Available Aces?

8 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The question of whether the Twins should be buyers or sellers continues to come up. As I wrote yesterday, with the Twins next 15 games being against the four AL Central teams, we will know a lot more at that end of that stretch. Many believe that the Twins need help in the bullpen. I wouldn’t completely disagree. Another reliever that can be counted on would be great, although no one they could acquire in a trade will be as valuable as getting Joe Nathan back at 100%, Glen Perkins continuing to dominate, and Matt Capps piching well.

It always amazes me when I hear a Twins Fan say or write something like “Division titles me nothing to me anymore.” That is the most ludicrous thing a fan can say, I think. Obviously in order to get to the World Series, you have to get to the playoffs. My opinion is that once in the playoffs, it’s just a tournament and the best team does not always win. But, one thing that we all can agree on is that pitching wins in the playoffs. Many Twins fans question the Twins starting pitchers should they make the playoffs.

In my opinion, if Scott Baker comes back healthy in the second half and continues to pitch as he did in the first half, he can absolutely be a winning pitcher in the playoffs. The other guy that I think can win in the playoffs is Francisco Liriano because he has the type of dominant stuff that can dominate in the playoffs. We have only seen that a few times in 2011, but he is a guy that should be able to pitch well. He did a year ago. Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing are not prototypical top of the rotation guys for a playoff team but if they’re at the back end of a playoff rotation, I’ll take my chances.

Even so, I believe that a large percentage of Twins fans would still argue that the team’s biggest need is a top of the rotation starter, a CC Sabathia, a Justin Verlander, an unquestioned ace. I would never have a problem with the Twins bringing in a starter who could have that type of impact. A couple of quick notes though. Two years ago, the Brewers gave up four good prospects to acquire CC Sabathia from Cleveland. Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley have helped the Tribe get to where they are this season. Sabathia was terrific and the Brewers ran him ragged the rest of the regular season. He got them to the playoffs for the first time in almost 30 years. But when the playoffs started, Sabathia was gassed and was shelled in the playoffs. Or, how about last year, the Rangers gave up Justin Smoak to acquire Cliff Lee for a couple of months. He helped Texas to the World Series, but he struggled in those two WS starts. In my mind, some Twins fans would be disappointed in Lee because he didn’t win the World Series. I would also add that the Twins had a pretty solid ace through most of the decade of the 2000s. Johan Santana at that time was the definition of an Ace. Did having that ace, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, get the Twins to the promised land that some Twins fans seem to think is the only end to a season that is acceptable? No.

So again, I would take my chances with the Twins rotation IF they are able to get to the playoffs.

I was listening to KFAN on Thursday morning and there was a discussion of Twins needs and they too mentioned an Ace. I e-mailed producer Joe Nelson about the subject. He responded by saying, “Staff Aces are hard to get, but more than attainable. If this team wants to be known as a contender, they need to stop holding on to their prospects with potential and go out and get guaranteed studs.”

Again, like Sabathia was for the Brewers? Like Santana did for the Twins?

But still, it was an interesting comment to me, particularly the comment about aces being more than attainable. So, what I did is looked at the standings in all six divisions in baseball and considered which teams might be sellers at the trade deadline. Teams that are in contention will not be trading their aces. It is a little too early to know, but I did want to start considering the topic. Of those teams that could be sellers, I looked at their pitching staffs and tried to determine which pitchers would be considered an “Ace” or a “Stud.” Here is what I found, with my thoughts

