A Tale of Two Paths for Twins
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsDerek Falvey and Thad Levine will be tasked with landing the replacement for Paul Molitor. Once their manager is in place, reconstructing the 25-man roster will shift towards being the focus. Now having MLB Trade Rumors put out their projected arbitration salaries, we being to see a clearer picture for what the in-house options may round into. As is always the case, Minnesota can either explore the open market or make deals with the competition in hopes of raising the overall water level. This offseason, each avenue presents some interesting opportunities.
Looking at MLBTR’s salary projections, the Twins would be on the hook for something like $38.3MM spread across 10 players. $4MM seems a bit rich for Robbie Grossman if he’s going to slot into a 5th outfielder spot, and Ehire Adrianza could be expendable depending on how the middle infield is addressed. From there, the Twins have $33.5MM committed to four players under contract (and including $1MM for the buyout of Ervin Santana). That total comes to $71.8MM.
Pre-arbitration players still exist on the Twins roster, and there’s a group of roughly seven guys that could or should be on the Opening Day roster. With their salaries checking in at something like $600k, the organization would be looking at roughly $50MM in payroll compared to the franchise-record $128.4MM mark that opened this past season.
With that much money to spend, the front office should have plenty of leverage on the open market. A guy like Manny Machado would easily fit within the constructs of the budget, pair well with the current group, and fill a need in the lineup. On the flip side, all the money in the world may not be enough to convince top end talent that Minnesota is the place they want to be.
Beyond having money to spend however, there needs to be players worthy of spending it on. Certainly, the class is headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and there’s a bit of depth to it, but things fall off rather quickly. Yasmani Grandal is maybe the only premiere name behind the dish, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel headline the pitchers, while the up-the-middle talent is sparse at best. There’s a good deal of names in this class but looking past their warts is something any bidding team must do. Can Josh Donaldson still be an impact player? Is D.J. LeMahieu any good away from Coors? Do you want an aging Gio Gonzalez?
Having money to spend is certainly a good problem for the Twins to have, but this market could dictate aiming high or settling, and that’s not necessarily the position you want to be in.
On the flip side of spending dollars, the payroll flexibility also allows Minnesota’s front office the opportunity to take on contracts. With so much space left in the budget, acquiring a big splash from a team not yet ready to compete, or going through a full-on rebuild, is an enticing option as well. Venturing down this road would cost the Twins prospect capital, but the goal would obviously be to see meaningful returns in the majors.
Players like Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Santana, and Justin Bour could all fill Minnesota’s presumed hole at first base. J.T. Realmuto is likely still available from the Marlins, and Justin Smoak or Wil Myers could be on the block as well. Maybe the Royals would move Whit Merrifield, and there’s a list of names yet to be unearthed.
Before panicking, the Twins would certainly leave both Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff on the untouchables list. Brusdar Graterol may not be far behind them either. However, with a top 5-8 farm system, there’s depth and top-end talent that would be enticing for many an organization to jump at. Should the front office be more inclined to operate in this manner, their human assets are almost as appealing as the dollars themselves.
I’d be relatively surprised to see the market move as slowly as it did this past offseason. There was a bit of a market correction it seemed, in shying away from long term commitments to players reaching a tipping point in age. Machado and Harper will still get theirs this winter, but the rest of the group should have a more realistic stance on what the message from organizations was. With that in mind, I’d also imagine we’ll see more action earlier, and fewer guys showing up to new homes once spring training has started.
It will be interesting to see if Minnesota leans one way or the other when adding talent this winter, or if the go with a healthy mix of both routes. Being well positioned financially is half of the battle, and now it’s on the front office to identify the right talent and entice them to the belief that the Twins are who they want to play for.
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