Our trade target series rolls on. Today, we stop in Minneapolis, MN, where the Twins have several players who might catch the Yankees’ eye. At the beginning of the month, my colleague Dan outlined how well the Yankees and Twins lined up as trade partners. He identified starting pitcher José Berríos as one of the prime candidates the Yankees ought to pursue, so let’s take a deeper look at what he has to offer, and what it might take to nab him from Minnesota.
Since his first full season in the bigs in 2017, Berríos has been a true frontline starter. In that timeframe, he is 52-35 with a 3.80 ERA and 3.85 FIP. His 13.3 fWAR places him 18th among qualified pitchers between Shane Bieber and Carlos Carrasco, while his 33.6 percent chase rate places him 26th between Hyun Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw. He is consistently above-average in strikeout and walk rates as well as at limiting hard contact.
Berríos profiles as a good version of Domingo Germán, throwing a four pitch mix of four-seamer, sinker, curveball, and changeup all with similar frequency to the Yankees’ righty. Like Germán, the curveball is Berríos’ bread-and-butter pitch. In fact, it’s one of the better curveballs in MLB. It has the 15th-most horizontal movement as a function of velocity in the league, with hitters whiffing 35.6 percent of the time while managing an expected wOBA of only .258.
While the above statistics are impressive, they admittedly are not 1-A ace material. However, the one area where Berríos excels with the best of them is durability. His 716 innings pitched since 2017 is 10th-most in MLB. He has also never landed on the major league injured list. For a Yankees rotation that gets hamstrung with injuries every season, his availability is a trait they should covet.
The other intriguing aspect of Berríos’ trade candidacy is his contract situation. He is under team control through the 2022 season, with his final year of arbitration coming next season. Per Cots, Berríos is signed for $6.1 million this year, his penultimate year of arbitration. If acquired at the deadline, that figure prorates to about $2.26 million. Teams go crazy for an extra year of controllability, and the fact it comes attached to a dependable starter is what makes Berríos so sought after and so difficult to obtain.
In fact, it may be downright impossible to put together a trade package attractive enough to pry him away from Minnesota. The Twins are in an interesting situation. At 40-54, they sit in fourth, 17 games back of the AL Central lead, with FanGraphs giving them a 0.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. In other words, they are almost surefire sellers. However, with a controllable core of young players and hardly any money committed beyond this season, numerous reports suggest the Twins have their eyes set on contending next season.
As such, they are reportedly disinclined to deal players controlled beyond 2021. They would need to be blown away by an offer for one of the core players they would otherwise rely on to make a playoff push in 2022. Indeed, the Twins are asking for the Moon in any discussion surrounding Berríos’ availability, with Dan Hayes of The Athletic reporting that they named a major league pre-arbitration player and a pair of top 100 prospects as their price in negotiations with an interested team.
The Yankees technically have the pieces for such a trade, however that’s hardly a return Brian Cashman is known to be willing to give up in a swap. They certainly have the need, however, with their rotation having regressed from a hot start. They also have the space on the books, as Berríos’ prorated salary comes in just shy of the $2.37 million remaining before they hit the first CBT threshold. If the Yankees are serious about pushing for the playoffs, they need a legitimate number two on the staff, and they would be hard pressed to find an available candidate who better fills that need and their budgetary constraints than José Berríos.