Minnesota Twins: Shohei Ohtani is the only hope of an ace in free agency

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani /

The Minnesota Twins are in the free agent market for starting pitcher, but Japanese star Shohei Ohtani looks like the only ace-caliber option for the team.

With free agency underway, the Minnesota Twins have been in plenty of rumors surrounding starting pitchers. Specifically, Yu Darvish has been linked to the team as well as top pitchers Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Yet, before you get too carried away with those names, Darvish still looks like the clear-cut top option for the Twins.

Even so, Minnesota is going to take their sweet time in free agency. This is due to the fact the market is starting out slow.

As Wolfson points out, the Twins would have to overpay for a player on the free agent market right now. In other words, don’t expect any moves until the market comes down. This makes more sense when you take a look at what Darvish is asking for at the moment.

Basically, Darvish is asking for a contract in the neighborhood of Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Justin Verlander. So, yeah… I’d pass on that too as well as any other crazy asking prices out there.

That being said, the Twins have to strike big in the pitching department somehow. They simply can’t afford to miss out on adding a top arm to the starting staff. Specifically, they need someone to slide in with Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, ideally someone capable of being the ace of the staff.

While there’s still plenty of time to go after a pitcher in free agency, the market may drive the Twins out of contention for the best starting pitchers. Sure, price tags will come down, but the demand for starting pitching should keep the price higher than it probably should be. Given the small market nature of the Twins, overpaying a top starting pitcher could put this team in a bind for years to come, especially if they don’t live up to the deal. And right now, I’m not sure there’s a pitcher on the market worthy of trusting with such a large contract.

Although the free agent market isn’t looking great, Wolfson suggests Minnesota could ultimately end up with an arm via the trade market. In reality, this makes more sense given they could go after someone with at least a couple years of team control. According to Mike Berardino, the Twins have asked about starting pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jake Odorizzi, who both happen to have two years of team control left.

Nevertheless, there is one potential free agent arm worthy of heavy consideration given the circumstances. That is, Japanese star pitcher and hitter Shohei Ohtani. The man who can throw 100-plus mph AND hit the ball over 500 feet.

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For Ohtani’s career in Japan, he boasts a 42-15 record and 2.52 ERA in 85 games pitched. As a batter, Ohtani has a .286 average to go along with 48 home runs and 166 RBIs in 403 games played. In result, he’s become known as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” as well as Japan’s best pitcher.

Already, Minnesota has expressed in Ohtani. Although there were rumors he’d have to delay his MLB pursuit, the MLB Players Association, MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball recently agreed on a new posting agreement according to ESPN. As a result, Ohtani is free to come over to America, but since he’s only 23 years old, he’ll be subject to a minor league contract. Basically, teams are only able to sign the two-way star with dollars they have available in their international bonus pool money.

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The most expensive part of signing Ohtani is that his former team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, will get $20 million for his rights. Other than that, he’s likely getting a max deal of around $3.5 million, so he’s coming cheap.

While the Twins could undoubtedly use him in their batting lineup, his arm should be what drives them most to acquire the young player. Ohtani has the tools to become an ace for a long time and he’s going to be the cheapest ace-caliber arm on the market by far. Of course, there’s going to be plenty of competition for his services, but Minnesota has the third-most international bonus pool money to offer him. Not to mention, a young, blossoming team to sell him on.

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In the end, Ohtani looks like the most realistic top of the rotation arm on the free agent market. So, expect the Twins to go after him hard once he’s posted by the Fighters in the beginning of December and consequently, able to negotiate a deal. If they miss out on Ohtani, look for the Twins to lean heavy on the trade market and acquire lesser arms in free agency.