MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Starting Pitchers the Minnesota Twins Should Target
After missing out on Zack Greinke, though it was unlikely he’d be traded in-division, who is a second top SP the Twins can get to team with Francisco Liriano (assuming the Twins sign him long-term)?
The Twins have enough power to win with good pitching and defense, but they need another postseason-dominant pitcher as opposed to their typical control-based rotation.
The following are 10 starting pitchers that would look good as the No. 1 guy ahead of Liriano or behind him in the No. 2 slot.
It is important to note that at the time of publication, Carl Pavano and the Twins were in discussions on a two-year contract.
Chris Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals: Team Option 2012)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
The man above makes up half of one of the top two pitching duos in the major leagues. Chris Carpenter, along with Adam Wainwright, has singlehandedly kept the St. Louis Cardinals near the top of the NL Central.
Carpenter had a 16-9 record last year with a 3.22 ERA. He struck out 179 and walked 63. Although the walk number may be high, the ERA more than makes up for it. Rarely do you see a pitcher with such a low ERA have nine losses, but that was the case for the hard-luck Cardinals in 2010.
With Carpenter turning 35 towards the beginning of the 2011 season, one could argue his best days are behind him, but he has consistently put up huge numbers regardless of his age. It seems the only thing slowing him down is his knack for injuries.
Teaming Carpenter up with Liriano followed by Brian Duensing, Scott Baker and then Kyle Gibson in 2011 or 2012 would be a huge upgrade for the pitching staff.
Ryan Dempster (Chicago Cubs: 2012 Player Option $14 Million)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Ryan Dempster is an interesting option for the Twins. He went 15-12 with a sub-4.00 ERA (3.85). He struck out over 200 batters in a hitter's ballpark for a team that was near the bottom of the NL Central.
Dempster has No. 1 stuff but for Cubs fans is blocked by Carlos Zambrano and, as of January 7th, Matt Garza. It gives the Cubs a solid top three, but pitching is something that the Cubs seem to be stockpiling.
Dempster would be a nice fit behind Liriano atop the Twins rotation. With Garza coming in, Dempster may be on the outs if the season doesn't start like the Ricketts family hopes.
He has a club option for $14 million in 2012, which is kind of steep and maybe outside of the Twins' budget, but he would provide the strikeout and solid No. 2 pitcher the Twins desperately need.
Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies: Free Agent 2012)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Now before people get all up in arms and say the Phillies aren't going to trade the No. 4 starter in their rotation, let me lay this out for you.
Hamels is under club control in 2012 and will become a free agent in 2013. He already has a World Series MVP award to his credit and a World Series title. He has, however, "dropped" to being the No. 4 starter in a Phillies rotation that is sick. He was 12-11 with a 3.06 ERA last year while taking almost a run and a half off his ERA from 2009.
With the signing of Hamels, the Twins could have the best one-two top of the rotation in the AL Central and could really neutralize the Yankees' left-handed bats in a playoff series.
Philadelphia needs to get younger in the outfield and, in reality, on the mound in the next couple years.The Phillies can't afford to pay all of them, so it's possible Hamels may be the one standing without a chair when the music stops.
Chad Billingsley (Los Angeles Dodgers: Arb. Eligible 2011/Free Agent 2013)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Chad Billingsley would be a mirror-type pitcher to Francisco Liriano in the No. 2 slot. Billingsley comes out of the pitching-rich Dodger farm system and would be under team control for the next two years.
His arbitration salary last year of $3.85 million would be around the amount the Twins could afford to pay (assuming he gets a raise in his next hearing). His stats aren't overwhelming, but his numbers are better than Scott Baker's (strikeouts, ERA, innings pitched).
I think with the offense that the Twins could put around Billingsley, it would certainly increase his win total, and he would be a solid No. 2 for the Twins.
Wandy Rodriguez (Houston Astros: Arb. Eligible 2011/Free Agent 2012)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Twins made a play for Rodriguez at last season's trade deadline, but the Astros weren't willing to part with their ace.
