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GAME THREAD 4/13/2021: Twins vs. Red Sox, 1:10 CDT

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:26 AM
The Minnesota Twins will play today! (I think, anyways....)Although the weather is ghastly today, the precipitation will come down as sno...
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Joe West wins lawsuit against Lo Duca

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https://www.msn.com/...artan-dhp-feeds   I was a bit surprised he won this but good for him, I guess.
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Ex Twins in 2021: Where Are They Now?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:47 AM
One of my favorite annual threads on the site. Let’s stay updated on ex-Twins in the news... This is a start of a list, and feel free to...
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Twins Moving Up Power Rankings (Week of April 11)

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:38 AM
MLB.com published their updated power rankings Sunday. The moved the Twins up from sixth to fourth. The Athletic (subscription required)...
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The 5 Rule Draft

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 08:08 AM
This year's Rule 5 draft we lost Akil Baddo and Tyler Wells. So I thought I'd check to see how they were doing. 1st I checked on Baddo, h...
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Masters of Efficiency: How the 2021 Twins Acquired Their WAR

After a shortened, revenue diminished 2020 season, the Twins front office became masters of efficiency in putting together a playoff roster.
Image courtesy of Ron Chenoy
The Twins front office has proven themselves to be masters of free agent spending efficiency. This offseason, they have spent around $37.5MM, accruing an additional 7.2 fWAR (ZiPS). Baseball is not a salary capped sport, but imagine how effective the Twins would be at managing it if it were. I respect the hell out of how the Twins get their WAR. I decided to dig in and compare the makeup of the 2021 roster with previous seasons.

Not Their First Rodeo
It’s worth starting before the 2018 season to understand the evolution of the Twins consistent approach to the offseason. Prior to the 2018 season with the Twins, Falvey and Levine waited out the market and signed Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn late in the day. Neither move worked out well. Morrison, coming off an exceptional 2017 season, was hampered by injuries, and Lynn looked sweaty and uninterested on his way to a 4.77 ERA. He was later traded away to the Yankees. This approach however, foreshadowed the organizational approach to free agency which has evolved and improved in each of the seasons following 2018.

40+ WAR for the Playoffs?
There is a common maxim in baseball that just north of 40 WAR makes you a playoff contender. When comparing the 2021 and 2019 rosters (the Twins last full season), it’s easy to just make rote comparisons between players, without also examining how the units of infield, outfield, and pitching may function.

Coming into this offseason, the Twins had a significant amount of holes to fill, with Cruz, Romo, May, Clippard, Wisler, Marwin Gonzalez, Odorizzi, and others becoming free agents. An additional constraint was a moderate (self-imposed) payroll reduction, coming off a year with decreased revenues due to a shortened season and no fans in the stands. The front office didn’t blink.

In the space of 10 days the Twins signed J.A. Happ, Andrelton Simmons, re-signed Nelson Cruz, and added Alex Colome. Let’s look broadly at the cumulative impact of those moves on each aspect of the Twins roster using the Twins 2019 and 2020 counterparts for comparison.

Rotation Depth
J.A. Happ currently slots into the fourth rotation spot where Rich Hill pitched in 2020. Happ is projected 1.6 fWAR in 2021 making $8MM, a similar amount to Hill with his incentive laden 1 year deal in 2020. While Hill didn’t get the opportunity to pitch a full season for the Twins, this move is essentially a wash, with Happ having shown over the last 10+ years that he is a slightly above average MLB starter.

This pushes Randy Dobnak into the 5th rotation spot. At 1.7 projected fWAR, he is, in fact, tied with Chris Paddack for the highest projected fWAR of any number five starter. The Twins could stand to add depth to their rotation and bullpen and while it remains to be seen if the rotation has enough ceiling to dominate in the playoffs, the pitching staff as a whole is projected to be the 6th best in baseball, per Fangraphs depth charts.

Bullpen
There’s a ton of flux in the bullpen for 2021, with May, Romo, Wisler, and Clippard departing. The Twins have added a stable of good velocity fastball, wipeout slider guys to compete for the 8th spot in the pen, but prior to that, made another great efficiency move. The Twins turned down a $5MM option on the soon to be 38 year old Romo for 2021, instead signing Alex Colome, former White Sox closer and five years Romo’s junior for the same price.

Colome for Romo is another excellent example of the Twins efficiency leading up to the 2021 season, Colome is younger, better, and has outperformed his peripherals in each of his previous eight MLB seasons. Which back end would you rather have in 2021, Rogers, Duffey, Romo, or Rogers, Duffey, Colome? We can assume the latter, and Romo and Colome would have cost the Twins the same price in 2021.

Infield Improvements
The infield has seen a seismic shift, adding actual wizard Andrelton Simmons, pushing Jorge Polanco to 2B, where the Twins feel like he can be an above average fielder, and shunting Luis Arraez into a super utility role which limits his defensive shortcomings (and use of his ankles). To illustrate this impact, I compared the 2019 (last full 162 game season) and 2021 occupant of each infield position by projected fWAR in 2021 and compared their OAA averaged over the last 3 seasons at that position (if available). Essentially, I am trying to answer the question; what are the Twins looking at for infield quality in 2021, compared to what they had in 2019? I realize the shortcomings of using projections, but the comparison effectively illustrates the Twins accomplishment in improving both offensive and defensive production from their infield unit as a whole over the last 2 years.

