The Twins are counting on Brusdar Graterol not becoming Even Bigger Papi.
They are shipping Graterol, perhaps their best pitching prospect, to the Red Sox in a three-team deal that will bring them starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The risk: Graterol will become a star and remind Twins fans forever of ex-Twin David ‘‘Big Papi’’ Ortiz, star of postseason stages with the Red Sox and current television screens.
The return: A proven starter who addresses the only flaw on a remarkably complete roster.
Maeda is 31 and has pitched in 24 postseason major-league games, compiling an ERA of 3.31. He is hardly a superstar, but fits nicely into a rotation that lacked quality depth and postseason experience.
To get him, the Twins traded Graterol, who can throw a baseball 100 mph.
The Twins are a better team today than they were yesterday. They also could regret the deal for a dozen seasons if Maeda doesn’t help them win, or if Graterol becomes a star.
If you were one of the many Twins fans demanding that this front office and ownership prove that it wanted to win, this is a demonstration of what ‘‘going for it’’ looks like.
The rotation as of today: Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Maeda, Michael Pineda (when he returns from suspension) and Rich Hill (when he is sufficiently healed.)
Jhoulys Chacin, Homer Bailey, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe will serve as starting pitching depth or long relievers.
The key bullpen figures include Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, and a slew of prospects and long relievers. They could use another lefthander.
Their lineup could be Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Mitch Garver and Byron Buxton, with Marwin Gonzalez and a few top prospects in reserve.
Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, has put together a far better roster than the one that won 101 games last year.
He is also taking a big risk. He and his advisers clearly believe that Graterol will not become the next Mariano Rivera or even the next Joe Nathan, otherwise they would have kept him, relied on a powerhouse bullpen and found another way to address their rotation, perhaps as late as the July trade deadline.
When Terry Ryan rebuilt the Twins in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, he did so by repeatedly trading players that the rest of baseball valued more than he did, for players that he valued more than did the rest of baseball.
He traded analytics darling Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart at a moment in time when Stewart was underrated and Kielty was going into a decline that would end his career, but that other teams didn’t see coming.
Falvey is clearly banking on Graterol being a better prospect than he will be a big-league player. This is a test of Falvey’s predictive talents.
While Twins fans wait for Graterol to turn into a Not-Quite-As-Big Papi in Boston, Falvey has immediately improved his 2020 team, and perhaps the next few Twins teams.
Maeda has been a winner and has pitched well in postseasons and will make $3.125 million each of the next four seasons. He is the rare accomplished big-league starting pitcher who is a bargain.
So the Twins filled out their rotation without damaging their financial flexibility. Whether you call that cheap, smart or responsible is up to you.
Graterol has the stuff to be great. So, apparently, did his predecessor as a fast-rising, hard-throwing, top pitching prospect bound for the closer’s role, but Fernando Romero faltered after a strong debut and is still trying to prove he belongs in a big-league clubhouse.
By October, the Twins could throw Berrios (rising ace trying to win a big contract), Odorizzi (who pitched well in the playoffs last year), Maeda (2.08 World Series ERA), Rich Hill (3.06 postseason ERA) and Pineda at a playoff opponent.
This is a classic analytics move, valuing affordable starting pitching over short relievers.
Considering that the Twins don’t value true closers, this move makes sense for this team, a team that will enter the season with no obvious flaws.