Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Twins to be Bolstered by Big Mike

Prior to the 2019 season the Minnesota Twins took a chance on Michael Pineda. They paid him for the 2018 season with the intention of monitoring and directing his rehab. He rewarded them to the tune of a 4.01 ERA over 26 starts last year and was an anchor during a run to the Postseason. Once again in 2020, they’re taking the chance.

After signing another two-year deal, this one doubling the previous pact, the Twins will be without Big Mike’s services for the first couple of months. After being reinstated from suspension (for an unapproved diuretic) he’ll return as a back-end starter for Rocco Baldelli’s staff. It remains to be seen how he’ll have been prepared to hit the ground running, but the hope would be that he picks up where he left off.

The 4.01 ERA and 4.02 FIP are not all that noteworthy for the former Yankees starter, but it’s what he did down the stretch that jumps off the page. After owning a 5.34 ERA through his first 12 starts, he found a groove and turned a corner. Over his final 14 starts, from June 13 through September 6, Pineda posted a 2.96 ERA while allowing a .650 OPS against. He chalked up an 87/17 K/BB ratio and Minnesota went 10-4 in the contests he started.

There was no denying his loss was a crushing one, as he appeared as a possible answer to the question of who would start game one of the ALDS. Once he returns this year, it will be in a very similar scenario. He’ll slot in behind the established top three, and he’ll be looked at as an addition as opposed to the necessary stopper. Minnesota would certainly love to see better than the 5.00+ ERA over his first handful of starts, but the rule won’t be how he finished either.

Assuming that the Twins begin the year with Homer Bailey and Jhoulys Chacin at the back end of the group, they’ll be tasked with keeping the seats warm until someone is ready to step in. There’s no reason to believe they can’t outpitch their expectations but having someone like Pineda to fall back on is a major boost for the Twins.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have created an infrastructure that enhances development. We saw the emergence of unexpected arms like Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak contribute a year ago. That can still take place in 2020, all while having proven veterans going out to do their thing. There’s no reason to believe starts will be spread across any less than 10 players, and top loading the second ground with the efforts Michael Pineda is coming off must be viewed as a major win.

Results are never guaranteed, and he’ll still need to go out and make it happen, but a second go-round with Pineda seemed like an ideal situation for everyone involved.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Topps Says Party Like It’s 1971

The annual release of Topps Heritage is upon us. While fancy cards and chrome recreations are all the rage nowadays, there’s no great offering for set collectors than the yearly unveiling of Heritage. A throwback to the 1971 design this year, Topps has collectors looking to add the best new rookies in a nod to yesteryear.

Specifically, for the Twins, Topps Heritage is somewhat of a mixed bag to start 2020. There wasn’t much in the way of big-league debuts last season, and Luis Arraez is no longer a rookie chase card. After seeing his first rookie card in 2020 Topps Series 1, Lewis Thorpe gets number two in this set. Heritage is home to the first rookie of former pitcher Brusdar Graterol, and although he’s now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it should still be a neat opportunity to collect the fireballer.

There’s a handful of usual suspects among the base set checklist, and the Twins land four players (Gonzalez, Rosario, Sano, and Kepler) within the 100-card high number short print group. Last season we saw Byron Buxton appear as an action variation card, and until those trickle onto the market within the coming days, we won’t know what to fully expect.

Although the point of Heritage is set collecting and nostalgia, there’s always the inclusion of chrome versions for a select number of cards. That checklist is again 100 deep and includes five different parallels. Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco make up the Twins chase cards there. Chrome exclusives can be found in Spring Mega boxes as well, and that expands Twins players to Luis Arraez, Mitch Garver, Willians Astudillo, Jose Berrios, and Miguel Sano.

Hits rarely drive a Heritage product aside from key rookies, and there’s nothing of note for Minnesota fans here. There are two throwback autos in Sal Campisi and Tom Tischinski. Worn out subjects Bert Blyleven and Rod Carew also provide some in, while a 1/1 Harmon Killebrew cut can be had. There’s a couple of relics, both jersey swatches and mint coin types to chase as well.

