The Twins’ Saturday trade with Tampa Bay for Jake Odorizzi was smart in a lot of ways, given that Odorizzi fills a hole in the rotation, is under team control for the next two years at a reasonable price and didn’t cost the Twins a top prospect in return.
Even given all that, it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed by what the offseason has netted the Twins in terms of pitching — at least if that was the final move.
Odorizzi has proved to be solid but not elite in his career so far, which describes the high end of a lot of Twins starting pitchers.
Ervin Santana is going to start the season on the disabled list, and it’s natural to expect some sort of regression from Erv after 2.5 quite good seasons with the Twins (the half-year in 2015 after his drug suspension, his 3.38 ERA with no run support in 2016 and his 16-8, 3.28 ERA year in 2017). He’s 35 years old, and these age lines from FanGraphs are not kind.
Kyle Gibson could put together a complete season, but that’s nothing to bank on. Jose Berrios could follow up a solid 2017 season with an even better one, but that’s hardly guaranteed. Odorizzi could take a step forward, or he could keep regressing as he did in 2017.
If the offseason began with dreams of landing an ace such as Yu Darvish in free agency or a potential ace in a trade like Chris Archer — guys who can be regular-season stoppers and postseason difference-makers — that type of move has not materialized.
It’s hardly assured that the Twins’ rotation will be better this year than it was last year, when their starters were 19th in MLB with a 4.73 ERA. The same could be said for the bullpen, where new relievers Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke collectively should amount to an upgrade but individually have their own question marks.
The best of the Twins’ pitching staff, if we’re being honest, is filled with a bunch of middle-of-the-rotation starters and set-up men. That might be good enough to duplicate last year’s push for a Wild Card spot, but it doesn’t figure to be enough to seriously contend.
Maybe that’s OK for 2018, but it’s still a little disappointing considering the talk going into the offseason. Twins bosses have tried to improve the pitching staff, and they’ve generally been smart not to over-extend with moves.
But it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to do the opposite.