  • Toronto Blue Jays – I would consider Ricky Romero close to an Ace. He was just signed to a long-term deal, so he will not be traded.
  • Baltimore Orioles – Brian Matusz is the closest thing they have to an ace, and he missed two months of the season before coming back, struggling and being sent to AAA.
  • Kansas City Royals – They’re (always) in rebuilding mode. Their only aces are prospects and they’re not going to deal those.
  • Oakland A’s – Brett Anderson is hurt and out for awhile. Trevor Cahill isn’t an improvement for the Twins. Gio Gonzalez is an ace, and he is one guy that I would be willing to give up a lot to get!
  • Seattle Mariners – The M’s aren’t dealing Felix Hernandez, even if they maybe should. They also will not be dealing Michael Pineda at this point for anything!
  • Florida Marlins – I like Josh Johnson as much as anyone, but considering he’s already had Tommy John surgery once and has been on the 60 Day DL with arm/elbow problems, I would be hesitant to give up upper echelon prospects for him. Anibal Sanchez is certainly intriguing, but with the Marlins moving into a new stadium next year, I can’t believe that he would be available.
  • Washington Nationals – They’re not trading Stephen Strasburg.
  • Cubs – Carlos Zambrano is on a rehab assignment (and will pitch against Beloit tonight). No Thanks! And speaking of head cases, you have to think that Matt Garza would be a trade candidate yet again, and we know he isn’t going to go to the Twins. Garza has become the new AJ Burnett. Great talent who just is so inconsistent that it’s hard to say he fits the true ace mold.
  • Houston Astros – Wandy Rodriguez is probably available, but is he really an Ace, a step above what the Twins have? Is he a guy you would feel really good starting in a Game 1?
  • Colorado Rockies – At this point, the Rockies are looking for a starting pitcher. But should they sell, Jhoulys Chacin would not be available. Ubaldo Jimenez might be, and if you knew you were getting 2010 Jimenez, it’d be great. He’s been hurt most of this year.
  • San Diego Padres – They don’t have an ace-type pitcher. They’ve got some starters with good numbers, but that could be due to Petco Park.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – Now this is where it gets interesting. With all of the issues surrounding the Dodgers, the bankruptcy, the inability to meet payroll, etc., it isn’t impossible to see a scenario where they would sell off some pieces. Chad Billingsley would be a terrific pitcher for the Twins to add and I would give up quite a bit to get him. However, with Clayton Kershaw about to get more expensive, I would give up anything (including Gibson, Hicks, etc.) to acquire the young, talented left-hander! That said, I am not certain that MLB would support the trading of Kershaw.

SUMMARY – I guess I don’t see a lot of ‘Aces’ being readily available. Maybe a couple more teams will struggle through July and become sellers and a name or two might become available. But for right now, I think there are just THREE starting pitchers that I would consider aces that would be available and the Twins should be interested in. Frankly, Clayton Kershaw is the crown jewel of that list, and I don’t know just how available he really would be. I would hope the Twins would make a call to the Dodgers to at least gauge that. Next would be Gio Gonzalez of the A’s. I don’t know that I’d give up Gibson for him, but probably anybody else. Next would be Chad Billingsley, but there would be a couple more guys that I would not trade to get him, including Liam Hendriks. If doctors felt that Josh Johnson would be healthy for sure over the course of the next two or three years, the life of his contract, I would obviously give up a lot for him. I just don’t think that we can say that which means that I would not deal any of the Twins top five prospects for him either. None of these three would be rentals as each would be under Twins control for a few years.

1.)     Clayton Kershaw – Any two top prospects, plus a couple of second or third tier prospects.

2.)     Gio Gonzalez – not Gibson.

3.)     Chad Billingsley – not Gibson, Hicks, Arcia or Hendriks.

So, are there a couple of Aces that may or may not be available? Maybe… or maybe not. Should the Twins call on these guys? Absolutely. Should they be willing to trade good prospects for top pitching talent? Of course. Should they break the bank for anyone? Of course not, although, for Kershaw, it has to be considered.

What do you think? Did I miss any names? Are there other teams that might be sellers in three weeks? Let me know what you think.


23 Responses to “Available Aces?”

  1. Steven July 8, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    I don’t consider Gonzalez an ‘ace’. He walks too many guys and benefits from pitching in Oakland.

    Also, who would you trade for Billingsley if you wouldn’t give up those four prospects? Why would the Dodgers ever consider making a deal like that?

  2. mikey walds July 8, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    I 100% agree on Gonzalez, if we can get him without giving up to much it’d be huge, the guy is a stud.

  3. mike wants wins July 8, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    Baseball is a team game. One Ace does not win you a WS. You can criticize the Brewers all you want, but that trade reinvigorated that franchise. The Twins didn’t win with Santana because they had no DH or 3B at all. They didn’t even really try to have a DH a couple of years, imo.

