Jeff Passan wrote a strong article ($) on ESPN that dropped Wednesday highlighting what the MLB trade deadline looks roughly one month in advance of it actually happening.
Unsurprisingly to many, the column is heavy on Minnesota Twins-related speculation with the team floundering at 33-44 with the midpoint of the season approaching — including the potential for the team to deal top starter Jose Berrios, which has gained some steam in baseball circles recently, Passan notes.
If Berrios is unwilling to sign an extension with the Twins — and to be clear, the only thing we know for sure is that he hasn’t yet — then it’s undoubtedly better to trade him sooner rather than later.
That’s not the same as trading him in the next few days, but at this deadline as opposed to the offseason or next year sometime.
There are myriad reasons for this. For one, the risk of injury is just too high with any pitcher — especially this season — to bank on future health when it comes to waiting for teams’ best offers.
Also, one could ostensibly infer that the more control an acquiring team has over Berrios — in terms of contractually — would increase the value of what he could return in such trade.
Thirdly, the paucity of pitching this season — not only with Berrios’ relative skill but also durability — means prices will be higher than usual. If the Twins are willing to commit to a mini-retooling of the roster, there might never be a better time to see what the marketplace will offer for Berrios.
Fourteen teams are within five games of a playoff spot across both leagues, so the line for Berrios’ services should be pretty crowded — even before considering again how many teams have been hamstrung by pitching injuries piling up.
Take the New York Mets, for instance. Not only are they fairly lean outside of their top three of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker, but two of those three have dealt with some (albeit fairly minor) injury issues this season. Joey Lucchesi is out for the season. David Peterson is interesting but fairly volatile.
They’d be a great landing spot for Berrios. And again, that’s just one of more than a dozen teams who could be poised to strike.
But if the Twins opt to make this move, the floodgates need to open. Andrelton Simmons? Gone. Nelson Cruz? Gulp — but gone. J.A. Happ, even? Gone.
But while that sounds like a rebuild, it needs to be more of a retooling.
First, it starts with signing Byron Buxton to a long-term deal. I hear the grumbling, but again he’s the most physically gifted player in team history and if the team is going to have to remanufacture the pitching staff on the fly, it’s going to need the best possible defense behind it.
The trade return, again, has to be significant.
Chris Archer, who had been worth 0.3 bWAR through 96.0 innings at the time he was traded netted the Tampa Bay Rays Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Sure, Archer was owed a bit less than what a team might expect to pay Berrios over the next 1.5 seasons, but he was also pitching markedly worse, older and again it wasn’t as competitive of a trade market.
What the Twins can’t do, though, is use it to start a rebuild. Josh Donaldson’s contract situation isn’t going to get any better. Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers — if not dealt — are up for free agency after next year. The team only has a shade under $50 million hard committed for next season.
So it’s not the worst time for a quick retool. It’s a good draft to pick relatively high in coming up in 2022. There’s still ample room for the team to make key additions next offseason — which again, has to include aggressively addressing the team’s pitching woes.
Replacing Berrios would be a must — and it won’t be cheap. Kevin Gausman is probably the top target there, but he’s going to command a massive salary based on how he’s pitching this season. The Twins will also have to take higher-ceiling flyers this offseason, such as guys like Jon Gray and Vince Velasquez as opposed to guys like J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker.
How many teams can offer that Archer-like package for Berrios? Probably a handful. How many are willing to? Maybe not many — but it only takes one.
Toronto comes to mind. One danger of looking into trades like this is the tendency to want to focus on positional need rather than just maximizing return.
The Blue Jays have plenty of pitching near the top of their top-30 list according to MLB.com — including Nate Pearson (No. 1/No. 9 globally), Simeon Woods Richardson (No. 4/No. 68 globally) and Alek Manoah (No. 5/No. 90 globally). Manoah is probably off the table considering he’s already in the big leagues and more than holding his own, but is adding Pearson — who has already dealt with some injury issues — a better prospect than someone like Austin Martin or Jordan Groshans, both of whom are up-the-middle talents who could contribute fairly quickly?
Is Toronto even willing to make an offer like that? They’d certainly be more likely to go the offensive route with what their lineup looks like in relation to their rotation — but again, how high will they aim?
What about those Mets? Most of their intriguing prospects are further off, but Pete Crow-Armstrong (who is hurt), Brett Baty and J.T. Ginn are all especially interesting.
All I’ll say is this — it would probably take a trade that would get laughed off by that team’s collective Twitter following for something to happen.
If the Twins can make that happen for Berrios, all while still being able to contend in 2022, then they need to bite the bullet and do it. And again, they can’t scrimp and save in the offseason. They’ll need to add one big-time starter, a shortstop and probably multiple relievers — but it can be done.
It won’t be easy. It won’t be popular. But it will be beneficial.
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