4 Starting Pitchers the Minnesota Twins Should Target in Trade Talks
As usual, the Minnesota Twins’ offseason is off to a slow start. Fans have had to sit and watch former Twins ink new contracts elsewhere, with Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, and Emilio Pagan all moving on to new teams. Meanwhile, the Twins have stood pat.
With MLB winter meetings set to begin Dec. 4, action around the league is expected to pick up, including for the Twins. But what are the plans? Three pitchers are gone, including two starting members of the rotation. Who’s set to replace them?
While the front office likes their stable of pitchers, as Star Tribune’s Bobby Nightengale reports, the Twins have a “goal” of acquiring another front-line starter to help replace Gray. But, as he and others have noted, that starter will come via trade, not free agency.
4 Starters the Minnesota Twins Could Target in Trade
Yet, the Twins are not alone. They’re far from the only ballclub looking to improve their starting rotation this offseason, which makes trading for an impact arm difficult. Like we saw last season with the trade of Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez, adding a frontline starter does not come cheaply.
That doesn’t mean the Twins can’t try again, pulling from a deep farm system featuring plenty of MLB-ready talent. But which pitchers could the Twins chase this offseason? Here are four potential options.
1. Twins take a chance on Alek Manoah
A year ago, the idea of the Toronto Blue Jays being willing to part with Alek Manoah seemed like a pipe dream. In 2022, Manoah finished third in the AL Cy Young voting. Then, in 2023, Manoah more than doubled his ERA, going from 2.24 to 5.87. Naturally, now there’s some concern that Manoah won’t be able to return to his All-Star form, at least not right away in Toronto.
However, it’s possible the Blue Jays would be willing to entertain the right offer for Manoah while they try to add another big bat to their lineup. Reports suggest the Blue Jays have already heard from four teams interested in acquiring Manoah. Could the Twins be in that group?
While there’s no guarantee Twins pitching coach Pete Maki and Co. would be able to get Manoah back on track, he fits the profile of pitchers Minnesota’s front office usually targets. For one, Manoah is under team control through 2027, and trading for him now would be buying low on a potential ace. The biggest question is whether the Twins are willing to take the risk on a player who may need some mechanical refinement with his delivery.
2. Logan Gilbert takes Sonny Gray’s spot in rotation
Almost akin to the Twins last season, the Seattle Mariners have arms for days. Their goal is to boost their lineup with more run-producers. This could lead to a borderline All-Star like Logan Gilbert becoming available.
Gilbert will appeal to many Twins fans in that he’s an innings-eater who averaged 5.9 IP per game in 2022. That would be the second-best mark among Twins pitchers a season ago, coming just behind Lopez’s 6.0 IP per game.
Not only does Gilbert eat innings with his grapes for breakfast, he’s also extremely effective. He has a career ERA of 3.76, averages 8.9 K/9, and has nasty stuff.
Not to mention, Gilbert is also under contract through the 2027 season and is estimated to rake in roughly $5 million via arbitration this winter. However, the same reasons the Twins would want him (he’s good, under team control, just 26 y.o.) are the same examples of why the Mariners may not be ready to move on from Gilbert. Barring a trade offer the Mariners cannot refuse, the Twins might have to focus on the other fish swimming in the lakes.
3. All-Star Paul Blackburn packs his bags for Minnesota
Really? Trading for an Oakland Athletics player? Not all A’s are built alike, and Paul Blackburn is one of the best in Oakland. The one-time All-Star starting pitcher might be the most attainable player on this list. He doesn’t quite have the same career numbers as his peers listed here, but he has been above-average, pitching for a very bad Athletics club.
- Paul Blackburn’s career stats: 4.90 ERA, 1.431 WHIP, 4.33 FIP, 6.9 K/9, ERA+ 82
Blackburn, 29, is far from a ‘big name’ who can move the needle for most. Yet, as mentioned, he may be the easiest to acquire. He’s only under team control through 2025 but is expected to have an affordable salary of an estimated $3.2 million next season. Plus, he’s been stuck on the Athletics his entire career. Much like we saw with Lopez a year ago, is it possible there’s some untapped potential with Blackburn too? Either way, trading for Blackburn would allow the Twins to add to their pitching staff without paying a premium price.
4. Corbin Burnes brings his Cy Young to Minnesota Twins
The cream of the crop is Corbin Burnes. The cross-state rival of the Milwaukee Brewers is like many within the Brew Crew’s organization, with a future that is firmly up in the air. The Brewers have already said goodbye to their manager, with Craig Counsell leaving for what could be greener pastures. Could trading their Cy Young-winning pitcher come next?
Many anticipate the Brewers will ‘re-tool’ in 2024 as they try to find a better way to become stronger contenders in the near future. And, like the Twins, there’s also been a desire to cut costs, especially if the Brewers aren’t going all-in this season.
Burnes’ situation is unique in that he’s in the final year of arbitration and is surely set to break the bank when he becomes a free agent in 2025. For now, Burnes is expected to make somewhere near $15.1 million in 2024, but chances are, he’ll double that amount annually on his next contract.
We saw that the Twins weren’t willing to match Gray’s desire to land a massive, three-year extension. Would they change that mindset for this three-time All-Star? That’s a question for another day, but the bottom line is adding Burnes would once again give the Twins a chance at having one of the very best pitching staffs in MLB. Whether they can pull off such a blockbuster could be another story.