5 Starting Pitchers Minnesota Twins Could Acquire Before Opening Day

Miami Marlins pitcher Jesus Luzardo
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins’ rotation we see today is highly unlikely to be the same iteration when they open the regular season March 28 against the division-rival Kansas City Royals.

The moves Twins President Derek Falvey has made this offseason have seemingly led to adding another pitcher to the starting rotation. In particular, the money Minnesota saved by trading Jorge Polanco will likely be used to add another arm in the rotation.

Related: Minnesota Twins Sign Top Cuban Prospect Yandro Hernandez

But it was reported Friday that Twins are still looking to beef up their rotation. Bobby Nightengale (Star Tribune) says president of baseball operations, Derek Falvey, is open to whichever benefits the Twins more, whether it be a smaller move to add depth at the back-end, or something bigger that lands them more of a “frontline” starter.

It’s not impossible that Scott Boras comes calling for a one-year deal on one of his remaining free agent superstars, like what happened with Carlos Correa ahead of the 2022 season, but that seems highly unlikely, given their self-imposed salary restrictions.

Unlikely to fit a top free-agent starting pitcher into the budget, their best chance to add a frontline starting pitcher is likely through a trade and it would probably require parting with one of their top prospects in addition to any major leaguers.

Bobby Nightengale – Star Tribune

Minnesota Twins Frontline Starting Pitching Targets

The likelier scenario, if the front office goes big-game hunting, is that it takes place on the trade market by using Max Kepler (more on him later) and a top prospect or two for a front-line starter. Minnesota could is also open to rounding out its rotation with a more cost-effective option, either via trade or free agency.

The Twins have rarely pulled off blockbusters for big-name players in recent years. It has not been the mid-market organization’s MO. But with experts around the MLB loving this version of the Twins, that could very well change. Here’s a look at a couple high-end targets for Minnesota.

Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

minnesota twins trade for dylan cease
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Trading within the division is rare. It’s also something we’ve seen more in Major League Baseball compared to other major professional North American sports. Minnesota would likely have to pay more of a premium to acquire Cease from the White Sox. That complicates things. But we do know that the Twins have checked in on Cease multiple times this offseason.

Would Chicago have interest in Kepler? It’s an open question given where the team is right now. Instead, the Twins send out multiple top-end prospects for Cease while recouping some minor leaguers in a separate Kepler trade ahead of Opening Day.

These numbers were not on par with what we saw from the former American League Cy Young runner-up in 2022. He posted a 2.20 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 3.10 FIP while striking out 227 batters in 184 innings that season. A return to form for the 28-year-old righty has to be expected.

Cease would take over the ace spot in Minnesota, headlining an awesome rotation that also includes Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober as mainstays. He could also push either Chris Paddack or Anthony DeSclafani to more of a long man role, expanding depth and stretching innings from the bullpen in the process.

The cost might be an issue here. It was reported back in January that Chicago was demanding the Cincinnati Reds’ top-three prospects in return for Cease. That’s laughable. That’s not happening. Given that MLB.com has Cincinnati with the fifth-best farm system and Minnesota ranks 17th, the haul of minor leaguers would be real.

Top prospect, outfielder Walker Jenkins, is likely a no-go here. Instead, shortstop Brooks Lee and pitcher Marco Raya would have to headline a deal for Cease.

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians

minnesota twins trade for shane bieber
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

This is a similar situation as Cease. Although, Bieber has had more consistent success than his AL Central counterpart. He also has one more season of team control than Cease, something that would loom large for an organization like Minnesota.

What we do know is that Bieber is also coming off a down season. He pitched to a 6-6 record with a 3.80 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 2023. Compare that to a 13-8 mark with a 2.88/1.04 spilt in 2022, and there has to be a bit of concern. But we also expect a return to the mean here. From 2019-22, the 28-year-old righty posted a split of 2.91/1.05 with a FIP of 2.95. Those are better numbers than Cease.

A deal of this ilk might actually force Minnesota to move off Jenkins. It seems like a strong unlikelihood. Instead, Lee with a ton of other prospects would likely be in the cards. That’s especially true with Royce Lewis manning shortstop in Minneapolis.

Related: Derek Falvey Says Minnesota Twins are Still Working on More Potential Moves

Minnesota Twins Depth Starter Options

minnesota twins trade for jesus luzardo
Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Not to take the excitement away from Twins fans. But this seems to be the likelier scenario. There is at least one interesting mid-rotation arm that could potentially be had on the trade block. A couple cost-effective free agents could make sense, too.

Noah Syndergaard, Free Agent

A report from Jon Morosi of MLB Network included the Twins as a potential landing spot for this injury-plagued former All-Star. Syndergaard could be had on the cheap given his struggles with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Guardians a season ago (6.50 ERA, 1.39 WHIP).

At 31 and having made all of 45 starts since the end of the 2019 season, it’s hard to fathom the Twins’ brass having a ton of confidence in Syndergaard making a real impact.

However, there is another point to look at here. The American League Central promises to be bad once again in 2024. Why not see if Syndergaard can make an impact early in the season? It won’t cost you too much as it relates to an on-field product in the division.

If the signing provides to be futile, a new trade market for starting pitching would have opened up by then. Simply put, Minnesota is not going to lose the division within the first couple months of the season.

Michael Lorenzen, Free Agent

Lorenzen, 32, would likely cost more from a financial perspective than Syndergaard. But he also has more of a recent track record of success. An All-Star last season, he pitched to a 3.58 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 18 starts with the Detroit Tigers. Lorenzen then struggle after being dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies (5.51 ERA, 1.46 WHIP).

In reality, Lorenzen would likely slide into the No. 4 spot in Minnesota’s rotation. Given how slow the MLB free agent market has played out for pitchers of his ilk, this could also be a cost-effective option for the Twins.

Related: Minnesota Twins Players are Starting to Trickle into Fort Myers for 2024 Spring Training

Jesús Luzardo, Miami Marlins

Let’s be clear. This is not necessarily based on any reporting linking the 26-year-old Luzardo to Minnesota. Instead, it’s what I envision being an absolutely perfect fit. The former Oakland Athletics top prospect is under team control for the next three seasons. He’s just now hitting his prime and absolutely does have ace stuff.

After some early-career struggles, Luzardo has rounded into form over the past two seasons. That span has seen him pitch to a 3.52 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while striking out a studly 10.6 batters per nine innings. So, why would the Miami Marlins part with him? They have an excess of pitching and are looking for hitting.

It really is that simple. Luzardo has also been mentioned as a trade candidate throughout the summer months. And there’s no better relationship between front offices in the league right now than the Twins and Marlins, after the Lopez/Arraez deal worked so well for both teams last offseason.

This scenario could include Kepler heading to Miami with a couple mid-level prospects mixed in. That is to say, youngsters ranked in the middle of the Twins’ top-30 prospects. Outfielder Jose Rodriguez comes to mind as an option.

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