4.51 ERA isn't dynamic, but he's just 24.  He's averaged 174 innings in those five seasons and given up a ton of hits, leading the league in that category in 2012. 

Why is Porcello worth buying?  He's got a great curveball and an improving primary fastball.  He's finally getting some strikeouts with the former pitch, almost doubling his strikeout rate using that pitch since 2009.  His curve is dynamic and his control is outstanding.  His career walk rate is 6%, compared with 2013's AL average of 8%.  Porcello gets mad ground balls, posting a career rate of 52.8% and a career-high rate of 55.3% in 2013.  The most compelling stat is Porcello's 19.3% strikeout rate in 2013, nearly six points higher than any other year in his career.  Add up his sparkling walk rate, extreme ground ball tendencies and improving strikeout rate and you get a 3.19 xFIP in 2013.  Outstanding!

Porcello will be 25 in December.  He won't be a free agent until 2016 and a trade followed by a long-term extension would be an excellent move by the Twins.  He's good right now and I think he's going to get better.  This is the lowest his value is going to be.  Now is the time to buy. 

David Price - Age 28 in 2014, arbitration eligible until 2016

David Price is really good.  It's going to take a lot to get him though.  I imagine the Rays don't budge unless Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano are included in a deal.  Even if the Twins can talk them out of those stud prospects, the Rays would ask for Alex Meyer or Kohl Stewart and then what's the real point?  Price is almost certainly worth those prospects (maybe not Buxton, but even that is worth arguing).  He's one of the best pitchers in baseball.  His strikeout rate dipped in 2013, but his walk rate plummeted.  His ground ball rate in 2013 reverted to his pre-2012 levels and he also missed time with a triceps injury.  

I love the player, but I don't love him as a trade target.  He's too expensive in all ways.  He'd cost a blue chip prospect and then hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll-tightening money.  Price is great, but I'd still pass. 

Jeff Samardzija - Age 29 in 2014, arbitration eligible until 2016

Samardzija really harnessed his control in 2012 and transformed into a nice pitcher.  If you watched him early in his career, you likely would have never seen him coming.  In 61 2012-13 starts, Samardzija has a strikeout rate around 24% (20% is NL average), a walk rate around 8% (just about NL average) and an xFIP of about 3.40.  His 2013 season wasn't as pretty as his 2012 season, but he did throw nearly 40 more innings and had a slight jump in BABIP to go with a slight decrease in his strand rate.  He throws hard too.  His fastball sits 94 and touches 98.  His slider is nasty too.  I like Samardzija as a trade target, especially because I think he would be cheaper than just about anyone else on this list. 

Max Scherzer - Age 29 in 2014, arbitration eligible until 2015

Oh man, I wish I had written this last off-season and I wish I had known that Scherzer was going to blossom into a Cy Young winner.  It was all legit too.  He's harnessed his command and gotten his walk rate below AL average.  He's still throws really hard.  He still racks up strikeouts.  He still has two different colored eyes.  His 2013 was just a touch lucky (.259 BABIP), but Scherzer is still a really good Ace-ish starting pitcher, who is still only 29.  Of course he'll be a free agent next Winter and if the Twins were to make a trade for him, they would absolutely have to have an extension in place.  The Tigers' asking price will likely be similar to the Rays' asking price for Price. 

Much like Price, I love the pitcher but I don't feel good about the cost.  His fly ball tendencies would play nicely at Target Field though.  Man, he's good.  Maybe the Twins can scoop him up as a free agent in November of 2014. 

Jordan Zimmermann - Age 28 in 2014, arbitration eligible until 2016

Zimmermann fits the Twins' profile a bit better than the other guys on this list.  He really limits walks.  His career rate is 5.4% and his 4.6% rate was 8th best in the NL in 2013.  He doesn't rack up strikeouts, but he usually settles in right around league-average.  His ground ball rate is trending upwards and his innings pitched have increased in each of the last three seasons, hitting 213.1 in 2013.  Unlike most Twins pitchers, Zimmermann throws a baseball very hard.  His fastball sits 93-94 and touches 97.  He also has an effective slider, curve and change.  His deep arsenal and great command are very enticing.  I'm not sure Washington can keep Zimmermann if they have any interest in keeping Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.  If that's true, the Twins could land a very good number 2 starter if the right trade is proposed. 

Speaking of the right trade, who would you give up to get these guys?  I know that I would prefer to keep all of the Twins' consensus top four prospects - Buxton, Sano, Meyer and Stewart.  If the Twins call around to these teams and find that they all want one of those guys, then I'd start pursuing potential free agents even more aggressively.  If the Twins can add two quality starting pitchers this off-season, they can transform the team.  If they can pull this massive feat off, look at the potential starting rotation in 2015:

Homer Bailey
Alex Meyer
Kevin Slowey

That last one might be a joke, but if your first four are as good as those four, then your fifth starter could be just about anyone.  I honestly think that rotation could be acquired for about $30-35 million per season and a couple of good prospects.  Suddenly, the Twins have a ton of young starting pitching in the low Minors.  If the Reds wanted someone like Jose Berrios (plus more, Bailey is really good), you'd have to make that deal.  Isn't the goal with prospects to grow a guy like Bailey?  Bailey's grown.  You can get him if you give up some of your depth.  If the Reds wanted Berrios, Eddie Rosario and a young starter at Rookie ball, I'd say "yes, please send me your awesome pitcher, I'd like to have him now."

Note:  Obviously, the Rosario suspension news throws a bit of a wrench into this plan.  However, he's going to be suspended 50 games, not imprisoned for life.  

These names are all just examples, so please don't yell at me.  I don't know if that would be a trade the Reds or Twins would make.  I don't know how many of the teams who hold these pitchers are interested in what the Twins could sell.  I do know that the rate of prospect success is pretty low.  I also know that good MLB players typically remain good.  The Twins have a surplus of prospects and a deficit of quality, MLB starting pitchers.  It seems like a logical trade-off.  Otherwise:

"You always talk about future, future. ... But if you only worry about the future, then I guess a lot of us won't be part of it." 

That's right Johan, but in this case, the "us" would be Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Correia (joking).  If the Twins really aren't careful, the "us" could be Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.  They have to address MLB starting pitching at some point.  The time is now.  Chant with me:


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