    I do NOT think this is a WS team right now. As you know, I’m generally a buyer, but in this case, unless they buy a guy in his prime, I think they should be sellers, or neither, but not buyers. They won’t go get a guy in his prime, making a ton of money (after all, they salary dumped Hardy and nearly their entire bullpen). If that’s true, then I have no interest in some short termer. I REALLY don’t want a legit prospect traded for more bullpen help. It isn’t worth it.

    • Seth July 8, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      I agree with you, mww, but this particular blog was in regard to all those who say that you can’t win in the playoffs without a top of the line starter or two. (Granted, I 100% believe that that is how the Giants won the WS last year, but not always the case) It does take a total effort. The Twins haven’t necessarily lost in the playoffs because of pitching. It has been lack of hitting. But again, this was to show that there aren’t that many ‘aces’ really available and that even if they are, you have to give up a ton and it still guarantees nothing.

      • mike wants wins July 8, 2011 at 9:44 am #

        Agreed, I don’t see an Ace out there this year (except maybe Liriano, but that’s the other way, and he has consistency issues). I just don’t see one, other than the young ones you identify, and those would be very expensive to acquire (though maybe worth it, maybe). I also agree an ACE is not necessary to win it all, but it sure helps.

  4. gobbledy July 8, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    i agree with mike on this. they’d have to play .620 to get 86 wins which would seem like the minimum # to win the div. they’re under .500 the last 2 weeks and not making up any ground still with 3 teams to get past. i know this isn’t going to happen but trade cuddy while he’s at his top value and you can re-sign him next winter. the braves and giants need offense if i could get minor or wheeler he’d be gone, maybe iglesias from the red sox. you can’t offer him arb anyway he’d accept and then you’d be stuck for 10.5-11m next yr and he’s not worth that. right now he’s the best chip they have and chances are he’d come back anyway. liriano, maybe has some value but would he bring a top 50 prospect? kubel and yound have no value until and if they get back on the field and produce decent.

    • mike wants wins July 8, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Agreed, on Cuddy. I think you can get a legit prospsect for him. I asked one of the fangraphs guys about him, he thought you could NOT get much for him. I think he underestimates what teams will do to win, but he might be right.

      I think you can get a top prospect, maybe two very good ones, for Liriano. I’m not sure I’d do it, but I think he’s worth a ton.

      Young has no value, even if he comes back, but I’d 100% trade him if I could. Kubel has minimal value. IF they are not planning to re-sign him, he needs to be traded, as much as that would crush me, as he’s one of my favorites. The Rays should be trynig to acquire Thome…..

      As for targets: 3B, 2B, 1B/DH, starting pitching

      • gobbledy July 8, 2011 at 10:27 am #

        imo you offer kubel arb the money would be ok and if he turns it down get the pick, i think he’s a type b. next yr you use m & m boys at 1b and the dh spot. one idea with revere looking like he can fill span’s shoes just fine is shopping span this winter for a front line starter. 99% sure cuddy will be back even if he’s traded so revere, cuddy and fill in the blank in lf.

  5. mike wants wins July 8, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I love Revere right now, but he’s not even close to Span right now. I love that the fans are all excited, but if Span is healthy, he’s about 10x the player Revere is, and it isn’t close right now. Span is their 5th best player (Mauer, Morneau, Baker, Liriano), and he’s not expensive. You’d have to get A TON in return to trade him.

    • gobbledy July 8, 2011 at 11:13 am #

      that’s the point if you’re going out to get a top line starter it will take something good. trading a bunch of junk doesn’t work except when we’re are getting the junk. we’ll know more about revere by the end of the season but span can probably bring the most back, imo.

      • mike wants wins July 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

        Probably true on Span bringing back a lot, but I don’t think I’d deal him. He’s the kind of hitter you need on a WS caliber team. Revere is a nice player. More than a few of Revere’s runs scored have occurred because he hit a routine grounder, and a guy in front of him was forced out, then Revere scored on other guys hits. That’s really not Revere doing anything at all. Don’t get me wrong, I like what Revere is doing, but I don’t think this team can afford to lose SPan, not with the question marks of Mauer and Morneau’s health, no 3B, and Kubel and/or Cuddy gone.

