This weekend is the unofficial start of the Hot Stove Season, because this weekend the MLB General Managers are having their annual offseason meetings in Indian Wells, California. It's not the more hyped "Winter Meetings" that take place next month, but it's still 30 GMs and their assistants, all in the same place, and rumor-mongering galore. Irresponsible, glorious, rumor-mongering.
Twins fans have more reason than most to pay attention. Terry Ryan indicated in his TwinsCentric interview that he intends to be aggressive early this offseason, just as he was last year. Also, it was at these meetings in 2003 that he laid the groundwork for arguably his greatest trade, swapping AJ Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser.
This year, he's not the only one looking to deal. There have been several reports of teams looking to make trades, and in the best possible twist, many have involved starting pitching. Let's roll through a few of them of special interest to Twins fans.
The Devil Rays
The Rays still are seeking a new their stadium, which means they're still hampered by payroll. Unfortunately some of their starting pitchers are getting a expensive. Even more eyebrow-raising: they are about to lose their center fielder to free agency, and don't have a great replacement. The names that have come up the most are:
Shields has been #1 starter on the Rays, which means he was the anchor to the team with the best starting pitching ERA in the American League last year. He's a 200 IP horse who consistently posts a sub-4 ERA and a strikeout rate that suggests he won't decline any time soon. He'll cost $21M over the next two years, but if you subtract Span’s salary, that’ only about $11 million. There has (justly) been a TON of discussion about the Twins acquiring him, especially after it was reported the Twins inquired about him. Here are the details and discussion.
He's not the pedigree of Shields, but he's no slouch either; he was good enough to win the AL Rookie of the Year in 2011. That also means he's still very cheap and will be under team control for the next four years. Nick wrote about the pros and cons of signing him, and it generated a lot of discussion about what fans could expect.
Like a dozen other guys, he was covered in the TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook:
This was not necessarily a bad move as Davis, similar to the transition Glen Perkins made from starter to reliever, significantly ratcheted up his strikeout rate (from 15% as a starter to 31% as a reliever). His fastball missed a ton more bats and his breaking stuff (a curve and slider) were much more effective in small doses.
The Rays have him signed through 2017 at a reasonable amount but his salary will begin to increase steadily. Tampa’s savvy front office will likely want to trade him this offseason while his value is at an all-time high.
The Atlanta Braves
The Braves are loaded with young pitching, and we previously talked about how their GM is focusing on finding an affordable center fielder. But yesterday, Dave O'Brien, the Braves beat writer, tweeted that the Braves were also sniffing around Josh Willingham.
There are at least 8 young pitchers the Braves could offer, ranging from nearly worthless to likely untouchable. We walked through them in this discussion, along with who is likely and not likely with Braves writer Ben Chase. If you're looking for a name or two to tuck away, try these: Randall Delgado and Mike Minor.
The Arizona Diamondbacks
The GM Meetings produced a bit of a bombshell when it was revealed that the Arizona Diamondbacks would consider moving starting pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. Bauer was the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 draft, and thrived in his first full year, striking out 157 in 120 innings between AA and AAA. He may be a little strong-willed, and he certainly isn't a fan of President Obama, but his talent is undeniable.
Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks biggest needs are in their infield, but they did just trade away their center fielder. Currently the plan is to rely on a couple of youngsters to hold down that spot, but there is certainly an opportunity there. Otherwise (or more likely, in addition), some Twins farm prospects could be involved. Needless to say, all kinds of ideas are being kicked around surrounding this rumor.
It should be a fun weekend to track this stuff, and it's not unlikely that this weekends rumors will lead to next week's trade. We'll stay on top of the best of the best with some thoughtful unpacking of the possibilities over at Twins Daily. So stay tuned, if you're feeling a little antsy. I know I am.