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.