Pittsburgh Pirates Acquire: Jordan Balazovic
Minnesota Twins Acquire: Travis Swaggerty
The Minnesota Twins were recently in the rumors for looking into Kansas City Royal outfielder Michael A. Taylor. The Twins do have a decent outfield. Stalwarts Byron Buxton and Max Kepler have been part of the organization for quite some time now and regular fixtures in their major league line-up since 2015. Alex Kiriloff and Trevor Larnach have both shown talent, and they also resigned Joey Gallo in hopes of him rebounding. Plus utility man Nick Gordon had a great breakout season.
But the Twin outfield is also streaky, both in terms of performance and health. Byron Buxton is a notorious glass cannon. When he's healthy, he is one of baseball's premier center fielders. But he's failed to play 100 games in a season since 2017, which is also the only year he appeared in 100+ contests. Max Kepler has been consistently solid, but only played 115 games. Although talented, both Larnach and Kiriloff are still unproven. Gallo, of course, is coming off an abysmal season.
The Twin outfield is a high-risk/high-reward group. If Gallo rebounds, Buxton plays 120 games, and Kiriloff, Kepler, and Larnach put something together, they could have a highly productive outfield. But that's many ifs. They wouldn't be looking into another outfielder capable of playing center field if they were confident in their current options to stay both healthy and productive next year.
The player I have the Pittsburgh Pirates acquiring in this deal is Jordan Balazovic. Balazovic is a prime rebound and change-of-scenery candidate. Last year, Balazovic had atrocious numbers, including a 7.68 ERA, 6.80 FIP, and 1.97 WHIP. He had a mediocre 21.6% strikeout rate and 10.4% walk rate, but where he struggled the most was his home run rate. Balazovic allowed home runs at a 2.6-per-9 rate.
Now, why would the Pirates have any interest in Balazovic as a prospect? For one, bad luck was a significant factor in the right-hander's season. Balazovic had a .390 batting average on balls in play, the sixth-highest mark among all minor league pitchers (min. 70 IP). His home run rate should also regress to the norm. His HR/FB ratio of 29% was also the second worst in minor league baseball.
Balazovic sits in the 93-96 MPH range while throwing a slider and curveball. This trio of offerings projects as average or better. His change-up, meanwhile, is not as strong, but a pitch he can fall back on from time to time. But his command has suffered over the last two years. His walk rate has increased in each of the last two years. He's still worth giving another shot, given his underlying numbers, like BAbip and HR/FB ratio, show regression to the norm, at least to some degree.
The Twins need a true centerfield option in the almost inevitable event that Byron Buxton hits the injured list again. Although Gordon and Kepler can play the position, they're best suited for the outfield corners. Both Larnach and Kiriloff have little experience up the middle. Balazovic shouldn't be a massive ask from the Twins. He's a rebound candidate, and the Twins still have a handful of other notable pitching prospects.