The Twins have checked in on free agent right-hander Chris Tillman this offseason, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). They’re on a shortlist of teams that have shown reported interest in the soon-to-be 30-year-old Tillman, who has also been on the radar of the Orioles (his organization from 2008-17) and Tigers.
Free agency came at an inopportune time for Tillman, who, despite a generally successful career, saw his stock take a serious hit during a nightmarish 2017. Thanks to shoulder troubles, Tillman didn’t take the mound for the Orioles until mid-May, and when he was able to pitch, he posted a 7.84 ERA/6.93 FIP across 93 innings (21 appearances, 16 starts). Along the way, Tillman experienced a drop in velocity and managed just 6.1 K/9 against 4.94 BB/9, with unappealing groundball and home run-to-fly ball rates of 39.5 percent and 20 percent, respectively. He was also among the majors’ absolute worst hurlers by expected weighted on-base average against (.398), per Statcast, which suggests his actual wOBA allowed (.419) was largely deserved.
On the heels of last season’s woeful showing, Tillman has reportedly been seeking a one-year deal with the hope of rebuilding his stock and faring better on the market next winter. The Twins, meanwhile, have been looking for answers for a rotation that lacks appealing options behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. Fresh off their first playoff season since 2010, the Twins have generally aimed high in their search for starters, having shown interest in the likes of Yu Darvish, Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole and Jake Odorizzi. Darvish seems to be No. 1 on Minnesota’s wish list, and Wolfson tweets that the team’s still waiting for a resolution on his situation before it potentially moves to add other starters.
At this point, Tillman is obviously a far less exciting possibility than Darvish or any of the other aforementioned names. However, in the event Tillman bounces back to something resembling his pre-2017 level, his presence would benefit the Twins. Tillman’s not far removed from a four-year stretch (2013-16) in which he exceeded the 170-inning mark in each season and combined for a 3.91 ERA/4.27 FIP with 6.99 K/9 against 3.13 BB/9 over 758 2/3 frames.