As a whole, Heritage is a must rip product for new and old Topps fans alike. I’d have preferred to see a better autograph subject for Minnesota in the set, but maybe there’s an intriguing inclusion or two in High Number later this year. You can find Heritage at hobby stores for roughly $100/box or in multiple retail formats beginning on February 26.

Checklist here

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Tortoise or the Rake? Minnesota’s Final Player

My last Opening Day roster projection (version 2.0) was put out on February 10th. Not much has changed since then, and I feel good about what I came up with. The end of the position players come down to a two-way battle in my mind, and that would be between The Turtle and Rake Cave.

After jumping into relevance during 2018, Astudillo came back to earth a year ago. Cave was acquired in exchange for Luis Gil and has served in an adequate fourth outfielder role since. Now entering 2020 with one of the best rosters in baseball, it will be about production and function when considering who will grab that coveted 26th roster spot.

Let’s get to the tale of the tape.

What Does Willians Do Well?

When considering the functionality of Astudillo, you’d be hard pressed not to immediately notice his flexibility. No, not in terms of limberness, but in the sense of positional opportunity. Over the past two seasons he has played six different positions each year and calling him a primary anything may be a stretch.

On top of being able to move him all over the diamond, there’s his ability to put the round bat on the round ball. He’s got 301 major league plate appearances and has struck out just 11 times. That 4% strikeout rate is in line with the 3% mark he set in the minors over 2,500 plate appearances as well. In a league dominated by power, commanding the zone to that extent is a feat in and of itself.

What Doesn’t Willians Do Well?

This is where strengths also become weaknesses for the artist famously known as La Tortuga. Rocco Baldelli is afforded the ability to play Astudillo all over the diamond, but defensive metrics suggest it’s not an opportunity he should be excited about. He’s a below average catcher, small target at first base, poor at third, and substantially stretched in the outfield. He’s a utility player in that he “can,” but the utility is lost in thinking whether he “should.”

Also, about that strikeout rate. Last season Astudillo’s swing tendencies were exploited to the tune of a dismal .678 OPS. He still didn’t strike out at all, but because he doesn’t take walks either, he’ll never be a strong OBP guy. He has a very good ability to hit the ball, but a poor ability to discern what pitches he should be attacking. A 40% ground ball rate and 30% hard hit rate aren’t going to result in many positive outcomes. Aggressiveness works against him for the most part and opposing pitchers have exploited it.

What Does Cave Do Well?

Andrew Thares recently did a great job breaking down Jack Cave over at Twins Daily. His 2019 was exponentially better than starting outfielder Eddie Rosario, and he played a key role after Byron Buxton went down. Finishing with an .805 OPS in 72 games, Cave posted a .296/.377/.556 slash line over his final 50 games (39 starts 142 AB). He certainly fans plenty but doubling his walk rate to nearly 10% was a good adjustment.

In the field Cave is limited to just the grass, but he contributes in all three positions. Although he’s an average at best outfielder, it’s not as though he’s a liability. Centerfield is not the place you’d want to put him, but he’s plenty adequate on the corners. Given the volatility involved with Minnesota’s starting centerfield option, the ability to cycle players through makes a good amount of sense.

What Doesn’t Cave Do Well?

I’m not sure Cave’s greatest hinderance is that there’s something he doesn’t inherently do well on his own as much as it’s the hand he’s currently being dealt. He’s a fourth outfielder on a team that has one of the better outfields in all of baseball. Although Eddie Rosario could be replaceable, that doesn’t appear to be a blueprint that will happen internally at the moment. On top of that, acquisitions in the infield have made Marwin Gonzalez more of an outfielder (a role he has been defensively superior at) pushing Cave further down the ladder.

From a personal contribution standpoint, Cave does have some opportunity for growth in terms of contact rate. He’s just below 70%, and given the 52% hard hit rate in 2020, more bats on balls is a good thing. He owned a .358 BABIP despite just a .258 average. Sure, the counting numbers aren’t there yet but that could turn quick.

At the end of the day, I think there’s little argument to be made that Cave isn’t the better player of the two. What this could come down to is the more ideal positional fit, and right now, Astudillo has that working in his favor.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Pitching Projects Pan Out in Minnesota

Over the past few seasons there have been more than a few guys signed that have drawn a groan from Twins Territory. What the initial analysis doesn’t take into account is that the Twins have generated a juggernaut in terms of infrastructure, and it's paid dividends in recent seasons. This time around, it’s Matt Wisler looking to generate a return.

