Attempting to Secure an Ace for the Padres

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Credit: Sports Illustrated

The San Diego Padres are on the lookout for an ace pitcher to lead their relatively young pitching staff. The Minnesota Twins have a great young pitcher in Jose Berrios who would be an excellent acquisition for the Padres.

The 2017 Minnesota Twins served as inspiration for small market clubs around major league baseball.

They created what looked like a budding roster filled with homegrown stars ready to bring back the glory days of Twins baseball. It reminded fans of the days of Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Jack Morris and their ’91 World Series-winning team.

Even in the early 2000’s, when they rolled out homegrown stars Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and perennial Cy Young candidate Johan Santana, they’ve been buoyed by internal development more than splashy free agents.

After going 59-103 during the 2016 season, the Twins made a remarkable improvement, ending the 2017 season at 85-77 – a 27-game improvement and their first playoff appearance since 2010. Coming off a 2017 AL Wild Card appearance and a subsequent loss against the New York Yankees, expectations were that the young team would take the next step in 2018 and continue to push the Indians for control of the American League Central. Suffice to say, the 2018 season did not go as intended for the Twins, as the team ended the year six games below .500 at 78-84.

Now you might be wondering why I am going on about the Twinkies, and the reason is simple: Pitching. The Twins have a variety of pitching available if they choose to “reimagine” their roster as Seattle has opted to.

Former first-round pick Kyle Gibson had a career year in 2018 with one more year of team control, and Jake Odorizzi is another interesting arm who can eat valuable innings in the middle of a major league rotation. Minnesota could easily look at the AL playoff landscape and determine that with their current roster construction, they will not be able to overcome the Indians in the AL Central or claim an AL Wild Card spot over the teams that don’t win the other respective divisions. Also, with homegrown players taking big steps backward last year, like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, this might be as good a time as any to market a young homegrown ace with plenty of team control – a pitcher who’s actual peripherals are very similar to “Thor’s”.

Take a look at the following comparison:

Noah Syndergaard – 2018

154.1 IP – 9.04 K/9 – 2.27 BB/9 – .52 HR/9

Jose Berrios – 2018

192.1 IP – 9.45 K/9 – 2.85 BB/9 – 1.17 HR/9

You can see that overall numbers are fairly similar except with the HR/9 double for Berrios.

Now keep in mind that Berrios also comes with an extra year of team control compared to Syndergaard’s three seasons. He also comes with a much cleaner medical history than his contemporary. Syndergaard has missed large chunks of the last three seasons due to a torn lat muscle, a finger ligament injury, as well as hand, foot, and mouth disease, if you can believe that.

Berrios is the safer bet moving forward to stay on the field more based on the evidence previously mentioned. If you are going to trade a treasure trove of young talent to entice a team to give up a young ace, you want to maximize the return as much as possible by having that player on the field as much as you can. Otherwise, the true value of the player cannot be extracted.

Credit: AP Photo

Berrios came to the Twins as the 32nd overall pick in the 2012 first-year player draft. Coming out of a HS in Puerto Rico, he quickly became one of the top pitching prospects for the organization and rose quickly through their system, making his major league debut with the Twins during the 2016 season. He spent the year being shuttled between Rochester (Triple-A affiliate) and Minnesota.

After a blistering start to the 2017 season in Triple-A, he was recalled to the Twins on May 13th of 2017 and hasn’t looked back since.

Berrios took a huge step forward in 2018, when he made his first MLB All-Star game. Attacking hitters with a mid 90’s fastball, a plus curveball, and an above-average changeup, he creates a lot of uncomfortable at-bats for opposing hitters in the box. Young aces who are controllable for four seasons are truly valuable assets and would take a true treasure trove of talent to displace that.

With that being said, Twin’s GM Thad Levine might be motivated to “reimagine” his roster sooner than later if he thinks the current iteration of the Twinkie roster is not good enough to overcome the current brutal playoff picture in the American League. With the Indians still the cream of the AL Central, and the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Astros, and A’s all giving their AL brethren compelling reasons to rethink there strategies, Levine might be changing gears soon.

If so, the Padres should make sure to get in the line and see what it would take to bring a 24-year-old, front-of-the-rotation pitcher to Petco. It would take a lot to bring Berrios to San Diego, no doubt, but young aces, controllable for four years, are what you pay kings ransoms for. Keep the hot stove churning.

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