  6. jimbo92107 July 8, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    You don’t trade Kyle Gibson before you see what he can do against major league hitters. He might turn out to be the ace you’re looking for, and then you don’t need to sell the farm.

    Send down Blackburn for a month to work on his form, like last year. Bring up Gibson and give him four or five starts to see what he’s got. Assuming he’s not lights-out great, send him down after a month and bring back Blackie all rested and sharp.

    • Kunza July 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

      Yes you do. No questions. If the Dodgers offered Kershaw for Gibson and another prospect you jump immediately.

  7. Jeff P July 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    For me it is not so much about one ace as 3 guys who are very good.

    Also, I have zero interest in a short term rental, I would rather pay more and get multiple shots at a WS with who we acquired. Kershaw would be fabulous, I just think it would take too much to get him. Gonzalez would be under team control for several years from what I can tell and looks very good.

    Would a team be willing to take back one of our lower rated starters in return as part of a deal? It just makes some sense for us because we already have 5 starters, plus Swarzak who can fill in, plus Gibson and perhaps Hendriks who it would be nice to give a shot to over the next couple of seasons.

    Would Blackburn or Duensing + Benson + Salcedo + one or two lower rated prospects be enough to get Gonzalez?

    Or are we talking more like: Hicks + Revere + Hendriks + Salcedo to get Gonzalez? That seems a bit steep to me and I would probably pass.

  8. mini_tb July 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    I do like Billingsley quite a bit, but there is no way he qualifies as an ace. If that was the Twins’s solution for a dominant starter, they and the fans would be sorely disappointed.

    He’s solid, but his walk rate generally teeters on the edge of disaster (generally mid to high 3s per 9 IP). He strikes out his fair share of guys for sure (8 per 9 IP), but he’s had a WHIP under 1.3 just once in his career and has also pitched 200 innings in a season just once.

  9. Matt Foster July 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    The Twins dont bring in great starting pitching when they have an excellent team so I doubt they will this season when they’re likely to miss the playoffs. Much more likely to add a bullpen arm or two which is really their biggest need. They have got to get burnett out of close ball games.

  10. mike wants wins July 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    From the latest BA chat:

    CA (Dhahran): How far away is Liam Hendricks from a top 50 list? Does anyone see him as the equal to Kyle Gibson?

    J.J. Cooper: I’ve heard some baseball people make that argument, but Gibson’s stuff is similar to Hendriks, he has a slightly better injury history and he’s close to the big leagues. Hendriks was good enough to be considered for the 50, but he wasn’t in the just-missed category.

  11. Kunza July 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    I personally think the Twins will never be on board with paying a top of the rotation pitcher. Especially now that we have the albatross contract of Joe Mauer.

    The guy they should target is Josh Johnson. You might be able to “tarnish” is luster a bit by playing the injury card. Would you trade Kyle Gibson for Josh Johnson?

    I can’t believe that Josh Johnson wouldn’t want to pitch in Minnesota, his home state. He would dominate in Target Field. He is legit.

  12. Greg July 9, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    Always like to see Twins improve and the guesses on who goes. A key pitcher in the starting rotation be great.. Think a power releiver is more needed. With Mauer playing first and most likely see more action, Morneau probably becomes the DH domrday.. Trade the soon to be free agents and find a “C” atcher like Ramos?

    Win Twins!

  13. Matt Foster July 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Like I said, they have got to get burnett out of close games.

  14. Brian Stavig July 10, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Would you trade Gibson, Plouffe, and Revere for Kershaw? Or try this one on; Liraino and Span to Atlanta for their three minor league pitchers in BA’s top fifty prospects?

    • Kunza July 11, 2011 at 7:32 am #

      Not a chance. I would trade Span for one of them but that is it. Gibson, a top 50 prospect for another top 50 prospect accomplishes nothing. Now if you’re talking one of their SP in the big leagues (other than Lowe), I would consider.

    • mike wants wins July 11, 2011 at 8:27 am #

      I’d do Liriano, Revere and Plouffe for the three Atlanta minor leaguers for sure. If I was worried that Span would have injury problems every year, I’d do your trade 100% also. Absolutely, 100%. Atlanta would laugh at you for making the offer, though, I think.

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