Early on this winter the front office tabbed former Top 100 prospect Matt Wisler as being worthy of a major league deal. He combined to throw just over 50 innings in the majors last season, and the results generated a 5.61 ERA. Giving up nearly two homers per nine innings, the counting stats were hardly enticing. But then you take a look under the hood.

Wisler posted a 4.23 FIP and an even better 3.83 xFIP. His 14.9% whiff rate and 37% chase rate were career highs, and his 11.0 K/9 wasn’t far off from doubling his career averages. The longball has been an issue for a while, but it’s certainly plausible to see what the Twins like.

A season ago Wisler had his slider averaging nearly 84 mph (you guessed it, a career high) while flipping it a whopping 70% of the time. He’s abandoned the sinker, went to a four-seam, and became a two-pitch pitcher. In targeting Sergio Romo again for 2020, as well as bringing in Jhoulys Chacin, it seems pitching coach Wes Johnson is looking to tinker with slider-dominant arms.

Minnesota is not some sort of a magic cure for the average pitcher, but the infrastructure now in place has produced. Ryne Harper was a 30-year-old rookie when he put up a 3.81 ERA a year ago, and he may be on the outside looking in because of the overall strength shown by the current relief corps. Matt Magill turned sporadic Show time into two consistent years of big-league run. Although he fizzled down the stretch for the Twins, Magill is now in line to be the Seattle Mariners closer after a strong finish.

Things don’t always work out the way you plan. Anibal Sanchez was jettisoned after Lance Lynn was signed, and he went on to have a career year with the Atlanta Braves in 2018. Nick Anderson was never given a shot internally and now is one of the best relievers in baseball. The process being in place does not guarantee a no-fault result. What is true though, is that Minnesota can now be seen as a destination for arms to thrive.

Maybe Matt Wisler will be a slider-fastball pitcher that can’t keep the pill in the yard and the next step won’t be taken. In a bullpen that should be expected to be among the better units in baseball though, it’s worth finding out if he can’t be a dominant middle relief option and venture down that path under the tutelage of Johnson.

We’ve reached the point that assessment of acquisitions shouldn’t be based around what a player was before coming to the Twins organization, but instead what they will become after getting here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Thorpe Thrusting into the Rotation

Not all developmental paths are the same, and not all prospects move on a linear path to the major leagues. After being signed as a teenager and briefly generating buzz throughout the system things came to a halt in 2015. Now ready to kick down the door at the major league level, he may be the biggest breakout candidate in 2020.

If you don’t know the story, it’s one of stunted development. Tommy John surgery followed by a crazy case of mononucleosis robbed Thorpe of two full seasons. After pitching on August 31, 2014, he was not back in a professional game until May 19, 2017. A lot of growth and maturation took place during that stretch, and since returning to the mound he’s done nothing but impress.

His first year back, Thorpe posted a 2.93 ERA and 9.9 K/9 across 83 innings. He followed that up with a 3.54 ERA and 10.9 K/9 at Double and Triple-A during the 2018 campaign. Last year he saw the K/9 jump to a career high 11.1 at Triple-A Rochester, and with the 2.3 BB/9 representing a career low, it was time for big league exposure.

Although there were some tough outings in 2019, and the final ERA sat at 6.18 through 27.2 IP, it’s what the rest of the results tell us that remains enticing. Thorpe posted a strong 3.47 FIP and kept up his strikeout rate in the bigs tallying 10.1 K/9. Averaging 91.5 mph on his fastball, this isn’t just a traditional soft tossing lefty with an ability to spin it. He’s predominantly a fastball/slider guy but worked in both a changeup and curveball.

With Minnesota having brought in Jhoulys Chacin on a minor league deal, the assumption would be that he has the inside track to crack the 26-man roster as the 5th pitcher. Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer will all be in the mix, but I’d imagine their early Triple-A results will line up who gets what opportunity and when. For Thorpe, he has a very strong chance to separate himself from the pack.

