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Oakland A’s 2018 Trade Partner: Minnesota Twins

After a storybook Wild Card berth in 2017, the Twins have been an absolute mess this season. Could they match up with the A’s on a deal this month?

Minnesota Twins v Chicago Cubs
Could Lance Lynn be the veteran innings-eater Oakland is looking for?
Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

In 2017, the Minnesota Twins were a fascinating team. Only three and a half games back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central and two games back of the Kansas City Royals for the second Wild Card spot, they decided they would be buyers, and on July 25th acquired rental starter Jaime Garcia. Five days and one start later, they decided to sell instead and traded Garcia to the New York Yankees.

After the trade deadline, they took off. They went 35-25 on the backs of young breakout stars Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios and found themselves facing the Yankees in the Wild Card game, where they were simply outgunned and lost. This past winter they made some smart additions and looked like a team ready to contend for the Wild Card spot once more, if not battle the Indians for the division title.

*** More trade targets: Blue Jays | Mets | Marlins | Tigers ***

Things haven’t gone as planned this year. Even with a recent hot stretch, the team is only 42-49, seven and a half games back of the Indians for the division and 14 12 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. Buxton and fellow 2017 breakout Miguel Sano have both been demoted to the minor leagues, and pitching acquisitions Lance Lynn and Addison Reed have disappointed. Barring a significant slump by Cleveland, the Twins are almost certain to be sellers at the deadline.

The Twins have a handful of pending few agents that could be helpful to other contenders, including the A’s. In particular, they have four veterans that could fit Oakland’s needs very well.

Lance Lynn, SP

In an article for MLB.com, Jon Paul Morosi lists righty Lance Lynn as a possible rental target for the A’s, should they continue their hot streak beyond the break. Lynn, 31, struggled to find a home as a free agent this past winter, and eventually settled on a one year, $12 million contract with Minnesota in mid-March.

This meant a shortened Spring Training for Lynn, and as a result he hasn’t been himself this season. He is sporting a 5.22 ERA over 18 starts this season, thanks in large part to an unsightly and uncharacteristic 5.42 BB/9. However, most of his significant struggles came in an awful April in which he posted an 8.37 ERA. Since the start of May he has been much more successful, bringing his walks, ERA, and FIP much closer to his career norms.

Moreso, he has shown signs of getting back on track. This year at age 31, his average fastball velocity has averaged 94.2 MPH, the highest season-long mark of his career. He has also posted a career high 10.2% swinging strike rate, leading to his highest K/9 since 2012. His 4.53 FIP, 4.32 xFIP, and 4.64 SIERA are all much more palatable than his ERA.

Even with this success, it’s clear Lynn isn’t quite right. For the season he is averaging just over five innings per start, despite averaging a mark much closer to six per start during the rest of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals (in the National League, nonetheless, where he was often pulled earlier for a pinch hitter). His control is clearly not right and this appears to be affecting the rest of his game significantly.

Lynn would be a change-of-scenery gamble for the A’s. He would also be relatively expensive as he is owed roughly $5.3 million over the rest of the season. Due to his rough season, I wouldn’t expect his acquisition price to be too high. Perhaps he could be had for an interesting-ish starter with more team control such as Chris Bassitt or Frankie Montas, or a fringe prospect like Tyler Ramirez.

Kyle Gibson, SP

I don’t think it is likely the Twins move Gibson, but if they make him available, he’d be near the top of my list of targets. The 30 year-old, drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2009 draft, is under team control through 2019. After a mostly-middling career to date, Gibson seems to have finally put it all together this season and made himself a viable mid-rotation arm.

This season, Gibson has posted a 8.87 K/9. His previous career high, set in 2017, was 6.89. Gibson is also sporting a career best 0.93 HR/9, 11.7% swinging strike rate, 93.5 MPH average fastball velocity, and 3.42 ERA. It seems as if the only category in which Gibson isn’t excelling is his career-high 3.58 BB/9, which leads me to believe that this season he has been effectively wild. Gibson has thrown more pitches out of the zone than ever, but also gotten more whiffs on those pitches than ever before.

Gibson has averaged almost exactly six innings per start this season and, while it wouldn’t be wise to count on this type of success from him going forward, I’m confident labeling him a solid mid-rotation innings-eater. He would instantly become the second best pitcher in the A’s rotation, and if Manaea doesn’t start missing bats, he could even be the best.

However, he wouldn’t come cheap. The Twins likely believe they can contend next season and Gibson would be a significant part of that. I’d expect him to cost something in the ballpark of Logan Shore and Tyler Ramirez at the least. The most I’d be willing to pay for him is something like Shore and Richie Martin.

Fernando Rodney, RP

I know, I know. Rodney is terrifying. Every time he pitches it is an absolute roller coaster of an experience and one of these days Father Time is bound to catch up with him. But, so far, it hasn’t. Rodney has been legitimately good as Minnesota’s closer, and could be excellent as a third righty behind Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino.

Rodney, 41, has posted an even 3.00 ERA over 33 innings this season. He still strikes out more than a batter per inning and has posted his lowest walk rate since 2012. His fastball still averages over 95 MPH and, regardless the anxiety he might cause the fanbase at times, he is still a very fun player to watch both on and off the field.

Fernando has a $4.2 million team option for 2019. I would expect him to cost about the same as Lance Lynn, or perhaps a bit more. Acquiring Rodney would add the veteran leadership the A’s seem to love in Chris Hatcher and Santiago Casilla, but with an arm that can actually be relied upon to get high leverage outs.

Zach Duke, RP

At age 35, Zach Duke has also seemingly been around forever. He broke into the league as a starter with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005, and has since bounced around, making himself into a fairly reliable LOOGY. He was signed to a one year deal by Minnesota last offseason.

Duke struggled in April as Twins manager Paul Molitor seemed to forget he was a lefty, using him in high leverage spots against good right-handed hitters. As one might expect, this didn’t go too well. However, since settling back into his usual role, Duke has posted an ERA of 1.85 with elite control. For the season, lefties have managed only a .504 OPS against Duke.

Danny Coulombe was unreliable as the A’s second lefty and has since been demoted to Triple-A. I strongly believe the A’s need a second lefty behind stud southpaw Ryan Buchter and Duke would fit that role perfectly. A free agent after the season, Duke shouldn’t cost much - no more than a marginally interesting lower minors piece like Sandber Pimentel and cash considerations or a PTBNL.

Poll

Factoring in acquisition cost, which of these four targets do you like the most?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Lance Lynn
    (139 votes)
  • 23%
    Kyle Gibson
    (184 votes)
  • 5%
    Fernando Rodney
    (41 votes)
  • 21%
    Zach Duke
    (165 votes)
  • 31%
    None of the above
    (244 votes)
773 votes total Vote Now