The Twins’ woeful season has them positioned as deadline sellers, but there’s no guarantee they’ll move anyone controlled beyond the 2021 campaign. Minnesota entered the season on the heels of a pair of division titles, and the Twins have ample payroll space this winter as well as a core of controllable young players. The toughest choices for the Twins’ front office will be how to proceed with a group of players controlled only through the 2022 season — right-hander Jose Berrios chief among them.
Berrios has already drawn interest from multiple teams, and with good reason. The 27-year-old has pitched to a 3.48 ERA with a career-best 25.9 percent strikeout rate and a seven percent walk rate (the second-lowest of his career) through 108 2/3 innings. That innings tally ranks sixth in the American League and underscores the durability of Berrios, who is tenth in all of baseball in innings pitched dating back to 2017 and has never been on the Major League injured list.
The Twins have tried in the past to sign Berrios to a long-term deal, but he’s been vocal about wanting to advance the market for starting pitchers and now, 15 months from reaching free agency, sounds as though he’s far from inclined to take any sort of deal on an extension.
“[I will have been] waiting six years, almost seven, to get where every player wants to be — a free agent, able to maximize our value,” Berrios told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this weekend. “So it’s different now. We are in a good position, and we’ll see what the best deal is going to be.”
Berrios added that there haven’t been any extension talks but said he likes Minnesota and would be open should the Twins approach him with another extension scenario at some point. Putting together what would need to be a market-value extension before the July 30 trade deadline seems unlikely — particularly with the front office dedicating a good chunk of its time to exploring trades for rental players and also talking extension with center fielder Byron Buxton. Berrios, who has a 3.76 ERA with strong strikeout and walk rates over the past five seasons, surely took notice when Zack Wheeler inked a five-year, $118MM deal with the Phillies on the heels of a similar statistical track record (but with less durability).
Even if the two sides don’t come to terms on a contract extension, however, a Berrios trade is far from a foregone conclusion. Again, the Twins likely hope to contend in 2022, and Berrios would be a big part of that effort while pitching at an affordable rate. He’s earning $6MM in 2021, and even when that number soars beyond $10MM in his final offseason of arbitration, he’d be a bargain relative to his open-market value.
That makes him a highly desirable trade piece but also gives the Twins the ability to set a high asking price. The Athletic’s Dan Hayes reports that the Twins’ initial ask in return for Berrios from one interested team was a pre-arbitration player on the Major League roster and a pair of top 100 prospects. That meshes with reports from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York Post that the Twins’ asking price on Berrios has been sky-high. Given the general dearth of impact starters on the trade market and the Twins’ outlook for the 2022 season, it’s understandable that they’d effectively be asking for a king’s ransom to relinquish Berrios.
Broadly speaking, it’d be a surprise it the Twins didn’t at the very least move rental pieces like Nelson Cruz, Michael Pineda and Hansel Robles in the coming weeks, but the asking price on Berrios will be as high as the asking price on any player who has a chance of being traded between now and July 30.