A former Top-100 prospect, Thorpe’s track record is one that presents a very comforting floor. The ceiling of an ace isn’t there but a guy that can miss bats 12% of the time, expand the zone one-third of the time, and do a good job of limiting hard contact is something any rotation would plug right in the middle. If he’s able to work his way into an opportunity of extended run expecting something like the career results of Michael Pineda, and pop up stretches of Jake Odorizzi, is more than a doable ask.

The Twins traded away Brusdar Graterol in part because of their long-term view regarding where his innings would come from. Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are the pitchers represented on the prospect lists, and both remain starting candidates. Thorpe is the forgotten man in all of this though, and if the steps forward continue with the developmental infrastructure Minnesota has set up, he is primed to make the earliest impact.

I won’t put a timeline on where, when, or how long the opportunity will present itself, but when the Southpaw from Down Under dazzles don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Projecting the Twins 2020 Opening Day Roster 2.0

The last stab I took at this was on January 20th. There haven’t been many moves since then, but the ones that have been made are absolutely monumental. While I felt good about where that version of the Twins was, it’s undeniable they are much better off now. Putting out one final projection prior to Spring Training getting underway, here’s where I see things as of today.

Catchers (2) – Mitch Garver, Alex Avila

No change here. These two are locked in and ready to go. Garver will need to stave off some expected regression, but he’ll also be dealing with an expanded workload. If Willians Astudillo pushes his was onto the roster, I don’t see the playing time coming behind the plate.

Infield (5) – Miguel Sano, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson. Ehire Adrianza

Another position group with no change. Donaldson punctuated the offseason when Minnesota signed him to the 4th biggest deal handed out this winter. This group will need to take a step forwards defensively, and I’m confident that they should be able to.

Outfield (5) – Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave

More status quo here. The final position spot comes down to Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo for me, and I don’t see the utility of Astudillo being a net positive. He’s below average everywhere, while Cave can handle the bat and play all three outfield positions. The infield is more stable this season, and although Marwin should spend most of his time in a corner outfield spot, he’s the utility guy you feel comfortable about moving around.

Designated Hitter (1) – Nelson Cruz

Yes, still here to hit bombas.

Rotation (5) – Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacin

This is the group that has seen the most change. Chacin was signed to a minor league deal, and while 2019 was awful, he was great in 2018. If the Twins see signs of that at all during the spring, they’ll have picked up a very solid 5th starter. I like the long-term ability of Lewis Thorpe, and both Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer have looked strong, but they all have options remaining. Now adding a bonafide stud in Kenta Maeda, this is a group that should be plenty capable of racing out to a second straight division title.

Bullpen (8) – Taylor Rogers. Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Tyler Clippard, Zack Littell, Matt Wisler, Cody Stashak

This group stays the same as I had it in round one, but that was prior to Minnesota designating Brusdar Graterol a reliever. He absolutely would have been on the roster, but instead was used to swing the deal for Maeda. Coming off a 2019 that saw this group finish as the third best unit in baseball, they’ve added some very quality pieces to make another run at the top.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Bye, Bye, Boston…and Brusdar

In the end, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine stood strong. After originally agreeing to a one-for-one swap of Brusdar Graterol for Kenta Maeda, things needed to be tweaks after the Red Sox decided against the Minnesota prospects medicals. Two days before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, we got resolution.

The Twins wound up not dealing with Boston at all, instead sending Graterol to the Dodgers (who had no problem with his medicals). They got Maeda, $10 million, and a yet-to-be announce prospect. Sweetening the deal just a bit, Luke Raley (who was acquired with Devin Smeltzer in the Brian Dozier trade) goes back to Los Angeles, and Minnesota sent the Dodgers their Comp B pick (67th overall).

Obviously the one-for-one version of this deal was the most ideal for the Twins. It’s likely why they agreed in the first place, and assumedly why Boston decided they needed to reassess things. However, Minnesota moved a very good arm they believe is ticketed for relief work, in order to get a top-50 starter that could slot in right behind Jose Berrios in the starting rotation.

