The last-place Twins, owners of the sixth-worst record in MLB, have all the familiar characteristics of a team headed nowhere. Might it be time for the Twins, who haven’t won so much as a playoff game since 2004 (last year’s Wild Card loss to Houston extended their postseason losing skid to a record 18 games), to close shop, punting on 2021 in hopes of acquiring future assets at the upcoming July 30th trade deadline?
If the Twins, who have admittedly played much better baseball of late (they’ve won eight of their last 13 games since bottoming out at a dismal 14-28), decide to pack it up, choosing to embark on another in a long line of lengthy rebuilds, two-time All-Star Jose Berrios would seem to be far and away their best trade chip. The 6’0” right-hander from Puerto Rico has been a bright spot this season, cruising to a 3.36 ERA in his first 11 turns through the Twins’ starting rotation. Arguably in the prime of his career, the 27-year-old’s reasonable $6.1-million salary (he’ll be arbitration-eligible again next winter before entering free agency in 2023) makes him an appealing trade target for contending clubs on the hunt for starting pitching. Here are five teams that could find themselves in the mix for Berrios this summer, assuming Minnesota is willing to entertain offers for the 2012 first-rounder.
The underachieving Braves find themselves in grave danger of being left behind in the NL East, a division they’ve won with relative ease each of the past three seasons. Atlanta is already down a starter with Huascar Ynoa (who was quietly on an All-Star trajectory before taking his frustration out on an unsuspecting dugout wall) on the injured list and the Braves haven’t gotten much from the rest of their staff save for Charlie Morton, and even he’s looked dicey at times. Mike Soroka’s recent Achilles’ setback only heightens Atlanta’s need for pitching depth. The Braves are well-equipped to pull off a trade of blockbuster magnitude with three of MLB’s top 60 prospects including Cristian Pache (a natural center fielder who hasn’t quite found his stroke offensively), Drew Waters and former ninth overall pick Shea Langeliers, who starred at Baylor before turning pro in 2019. Berrios would immediately bolster a Braves rotation that ranks 18th among 30 MLB teams in ERA (4.30).
New York Yankees
While starting pitching isn’t necessarily the Yankees’ strongest need (New York’s 3.47 ERA among starters is fourth in the American League and 10th-best overall), the slumping Bombers could use a spark, particularly with the scorching-hot Rays and rejuvenated Red Sox beginning to find their footing in the ruthlessly competitive AL East (let’s also not forget about the Blue Jays, who might be the division’s scariest team from an overall talent standpoint). Berrios is precisely the type of arm GM Brian Cashman covets and the Yankees could use another innings-eater to take some of the stress off their overworked pen. That sense of urgency is even greater now with former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (fresh off his first career no-hitter) lost indefinitely to a strained shoulder. With free-agent casualties J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka both pitching elsewhere and rehabbing right-hander Luis Severino still in a holding pattern following last year’s Tommy John surgery, Berrios would look mighty good in pinstripes.
While Zack Wheeler has been everything Philadelphia could have hoped for and more, Aaron Nola has looked nothing like the ace who finished third in NL Cy Young voting three seasons ago and it seems the Phillies have already admitted defeat on free-agent flops Matt Moore and Chase Anderson, who have both been demoted to the bullpen. Bad as they’ve been, the Phillies aren’t yet buried in the NL East, entering Thursday’s action only 4.5 games out of first place. Though it might take more than Berrios, who at most would pitch twice a week, to fix all that’s broken in Philly (their embarrassing 27.1-percent strikeout rate doesn’t exactly scream “World Series contender”), he’d no doubt be an improvement on walk-prone Vince Velasquez and recent Triple-A call-up Spencer Howard, neither of whom have any business being in the Phillies’ starting rotation.
St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis is in for a dogfight in the hotly-contested NL Central and the Cards will need all the firepower they can muster to fend off the surging Cubs, winners of three straight and nine of their last 10. While the Cardinals’ starting pitching hasn’t exactly been a liability (3.99 ERA), MLB wins leader Jack Flaherty is expected to be down “a while” (that’s a direct quote from manager Mike Shildt) with his oblique injury, leaving 39-year-old Adam Wainwright atop their starting rotation. That’s concerning, especially with the wheels beginning to fall off for struggling teammate Carlos Martinez, who served up 10 runs in less than an inning Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Cardinals fans might be thinking bigger, but if St. Louis wants to upgrade its staff without leaving the team’s farm system in shambles, Berrios could probably be had for a fraction of the cost of Max Scherzer, who is also said to be on the trading block.
Toronto Blue Jays
Jon Morosi of MLB Network has already alluded to Toronto’s interest, labeling the Blue Jays a “team to watch” in the forthcoming Berrios Sweepstakes. Berrios has historically pitched well in Toronto—in fact, he’s yet to allow a run in 14 career innings at Rogers Centre—assuming the displaced Jays, who are currently stationed in Buffalo, return to their home digs at some point this year. As evidenced by their offseason spending spree, the Blue Jays are all in and pulling the trigger on a trade for Berrios would further their win-now efforts. Berrios would serve as a strong right-handed complement to strikeout king Robbie Ray, Mets castoff Stephen Matz and 2020 Cy Young finalist Hyun Jin Ryu in the Jays’ rotation.