Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hidden Aces

Looking Past Greinke For An Ace.


Good lord, but I’m tired of hearing about Zach Greinke. I get it – he’s a Cy Young winner. He is also going to be a free agent in two years, so it makes sense for the Royals to shop him. But there are approximately a dozen other teams that are going to be just as interested in acquiring him as the Twins, and only one team is going to get him.

It might make sense to have a backup plan.

Furthermore, I consider the Twins baseball writer community to be one of the most thorough and analytical groups of writers any fan base can have. Have we really stopped at that one name? Surely there are others the Twins could consider.

Let’s rectify that. We’re looking for an “ace”, and to me that means a workhorse that can strike guys out when he needs to. So let’s look at the top qualified starting pitchers in the majors by strikeout rate and see if we can find any guys that might be available. Since Greinke comes in at 38th on that list, we’ll look at the 37 guys who ranked higher than him this year. We’ll highlight and examine the guys who might make sense to chase.

1. Tim Lincecum (SF)
2. Jon Lester (BOS)
3. Yovani Gallardo (MIL)
Sorry, not for sale at any price. But seeing last night’s Game 1 World Series starter at the top of the list encourages me that we’re going about this the right way. If you’re wondering about Gallardo, Milwaukee has signed him to a long-term low-cost deal through 2014, so he’s not going anywhere.

4. Jonathan Sanchez (SF)

Nice. We identified Sanchez as a trade target in our TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, so it’s nice to see him here. Sanchez will be arbitration eligible this year, not that is a particularly large disincentive to San Francisco, who has deep pockets. But his control has been shaky, and his postseason performance in the NLCS even shakier. It’s a longshot, but tune into Game 3 on Saturday and root for him to lose his composure a bit more. It would be very nice to see him available on the trade market.

5. Francisco Liriano (MIN)
I’ll agree with you when you say “Liriano isn’t an ace,” but I’ll add the word “yet.” Nick wrote yesterday that signing him to a long-term deal should be a top priority this offseason, and I agree. But I’ll take it even further and say it’ll happen. It makes too much sense to both sides to do a 4-year/$40 million deal. I’ll be shocked if this isn’t announced in March.

6. Jered Weaver (LAA)
7. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
8. Mat Latos (SD)
9. Josh Johnson (FLA)
10. Cole Hamels (PHI)
11. Justin Verlander (DET)
12. Colby Lewis (TEX)
Yeah - you can’t have these guys. The name that surprises me most is Latos, but he’ll be very cheap for the Padres for a long time. The name above we hear the most is Johnson, but that’s just habit based on last year’s rumors. He’s now signed through 2013. His contract is a great model for a Liriano deal, by the way.

13. Ryan Dempster (CHC)
Well, he’s not cheap. He’ll likely be paid $27.5M over the next two years, he’s 33 years old and his control was a bit shaky last year. But he’s a #1 guy, posted a 3.85 ERA last year, and has a higher strikeout rate than King Felix. The Cubs don’t need to trade him – they have oodles of money – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t available. He’s just not cheap.

14. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL)
So sorry. He, like a lot of these guys on this list, is signed cheap for a long time, like through 2014.

Instead, focus on free agent pitcher Jorge de la Rosa from Colorado. He’s not on this list because he didn’t have enough innings last year, but he’s young, he can strike guys out, and he’s left-handed. He’ll also likely get a four or five year deal for $10+ million per year, so I’m not holding my breath. But this was my primary target in my offseason blueprint in the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook.

15. Max Scherzer (DET)
16. Felix Hernandez (SEA)
17. Adam Wainwright (STL)
18. James Shields (TB)
19. Dan Haren (LAA)
Don’t count on it, sport. The one possible exception is Shields who put up great strikeout and walk numbers but gave up a ton of hits and ended up with a 5.10 ERA. But he’s cheap next year, and the Rays have options on years through 2014, so I expect they’ll give him a year to bounce back. But it’s not totally crazy to think they might shop him.

20. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU)

Hmm. Now THIS is a hidden ace. 3.60 ERA last year, along with 178 K – and those numbers are put up in Houston’s fairly small ballpark. This is his last year of arbitration (probably making about $9M), so he’ll be a free agent at this time next year. He is exactly the kind of guy that Houston probably should be trading, if not now, in July. In fact, it was rumored he was available at the last trade deadline.

The problem? Houston’s owner and management are…well, “eccentric” sounds so much better than “certifiably insane.” They might not trade him for any combination of players – or they might trade him for a box of vintage show tune albums. (Provided No No Nannette is included, of course.)


JimCrikket said...

So you've gotten through 20 names on your list and identified a couple who maybe, kinda, could, possibly be available to the Twins if all the stars align correctly. Given that, is it really so hard to believe Greinke is getting so much ink? Sure, we'd like to identify half a dozen "aces" available for procuring... but it seems pretty clear that there simply aren't many. They are, almost by definition, very rare. So when one becomes available, yes, you try to find a way to get in on him.

Phil Magruder said...

Verlander has the best "stuff" in baseball.