Losing Raley isn’t the top 10 prospect situation that Boston was demanding, and while he’s a nice player, this isn’t an outfield he was going to crack given what’s established and who’s ahead of him. Getting the cash is hardly inconsequential as well. Maeda is guaranteed just $12.5 million over the course of his deal, and being on the hook for just $2.5 million of that is a nice situation to be in. Incentives drive the price up plenty, but being performance base, they’re benchmarks the Twins would happily see come to fruition.

I dissected this swap when the news originally broke, and nothing changes for the Twins from a roster construction point now. They still have a very good bullpen, this rotation is substantially better, and there’s still significant prospect capital to make more moves when deemed necessary.

Through all of this the only real loser is the former Twins fireballer. Graterol watched his name be drug through the mud in a very public way despite showing no indications of immediate injury concern. Instead of believing he could go down the street, he’ll now hop a plane from Fort Myers to Glendale beginning his 2020 season with a new organization.

Chaim Bloom landed some very solid prospects despite packaging a superstar into a salary dump. The Dodgers net a pitcher in Price that is more than desirable if healthy, and arguably the second best player on the planet in Mookie Betts. Minnesota never needed to be involved in any of this, and at the end of the day they really weren’t. An opportunity arose to get their impact starter two days before camp opens, and the front office jumped at it.

Now I think we can put a bow on this offseason and commend both Falvey and Levine for orchestrating what boils down to a solid “A” effort.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Blockbuster Deal Sends Maeda to the Twins

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine just put an absolute bow on the 2020 Minnesota Twins offseason. After acquiring Josh Donaldson in January, the refrain was whether or not he could pitch. Now nabbing Kenta Maeda from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the answer is yes he can.

Across Twins Territory there should be some absolute shock with this one. Not only was the impact-pitching arm acquired, but it absolutely cost an impact prospect. Brusdar Graterol showed up on the Major League scene last summer and brandished his triple-digit fastball. Showing off the bazooka arm, it was hard not to dream on him as a starting prospect.

It was apparent that there have been concerns about what Graterol profiles at in the bigs however. He’s never pitched more than 102 innings in a season, and he never worked exclusively as a starter in 2019. The talk going into the year was that Minnesota would unleash him in the pen, and the feeling was he had not yet developed the necessary secondary stuff to make it multiple times through the order.

Any time you see a big name prospect like this moved, it’s going to be hard to sift through the feelings. The message from Minnesota here is clear however. The window is open and the front office has kicked down the door. They see Graterol as a reliever long term, and conversely viewed him as the third best option in the up and coming trio including Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran.

In Maeda the Twins get their coveted impact arm. He’s soon-to-be 32-years-old and is not a free agent until 2024. He will be paid just $3.125 million per year the rest of his deal, and he’s a strikeout threat pumping double-digits per nine innings. I'm not sure Minnesota viewed the tradeoff like this when the offseason started, but they passed on signing a 30-year-old Madison Bumgarner (with nearly identical numbers) to a five-year deal paying $17 million per season. In comparison, their decision looks pretty good.
Although Maeda’s ERA’s haven’t always been glowing, he’s posted a FIP north of 4.00 just once in his four year MLB career. Walks have crept up in recent years, but he generally does a good job avoiding danger. Slotting in behind both Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, there’s zero reason why he can’t elevate and assume an even large role in the rotation.

This move pushes Minnesota’s payroll up above $140 million landing somewhere around $145 million. That’s a nice expansion on the previous record of $128.4 million in 2018, and gives them plenty of flexibility now and in the future.

Buckle up Twins fans; we’ve got a contender here.

Topps Series 1 Kicks of Baseball Season

While we’re still a few days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective Spring Training homes, baseball season gets underway with the release of 2020 Topps Series 1 on Wednesday. The first offering of the hobby for the 2020 season means baseball is around the corner.

Kicking things off in a big way this year, Topps is hosting the Million Card Rip Party today at Jerry World. As group breaks have become more prominent within the hobby, the card company sought out a handful of popular breakers and gathered them all at AT&T Stadium. They’ll showcase the event live, and collectors will get some of their first looks at the new cards.

2020 Series 1 has a chance to go down as the best initial flagship offering ever. While it’s normally Series 2 or Update that highlights the sport’s best rookies, this season is somewhat unique. American League Rookie of the Year winner Yordan Alvarez will get his first rookie card, and the class also includes young stars like Gavin Lux and Bo Bichette. Deep and with plenty of star power, this group could have staying power for quite some time.

