MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins’ rotation picture added another depth candidate with the acquisition of right-hander
The addition of Shoemaker to the Twins’ deep starting mix gives them five veteran options for their Opening Day rotation, as the 34-year-old right-hander could join a top four of Kenta Maeda, José Berríos, Michael Pineda and J.A. Happ. If Shoemaker remains healthy and productive, he’ll likely have the inside track to claiming that fifth spot in the Twins’ rotation, with Randy Dobnak the other candidate for that role.
The Twins’ 40-man roster is full, and the club will need to make a corresponding move to clear a spot once the deal becomes official.
Though Shoemaker owns a 3.86 career ERA and finished second in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting with the Angels in 2014, he’s had significant injury issues over the last several years and has only made 18 starts since the end of the ’17 season.
Shoemaker underwent surgery to repair the radial nerve in his right forearm in 2017 and missed a large chunk of the ’18 season due to lingering issues with that forearm. His luck worsened in ’19, when a torn ACL ended his season in April, and he again missed significant time in 2020 with shoulder inflammation. That’s not to mention the line drive he took off his head in ’16, resulting in a fractured skull and emergency surgery.
It’s been a tough career of injury luck for the promising right-hander, who broke onto the scene with a 16-4 record and 3.04 ERA in ’14, but the Twins expect him to be fully healthy in camp, where he’ll look to cement his status as a back-of-the-rotation starter for a contending team.
Shoemaker’s fastball ticked up nearly two miles an hour last season, from an average of 90.3 mph in ’19 to 92.1 mph in ’20, but he’s leaned more heavily on his sinker and splitter in recent years. That splitter in particular has been a strong pitch, resulting in a 34.4 percent whiff rate last season.
Not only would a healthy Shoemaker likely be a more-than-solid fifth starter for a contender, but he’ll also give the Twins strong depth with Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe still in the wings as starting or length options. Dobnak had a 4.05 ERA in 10 starts last season while holding down a rotation spot nearly from start to finish, and the fact that he will compete with Shoemaker to be the club’s fifth starter speaks to Minnesota’s depth.
The Twins are likely all but done with their major moves this offseason but have addressed all of their major needs with the acquisitions of Andrelton Simmons, Nelson Cruz, Alex Colomé, Hansel Robles, Happ and, now, Shoemaker, to patch the holes around what was otherwise a deep roster without many weaknesses. The starting rotation has already been a strength for the Twins for the last two seasons, and Shoemaker should continue to help with the depth that has made that possible.