Posted on January 1, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
For their final act of 2019, the Minnesota Twins made a double signing aimed at improving their starting rotation in the new year. First, the Twins agreed to a one-year deal with Homer Bailey worth $7 million, plus incentive bonuses. Next, the Twins signed veteran Rich Hill to a more speculative deal worth $3 million in guaranteed money with bonuses that could pay the lefty as much as $9.5 million. The two signings continue Minnesota’s overhaul of their rotation this winter.
The 33-year-old Bailey joins the Twins after a productive bounce-back season in 2019. Once a frontline starter with the Reds, Bailey dealt with elbow issues for several years, including Tommy John surgery. From 2014 to 2018, he failed to make more than 20 starts in a season and struggled to be effective when he was healthy enough to pitch.
In 2019, Bailey was traded to the Dodgers, only to be released. He signed with the Royals and rediscovered his form enough to garner interest on the trade market. Bailey was ultimately traded to the A’s, helping Oakland to claim a Wild Card spot. Over 31 starts between both teams, Bailey was 13-9 with a 4.57 ERA. If he can maintain that level of performance, he should provide the Twins with a steady and reliable back-end starter.
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With Hill, the situation is a little different. The southpaw, who will turn 40 in March, had a modified version of Tommy John surgery performed on his elbow in October. However, Hill is confident that he’ll be ready to return to a major league mound in June. If all goes according to plan, he should provide the Twins with a great midseason boost. Hill, despite battling elbow issues for most of 2019, posted a 2.45 ERA last season in 13 starts. While injuries have always been an issue with him, Hill has pitched to an ERA of 3.66 or lower in six straight seasons.
Earlier this offseason, the Twins retained two of their most important starters from last season. Jake Odorizzi decided to stay in Minnesota for one more year after signing a qualifying offer. The Twins also re-signed Michael Pineda to a two-year, $20 million deal after he became an important part of their rotation in 2019. With ace Jose Berrios pitching at the top of the rotation and now Bailey and Hill joining the group, the Twins have put together a solid five-man rotation that has a chance to be one of the best in the American League.
The caveat, of course, is Minnesota will have to wait to get all five starters pitching together. Hill, as mentioned, won’t be back until at least June after offseason surgery. Pineda, meanwhile, will have to serve the rest of his 60-game PED suspension that will prevent him from returning to the Twins until late May. In the meantime, the Twins will look to unproven options like Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer to fill out their rotation until Pineda and Hill can join.
For the Twins, signing Bailey and Hill are calculated risks. Of course, those are things small-market clubs like Minnesota must do to compete. There is hope but no guarantee that Bailey can continue to avoid injury and be a reliable back-end starter. There is similar uncertainty with Hill, who has a long injury history but is capable of pitching like a frontline starter. However, if both pan out as the Twins hope, Minnesota’s rotation will be good enough to put them in the running for another AL Central title in 2020.