Specifically, from the Twins, Lewis Thorpe is the lone rookie card in the set. However, Marwin Gonzalez gets a Minnesota card, as do Nelson Cruz and Taylor Rogers. Autographs are aplenty from the Twins, and they include everyone from Luis Arraez to Bert Blyleven. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Jake Odorizzi have some pretty big chase cards to search for, and there will be some chrome offerings of former Topps line Turkey Red littered into retail.

Given Thorpe is the only rookie for Minnesota, and he’s not seen as a desired commodity in the hobby, it would really only be the hits that drive a decent return from Twins subjects. However, the manufactured relics including the Sleeve Patch and Rookie Retrospectives sets could wind up being some of the best-looking manufactured offerings we’ve seen in years.

Another takeaway from Topps’ early season checklists is that the Twins will have some new names making signing appearances in 2020. It appears Trevor May, Mitch Garver, and Jorge Polanco will all be autographers in Topps product this year. With so much Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven focused content in the hobby of late, new names generating hype for Twins fans is a must. Hopefully more Joe Mauer cards will filter back into production at some point, but the Bomba Squad putting Minnesota back on the map is a great start.

You can find hobby boxes of 2020 Topps Series 1 at your local card shop, and blaster boxes as well as other retail configurations will be available at Target, Walmart, and Walgreens.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Twins Rotation Provides Intriguing Depth

Over the weekend the Minnesota Twins inked Jhoulys Chacin to a minor league deal that’s worth roughly $1.5 million if he makes the big-league club. With the non-roster invitees yet to be unveiled, and some chatter going around, he’s probably not the last arm to be brought in. Although the rotation didn’t experience a big jolt, Rocco Baldelli’s club is going to have some interesting options.

A week ago, the assumed Opening Day rotation would have been Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, Randy Dobnak, and Lewis Thorpe. With every new arm brought in, the thought is that the shift takes place from the bottom up. Now obviously a minor league deal is not guaranteed, and the reality is results must match some level of expectation during Spring Training. Assuming that happens though, Minnesota is putting themselves in a nice spot.

Chacin was downright terrible in 2019. Pitching for the Brewers and Red Sox, he posted a 6.01 ERA 5.88 FIP and walked four per nine while allowing 2.2 HR/9. A slider first pitcher that was very good in 2018 however, there’s a lot to like here. Jhoulys is an 11-year veteran with a career 4.03 ERA and three sub 4.00 ERA seasons from 2015-2018. It’s a decent gamble that he could have a better 2020 than Bailey, who is on a guaranteed contract from the Twins.

In 2019 Minnesota needed to get starts from just 10 different pitchers, and five guys made all but 16 of the initial trips to the mound. That’s extraordinary, reflective of strong performance, and more importantly indicative of superior health and good fortune. Rather than banking on that taking place again, Wes Johnson has been given an arsenal to utilize going forward.

Randy Dobnak posted a 1.59 ERA and 2.90 FIP in his debut season en route to a Postseason start. Lewis Thorpe is a former top prospect that looks the part of a breakout arm. Devin Smeltzer has become somewhat of an afterthought despite being a key acquisition from the Dodgers and having a strong rookie season of his own. That’s all before we even touch on Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic. Then you add in the Michael Pineda will be back after suspension and Rich Hill will be healthy down the stretch, it’s safe to see Minnesota is overflowing with arms.

We don’t yet know what level all the options will perform at, but the Twins have both opportunity and the mounts to feed in the year ahead. Plugging in the right guys in the most opportune situations will be the task of Johnson and Baldelli. There’s probably opportunity to flip an asset or two, and there’s definitely a level of insurance built into the roster construction here.

I have no idea which Chacin shows up in 2020, but it appears Johnson is intrigued enough to work on getting the 2018 guy to take the mound. If you throw Taijuan Walker or someone else into the mix as well, the rotation that didn’t get its impact arm has an inside track at being both very good as well as very well supplemented.

Who makes starts when should be up in the air for the next month or so, but give it to Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, they’ve done work stocking the cupboard with plenty of ammunition.