The Twins announced after Thursday’s game that right-hander Kyle Gibson has been optioned to Triple-A Rochester. A corresponding 25-man move will be announced tomorrow.
On the one hand, it’s not much of a surprise that the 29-year-old Gibson has lost his rotation spot after a dismal start to the season. However, it’s also not all that common to see a player with three-plus years of service time and a $2.9MM salary optioned to Triple-A. (In that sense, the situation is similar to the demotion of Wily Peralta in Milwaukee last season.) While Minnesota could’ve experimented with Gibson in the bullpen, they’ll instead allow him to try to sort out whatever is plaguing him in the minors.
Shoulder issues torpedoed Gibson’s 2016 season with the Twins (5.07 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 in 147 1/3 innings), but despite the fact that he’s now seemingly healthy, the former first-round pick has turned in an even worse performance in 2017. After being tagged for four runs on eight hits and three walks in four innings today, Gibson’s ERA sits at 8.20. He’s averaged just 5.5 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9, and his once-excellent ground-ball rate has dipped from roughly 54 percent to 47.4 percent.
It’s not yet clear how Minnesota will fill Gibson’s spot in the rotation. The Twins have already optioned fifth starter Adalberto Mejia to Triple-A and selected the contract of righty Nick Tepesch to assume that spot in the rotation. Candidates to fill Gibson’s spot would presumably include Tyler Duffey (though he’s thrived in a multi-inning relief role thus far), top prospect Jose Berrios (who is dominating in Triple-A but was shelled in the Majors last year) and the aforementioned Mejia.
From a service time vantage point, Gibson’s demotion will only cost him in the long run if it proves to be a lengthy stay in Triple-A. He’s projected to reach free agency upon completion of the 2019 season as things stand at present, and that would only be delayed by a year in the event that he spends 67 or more days in the minors.
For the Twins, getting Gibson back on track would be a critical boost to what has been a surprisingly strong season thus far. Minnesota currently has a 14-12 record and a +12 run differential that ranks eighth among Major League teams. If Gibson were to return to the form he showed in 2015, when he tossed 194 2/3 innings of 3.84 ERA ball (with 6.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 53.4 percent ground-ball rate), it’d go a long way toward solidifying the rotation. And even if the team were to begin trending in the other direction, a healthy and effective Gibson could certainly draw some interest at the non-waiver trade deadline for teams looking to round out the back of their rotations.