I am not one to usually comment about trade rumors but this one peaked my interests because it involves one of the Twins starting outfielders, Max Kepler. Rumor has it that the Tampa Rays have stated they are interested in Kepler in any trades for Rays pitchers like Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi, both right-handed.
I have been a Kepler fan since the Twins signed him back in 2009. Kepler made his big league debut as a September call-up in 2015 and appeared in just three games but became a regular in 2016. Kepler, who will turn 25 in a few days has appeared in 263 games, mostly in right field and hit 36 home runs and posted a .239 average but has sometimes struggled against lefties. Defensively Kepler is above average and plays in center now and then. I am a bit baffled so far by Kepler’s average because this guy should be hitting closer to .300 but he has changed his swing working to get more elevation, I am not sure this is the right approach for Kepler who has a great level swing and will hit around 20 home runs just because he is that strong. Kepler has a history of needing a bit of time to adapt to new leagues and he could have a break-out year in 2018, then again he might not and his value will tank.
The Twins tasted the playoffs in 2018, maybe a little earlier than they should have and now everyone thinks they are well on their way but the Twins have serious starting pitching deficiencies and so far have done nothing to fix that problem and just yesterday they announced that Ervin Santana had surgery on his pitching hand and will be out 10-12 weeks. That means that by the time he comes back and gets in pitching shape the season will be 1/3 over.
So what do you do? Possibly mortgage the future by trading Kepler for Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi? Odorizzi who will turn 28 in late March has pitched in the big leagues for the last six seasons and was originally a Brewers first round selection in 2008 but was traded to the Royals in the Zack Greinke trade and then traded to Tampa in the Wil Myers trade. Odorizzi made $4,1 million last year and will not be a free agent until 2020. Odorizzi strikes out 8.2 batters per nine innings and would be a great fit in the Twins rotation.
Archer is 29 and also has pitched in the big leagues for six seasons, all for Tampa and his history is similar to Odorizzi but he was a fifth round pick by the Indians and traded to the Cubs who then traded him to Tampa in the Matt Garza deal in 2011. Archer is a two-time All-Star who strikes out batter at a clip of 9.7 per nine innings. He is signed through 2020 for about $14 million with team options for 2021 and 2022 for $20 million.
If I am going to trade for one of these guys and I have a choice, I take Chris Archer but I would love to see either one of these guys in the Twins rotation and as much as I like Kepler I would trade him for either one of these pitchers straight up. Why? Because the Twins have a history of finding and developing hitters, pitchers not so much. It is about time the Twins pushed some of their chips to the middle of the table and take some calculated risks. You have a known weakness, you at least have to try to fix it. Sitting back and waiting is not the answer. It is time for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to show us their hand.