The Minnesota Twins enter the offseason prior to 2018 with immense expectations. Following a season in which they arrived in the postseason a year early, this club looks ready to take the next step, and the AL Central is begging them to do so. Knowing pitching remains a focus, a free agent starter seems to be a sensible acquisition. The question always revolved around how high the Twins may aim though.
According to a report from Fanrag's Jon Heyman, Minnesota is coming out guns blazing. While the arms on the market are hardly plentiful at the top, Derek Falvey an Thad Levine appear to be keyed in on premier starter Yu Darvish. Levine was a part of the front office that signed him in Texas, and the fit is one I've liked for quite a while. Yes, he'll likely command the greatest contract of the available starting pitcher's, but that's not something that should deter Minnesota's efforts.
Darvish will be pitching 2018 at 31 years old. He has just over 830 innings on his arm in the big leagues, but that number jumps to 2,100-plus dating back to his time with Nippon Ham in the Japanese Pacific League. Potentially no worse for the wear however, Darvish has actually added to his velocity post Tommy John surgery, and he's been healthy each of the past two seasons.
For both Texas and Los Angeles in 2017, Darvish owned a 3.86 ERA across 31 starts. Rejoining the All Star team for the first time since 2014, Darvish posted a 10.1 K/9 with a paltry 2.8 BB/9. His 3.83 FIP was a career worst, but was better (3.38) with the Dodgers down the stretch. On the biggest stage in the game, Yu was knocked around by the Houston Astros, but I hardly find his World Series performance concerning. Given the talk of tipped pitches, I tend to believe Darvish is more the guy that went 11.1 IP with a 1.59 ERA against the Dbacks and Cubs, than he is the 21.60 ERA guy in 3.1 IP vs the Astros.
It's likely the last chance for Darvish to cash in on a long term deal, and he'll probably want to expand upon the $11m he received a season ago. A free agent for the first time since coming to the big leagues, Darvish is going to have plenty of suitors. Even as the price tag climbs towards an expected $200m though, Minnesota should continue to fight for real estate in the Japanese pitcher's mind.
At the end of the day, a perfect storm is brewing in Twins Territory. The 25 man roster has gotten younger and cheaper, while money should dive off the books in the next few years. On top of that, the division has three teams that should be virtually nonexistent in the foreseeable future, and Paul Molitor's club already began to exceed expectations. If there's a time to go and make the biggest free agent signing in franchise history, now seems as good of one as ever.
With the goal being to develop internally for the sake of sustainability, there comes a point where supplementing with high-end talent from the outside seems the best answer. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are arguably now at that crossroads, and how they handle the offseason will likely lay the groundwork for how at least the next few seasons go for Minnesota.
Right now, with things in such infancy, it's hard to get giddy about the potential to land a big fish. That being said, when I wanted Darvish for the Twins rotation back in May, it was for the same reasons that I feel the same way now. He's a difference maker, a solidifying presence, and a true ace. Those things don't grow on trees, and you never know when the next opportunity will present itself.