Tyler Chatwood’s three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs doesn’t bode well for the starting pitching market, directly affecting the Minnesota Twins.
The first big free agent signing for a starting pitcher happened Thursday when the Chicago Cubs finalized a three-year deal with former Colorado Rockies pitcher Tyler Chatwood. Largely considered one of the best starting pitchers outside the consensus top-five of Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Shohei Ohtani, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb, the signing doesn’t just take a starter off the market for the Minnesota Twins, but it undoubtedly raises the market for starting pitchers.
After news broke out of Chatwood’s signing, Twins beat writer Mike Berardino retweeted the Daily Herald article along with the line: “Starting pitching isn’t getting any cheaper, sports fans.” And, in reality, he’s right. The starting pitching market is quite insane right now and the Chatwood deal is a proof of just that. Something that clearly doesn’t bode well for a Twins team in need of starting pitching.
Now, Chatwood could very well turn out to be a steal of a deal for the Cubs. At only 27 years old, his best years are in front of him and he clearly struggled at the hitter-friendly Coors Field. Specifically, he had a 6.01 ERA and 1.68 WHIP there, while he boasted a 3.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP on the road. In other words, switching teams has the potential to benefit his stat line in a large way, so the $12 million-plus per year salary could turn out just fine for Chicago.
That being said, he still led the NL in losses last season with 15 and ended the year with a 4.69 ERA. He also struggled with his control, giving up 77 walks, good enough for fourth-worst in the league. Additionally, he doesn’t have great career numbers with a 40-46 record to go along with a 4.31 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. Sure, Coors Field has inflated those numbers, but pitchers on the free agent market aren’t going to let that impact their value.
Basically, pitchers on the free agent market are going to use this contract to their advantage, especially if their track records are similar or better. For example, starters like Darvish and Arrieta can justify why they deserve at least double what Chatwood received per year, if not more, based on their superior track records. The same can be said about Lynn and Cobb, who should fetch contracts paying at least a few million more per year than Chatwood.
In the case of players like Andrew Cashner, Jaime Garcia, Jeremy Hellickson, and CC Sabathia, who largely make up the third tier of free agent starters, they can use this contract to their benefit. Essentially, they can use it as a base to what their contracts should look like. Furthermore, there’s reason to believe they could ask for more annual money if they play their cards right. I mean, they all have better career numbers than Chatwood, so they wouldn’t be out of line to ask for more.
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As a result, this clearly doesn’t benefit the Twins. Of course, they need starting pitching, but by addressing the need through free agency, Chatwood’s deal likely forces them to pay more considering contracts are built on comparison. And, in comparison to Chatwood, many players have a legitimate argument that they deserve more.
Yes, there’s no salary cap in baseball, so hypothetically, money doesn’t matter. But, the fact of the matter is, Minnesota is a small market team with a budget. Consequently, paying too much for a starter has the chance to become a huge headache for this team, especially if it doesn’t work out.
Nevertheless, there are other ways to fill their need for starting pitching. Particularly, there’s plenty of intriguing options on the trade market. Someone like Gerrit Cole or Chris Archer would make a great addition to this team, while coming at a far more reasonable rate than anyone on the free agent market right now. Not to mention, after making a pair of trades for top prospects, the Twins have assets to offer a team in exchange for a top starting pitcher.
When the offseason is all said and done though, there’s still a good chance the Twins splurge into the free agent market. Unfortunately, the first big signing of free agency is going to force Minnesota to spend a bit more than they may have originally anticipated.