LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – The water gets pretty deep for teams looking to sign a top free-agent starter, such as Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. And it’s likely the Twins, despite their stated desire to add a quality starter, don’t want to get that wet.
But if they could swing a trade — and one might be available — the Twins appear to be in a better position than many to craft an offer out of their group of prospects.
“No one likes to trade away their young players and their young talent that you know is going to come and impact you at the major league level,” Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said, “but we certainly feel we have a better handle now than a year ago in what our system has, and we would be ready if the right opportunity comes to make a deal that helps our major league team.”
It’s worth watching this week during the winter meetings as rumblings at the Swan and Dolphin Resort are that the Tampa Bay Rays are willing to move some of their established players — including staff ace Chris Archer. The line for landing the 29-year-old Archer — under contract through 2021 for a reasonable $33 million — could potentially be a long one. But it is a line the Twins are willing to stand in.
Archer, 29, was 10-12 last season with a 4.02 ERA. But his 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings appeal to many clubs.
“I know there is a lot of chatter about our players,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said on Monday “How that shakes out, I have no idea what will take place. When you have good players, people are going to ask about it, and I think that’s what we’re seeing leading into this winter meetings is that a lot of names are coming up because they are very respected throughout the industry.”
Teams also are trying to get a read on whether the Pittsburgh Pirates will listen to offers for righthander Gerrit Cole (12-12, 4.26 ERA last season). His case is different, because he’s entering his second year of arbitration and is represented by Scott Boras, who takes most of his clients to free agency.
Executing such a deal could require multiple prospects — and the Twins just might have enough to make things interesting after trading for young talent over the last several months.
Lefthander Gabe Moya came from the Diamondbacks in exchange for John Ryan Murphy and earned a late-season call-up. Righthander Zack Littell and lefthander Dietrich Enns came from the Yankees in exchange for Jaime Garcia, with Enns pitching in two games. Lefthander Tyler Watson was acquired from Washington for Brandon Kintzler at the July 31 trade deadline.
In the last week, the Twins traded international bonus money to Seattle for catcher David Banuelos and to the Angels for outfielder Jacob Pearson.
Littell, Watson, Banuelos and Pearson are all ranked from 16-24 in the Twins system by MLB.com. Moya finished with the major league club but likely would have been ranked.
“One year later, from where we started, we feel like we have a lot more talent than we did,” Falvey said. “It’s been exciting. We have a lot of new names on that prospect list.”
Overall, the Twins farm system is ranked from 15th to 21st by various outlets. It includes top prospects such as shortstop Nick Gordon, shortstop Royce Lewis — the first overall pick in the June 2017 draft — lefthander Stephen Gonsalves, righthander Fernando Romero and shortstop Wander Javier.
While the Twins had their daily lineup start to emerge last season, Falvey sees a number of nearly ready young arms in the system and hopes they are on the verge of a breakthrough in 2018. And that could make them attractive pieces to add to deals for quality starting pitching.
“Up to this point we haven’t had that [opportunity],” Falvey said. “We will stay flexible and nimble if something comes to us.”