Rodriguez, coming off three straight sub-3.60 ERA seasons, was a hot commodity being chased by the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Mets. His 178 punchouts in 195 innings aren't maybe as high as a No. 2 guy would have, but playing for an offensively-challenged team like the Astros may put a little more pressure on him to do too much on the mound.
With the Twins offense, his walk total may decrease with the runs the Twins can put up, and it would also allow him to challenge the strike zone a little bit more.
Jered Weaver (Los Angeles of Anaheim: Arb. Eligible 2011/Free Agent 2012)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
With the way the market, and free agents, seemed to stay away from the Angels this offseason, this may be the most far-fetched of the top 10 pitchers the Twins could acquire.
Weaver is a bona fide ace of the Angels staff and will expect a huge payday in 2012. This may be the ingredient, though, that allows the Angels to see what they can get for him if things go south for them this season.
Although Weaver is a Scott Boras client, the Twins would be getting a solid No. 1 and could easily put him ahead of Liriano. His 233 strikeouts and his 3.01 ERA in 2010 were career bests, along with his 224 innings pitched.
With that revamped Twins bullpen, the Twins would be wise to look into this inning-eating No. 1 pitcher if he were to become available.
Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants: Signed Through 2012/Free Agent 2013)
This would be another "dream" for the Twins to pry away this World Series champion from the Giants, but like the Dodgers, the Giants are a pitching-rich team and may deal Cain sometime in the near future. He is due to make a little over $9 million in 2011 and 2012, which makes him attractive financially.
He is the Giants' No. 2 guy behind two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. Since 2007, he has accumulated over 200 innings each of those years and has seen his ERA go no higher than 3.75 (it was 3.14 in 2010).
One could make the argument he also is a victim of a weak offense and has had to win based solely on him performing on the mound. As in San Francisco, Cain would make a solid No. 2 and push Liriano for that ace of the staff label with the Twins.
C.J. Wilson (Texas Rangers: Free Agent 2012)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
This is an interesting story. Wilson, a former closer, set career highs all across the board last year in his "coming out" year. He was arguably the most consistent of the starters throughout the entire season (remember, Cliff Lee didn't get to Texas until July 10) and held down the No. 2 spot on the rotation.
The drawbacks, though, are the 93 walks he issued and him going from 73 innings pitched in 2009 to the 204 innings he threw in 2010.
The big question here is would the Rangers allow him to walk? They do have a deep farm system but parted with some big prospects in the Lee trade with Seattle.
The other thing to think about is with the money the Rangers now have at their disposable and the events that took place with Cliff Lee, will the Rangers allow any of their young staff to leave?
Wilson would be a fantastic fit at Target Field.
Tim Hudson (Atlanta Braves: Signed Through 2012/Free Agent 2013)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
This is truly a long shot. Hudson took a hometown discount to stay with his home state Braves, as seen with the $9 million salary he will be making the next two years.
It seems the Braves also are looking to climb into wild card contention (I would say division contention, but it's tough to argue against the front four of the Phillies rotation). As usual, the Braves are building their team around a mix of youth and veteran starting pitchers.
Hudson had a solid 2010 campaign with his lowest ERA and most innings pitched since 2003 (2.83 ERA and 228 innings pitched). The Twins need an innings eater, as mentioned earlier, and if they could pry Hudson away from the Braves, especially if the wild card is out of reach, GM Bill Smith should pull the trigger on this one.
James Shields (Tampa Bay Rays: Arb. Eligible 2012/Free Agent 2013)
J. Meric/Getty Images
It seems the Rays are in full-blown "reload" mode. With the departure of Matt Garza, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Joaquin Benoit and potentially Rafael Soriano, the Rays look to be starting from scratch.
They do have a solid minor league system, but do they have enough to keep the likes of David Price and Evan Longoria interested in staying around? The chances of the Rays trading Longoria and Price are almost nil, but James Shields may be somebody the Twins could look to.
Like most AL East pitchers, his numbers aren't stellar, as expected when you have to face the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays 54 times, but that could all change with a move to the AL Central.
2010 wasn't a banner statistical year for Shields, but with a change of scenery he could be that No. 2 guy that could ease the pressure for Duensing and Baker in the Twins rotation.