The Twins are known to be on the hunt for rotation upgrades and have already been linked to top free agents Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, but they’re also poking around the trade market. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Minnesota has spoken to the Pirates about Gerrit Cole and also engaged the Rays in discussions on Jake Odorizzi (Twitter links). Both righties come with two remaining years of team control.
It’s not at all clear that the Pirates intend to aggressively shop Cole this offseason, though as a low-payroll club Pittsburgh always has to willing to at least entertain offers for its top talents. Cole certainly falls into that category, though he had somewhat of a down season in 2017. The former No. 1 overall pick logged 203 innings with the Bucs, marking his second career 200-inning campaign, but he also posted a career-worst 4.26 ERA. That was largely attributable to to a massive spike in his homer-to-flyball ratio (15.9 percent), which led to a career-worst 1.37 HR/9 mark.
However, Cole’s 2017 season also came with cause for optimism. The 27-year-old saw both his strikeout and walk rates bounce back from 2016, as he averaged 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 while maintaining a solid ground-ball rate (45.8 percent) and averaging 96 mph on his fastball. Cole’s average exit velocity of 85.4 mph ranked in the top quarter of the league (100th out of 438 pitchers, min. 100 batted-ball events). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz pegs Cole for a $7.5MM salary next season.
As for Odorizzi, he’ll turn 28 in March and recently wrapped a season in which he tossed 143 1/3 innings with a 4.14 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a more troubling 1.88 HR/9. Odorizzi has seen his walk and home-run rates increase each year since 2015. He’s averaged 30 starts per year in the past four seasons but has also averaged just 167 innings per year in that time. He’s projected to earn 6.5MM next year. As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk noted in previewing the Rays’ offseason, Tampa Bay has a pretty notable payroll crunch, which could lead to plenty of Odorizzi chatter this season given his projected salary and relatively limited club control.
Of course, the Twins have one of the largest figures that any team can offer Japanese star Shohei Ohtani ($3.245MM), and Berardino tweets that the team is indeed preparing its pitch for the potential ace. He also notes that Minnesota is focusing more on the rotation than the bullpen. Top-tier names like Wade Davis and Greg Holland aren’t likely to be on the Twins’ radar, he notes, though second-tier options will be in play as the offseason wears on.