DETROIT – Jose Berrios has seen reports that say Byron Buxton has been offered a long-term contract by the Twins, "and he deserves it. Everyone knows what a great athlete he is."
But Berrios' assessment of his own contractual status — like Buxton, he's eligible for free agency 15 months from now — offers a clue to the Twins' chances of getting that deal done. To put it bluntly: It might be too late.
"[I will have been] waiting six years, almost seven, to get where every player wants to be — a free agent, able to maximize our value," Berrios said. "So it's different now. We are in a good position, and we'll see what the best deal is going to be."
He's earning $6 million this season, and figures to more than double that through arbitration this winter, since pending free agents can ask for free-agent-market value. So he's no longer a young player looking for life-changing guarantees; he's already got those.
“[The Twins] understand that I have to do what's best for me and my family. We'll see what they think. Someday.”
Now it's a matter of seeing if he can get the "best deal," at market price, from the Twins before the other 29 teams enter the bidding. Does he expect that? "Maybe. The Twins can do whatever they want," Berrios said. "If they come to us and make an offer, we'll see what the future has in store. But we waited a long time, worked very hard, to get to this position."
That position is worth a lot of money. Since joining the rotation for good in 2017, Berrios has been a workhorse. He's pitched 708⅔ innings, 10th-most in the majors, and made 112 starts, 12th most.
Berrios' ERA in that span is 3.77, not among MLB's elite, but consider this comparison: At the age of 27 (which Berrios reached in May) and after five full seasons in the majors, Max Scherzer owned a 3.71 ERA as a regular, and made his first All-Star team. One season before free agency, Scherzer won his first Cy Young Award with Detroit and had a career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 18.2.
Berrios, already twice an All-Star, currently has exactly half the WAR, 9.1, but he has half a season (and perhaps another 2.0-3.0 WAR) left in 2021, and was limited to just 12 starts by the pandemic in 2020. Berrios may not be a three-time Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer, as Scherzer has become in Washington. But nobody knew Scherzer would become that either at a similar point in his career.
And what did it cost the Nationals to land Scherzer? Seven years, $210 million, a contract that coincidentally expires in 2022. Berrios isn't likely to field offers that big. But if he keeps developing and has a strong 2022, he'll certainly field nine-figure offers, perhaps approaching that $30 million average.
Would the Twins outbid the field? They will need to, he hinted.
"I like Minnesota. My family likes it too. This is the organization that gave me an opportunity to be a professional and a big-leaguer," Berrios said. "But it's a business, too. They understand that I have to do what's best for me and my family. We'll see what they think. Someday."
That day could be soon. If the Twins aren't interested in paying market rates, they could trade him before the July 30 deadline, in order to receive the maximum return in new players or prospects. There have been no talks this season, he said, but "maybe they'll come to us before the trade deadline. I don't know yet."
In the meantime, he emphasized, his strong season for a lousy team — a career-best 3.48 ERA, a top-10 strikeout total, a reduction in home runs allowed — will continue. "I need to keep doing my thing. I work just as hard as ever, maybe harder, to keep getting better," Berrios said. "That's up to me. The money, that's for later."
• Mitch Garver is ready to be activated, almost seven weeks after requiring surgery for a severe groin injury caused by a foul tip. He will join the Twins in Chicago on Monday, manager Rocco Baldelli said, and "it's possible that he ends up catching one of the games tomorrow."
• After Sunday's loss, the Twins returned righthander Beau Burrows to Class AAA St. Paul, in order to activate reliever Danny Coulombe from the paternity list on Monday. Burrows pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings against Detroit, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2017, on Saturday.
• Pitching coach Wes Johnson on MLB's Statcast system labeling all of Charlie Barnes' fastballs "changeups" on Saturday because they didn't hit 90miles per hour: "I told him, that's a great thing. Not many guys have an 89-mph changeup."