On Wednesday evening, the Twins announced a three-year contract with right-hander Chris Paddack. The deal covers his final two seasons of arbitration eligibility and buys out what would’ve been his first free agent season in 2025. Paddack reportedly receives a $2.5MM salary for the coming season. He’ll be guaranteed $2.525MM in 2024 and $7.5MM during the ’25 campaign. The Boras Corporation client would earn an additional $500K for reaching both 140 and 150 innings in 2025, with another $750K available at the 160 and 170-inning thresholds.
Paddack, who turned 27 earlier this month, was acquired by the Twins last April in a deal with the Padres that also saw Taylor Rogers and Emilio Pagan change uniforms. Unfortunately for the Twins, Paddack managed just 22 1/3 innings with the club before he landed on the injured list with an elbow issue. Paddack later underwent Tommy John surgery in May, with August 2023 as the reported target for his return to big league play.
Paddack was an instant success in his 2019 debut season with the Padres, posting a 3.33 ERA (126 ERA+) with a 3.95 FIP across 26 starts and racked up 153 strikeouts in just 140 2/3 innings of work. The shortened 2020 season saw him struggle mightily, however, as his ERA ballooned to 4.73 (89 ERA+) and his FIP similarly rose to 5.02 across 59 innings. One factor in this was his ghastly HR/FB rate of 25.0%, nearly double his 14.6% rate from 2019.
His home run rate returned to normal in 2021, but Paddack continued to struggle. In 108 1/3 innings in 2021, Paddack posted an ERA of 5.07 (77 ERA+), the worst of his career. Paddack’s 3.72 FIP in 2021 indicates that there may have been some bad luck built into those results, but there was reason for concern nonetheless: his strikeout rate had plummeted. After striking out 9.8 batters per 9 in his debut 2019 season, that rate dipped to 8.8 in 2020 and then dipped again in 2021, all the way down to 8.2, good for a strikeout rate in just the 35th percentile that year.
Of course, it should be noted that Paddack struggled with injuries throughout the 2021 season, which certainly could have impacted his performance. Paddack spent over two months on the injured list in 2021 across three separate IL stints, suggesting he may not have been fully healthy even when he was on the mound that season. Between his youth and injury history, there’s reason to believe Paddack could return to a form more in line with his 2019 debut once he’s fully healthy, an outcome the Twins are betting on with this deal.
In extending Paddack, the Twins provide the right-hander with some security during his rehab process and return to the pitcher’s mound, while buying themselves an extra year of team control for a pitcher with substantial upside. Should Paddack return to the mound late in the season, he will join a somewhat full rotation mix that currently includes Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, and Bailey Ober. With that being said, Gray, Mahle, and Maeda are all set to hit the free agent market following the 2023, leaving Paddack as a likely key cog in Minnesota’s 2024 rotation.
With four years of service time, Paddack was set to be eligible for arbitration both this offseason and next, with MLBTR contributor Matt Schwartz having projected him for $2.4MM during this round of arbitration. With this deal, Paddack forgoes a potential raise through the arbitration process next year in addition to a year of free agency, though he is still set hit the market at age 30 following the 2025 campaign. A cost-controlled starter like Paddack is a huge boon to Minnesota’s payroll flexibility going forward- while their projected payroll for the 2024 season is just $65MM per RosterResource (prior to the inclusion of arb-eligible players on the roster), the Twins are, as previously mentioned, set to lose three members of their rotation this offseason, potentially in addition to two starting outfielders in Joey Gallo and Max Kepler. While youngsters like Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach could step up in the outfield, it seems almost certain that the Twins will have to supplement their core in free agency next year. Cost certainty with Paddack could help them be more aggressive in making those additions and maximizing the early years of Carlos Correa’s new six-year deal with the club.
Matt Braun of Twins Daily was first to report the Twins and Paddack had agreed to a three-year contract. Dan Hayes of the Athletic was first with the $12.5MM guarantee. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported the salary breakdown. The Associated Press was first with the specifics of the incentives.