SS: Andrelton Simmons projected 2.7 fWAR (averaged 9.3 OAA)
in for Jorge Polanco projected 2.7 fWAR (averaged -10.5 OAA)

2B: Jorge Polanco, projected 2.7 fWAR (no OAA data for 2B)
in for Luis Arraez projected 2.9 fWAR (averaged -4.5 OAA)

3B: Josh Donaldson, projected 3.1 fWAR (averaged 4.5 OAA)
in for (mostly) Miguel Sano 2.7 fWAR (averaged -3 OAA)

Util: Luis Arraez, projected 2.9 fWAR (average -4.5 OAA)
in for Marwin Gonzalez projected 0.9 fWAR averaged (2.3 OAA)

Net projection: +2.2 fWAR, +15.4 OAA

Will this is of course, an overly simplistic approach, the projections call for the Twins infield to improve by over two wins in 2021 (mostly subbing Arraez for Marwin). Additionally, they significantly increased the quality of their infield defense. It’s also worth noting that Marwin Gonzalez made a comparable salary in 2019 and 2020 to the one Andrelton Simmons will make in 2021.

The Other Side of the Coin: The LA Dodgers
The Dodgers mercifully ended Trevor Bauer’s free agency by signing him to a contract which will pay him $40MM in 2021 (market value-ish for his projected 4.4 fWAR). While loathe to write about Bauer, the Dodgers move is useful in illustrating the opposite of the Twins approach. The Dodgers careened through the luxury tax threshold and paid a premium for their WAR. This is a perfectly fine approach, but given that it’s not one the Twins will be taking anytime in the near future, I hope Twins fans can appreciate the nimbleness of this front office in constructing a consistently excellent, flexible roster. The Twins have likewise continued to prioritize preserving their farm system and the ability to have a sustainable winner over the next 3-5 years.

What do you think of the Twins roster makeup and balance in 2021? What are areas of concern or areas you believe need strengthening to make a playoff push (or win a single game)?

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14 Comments

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Jamie Cameron
Feb 13 2021 05:39 PM

I'd add on that if you haven't yet read Dan Hayes amazing piece about the Twins offseason, it's a really good starting point before digging in here.

 

 

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Doctor Gast
Feb 13 2021 05:49 PM
Enjoyed your article, Jamie. I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of Simmons and moved Polanco to 2nd. This greatly improved chances to advance in PS. The area where IMO we need to greatly improve is CF back up. Every year we hope that Buxton stays healthy but every year He plays less than we expect and we lose a good majority of the games when he's absent. This year is no different, we hope he stays healthy and pumps out WAR. But we need to finally be prepared, Cave is a good LF backup but he doesn't cut it as CF back up. Even if Buxton stays healthy we still need a decent backup to regularly give Buxton a break. Hopefully Broxton can step up otherwise we need to look elsewhere. My hope is that we field a championship team.
    • tarheeltwinsfan, Jamie Cameron and GNess like this
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Jamie Cameron
Feb 13 2021 06:17 PM

Thanks for reading!

 

CF is definitely an area of concern. History would suggest Buxton won't play a full season and there's little reason to be excited about Broxton's offense.

 

I wonder if there's a more aggressive proactive rest schedule for Buxton this year. Kepler is by far the best backup CF option.

 

My other area of concern is SP. I love Dobnak as a 5, but we're likely to need 6-8 SP over the season. We need more depth there, imo.

 

Enjoyed your article, Jamie. I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of Simmons and moved Polanco to 2nd. This greatly improved chances to advance in PS. The area where IMO we need to greatly improve is CF back up. Every year we hope that Buxton stays healthy but every year He plays less than we expect and we lose a good majority of the games when he's absent. This year is no different, we hope he stays healthy and pumps out WAR. But we need to finally be prepared, Cave is a good LF backup but he doesn't cut it as CF back up. Even if Buxton stays healthy we still need a decent backup to regularly give Buxton a break. Hopefully Broxton can step up otherwise we need to look elsewhere. My hope is that we field a championship team.

 

    • GNess likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 13 2021 06:23 PM

Interesting article. Thank you. How do the losses of Odorizzi and Rosario factor in here? .

    • Jamie Cameron likes this
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Jamie Cameron
Feb 13 2021 06:42 PM

Thanks for reading.

 

Good questions. Odo is challenging as he really didn't play in 2020. 2019 version is twice as good as Happ. I think the Twins front office think about SP as; 'do we have a rotation which will get us to the playoffs'. I'd be surprised if they didn't upgrade at the deadline here.

 

Rosario hasn't really been a useful player since 2018. I'd take a platoon of Cave and Rooker over Rosario, and eventually Kirilloff, even though most projection systems don't love him as a rookie.

 

Interesting article. Thank you. How do the losses of Odorizzi and Rosario factor in here? .

 

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

Lynn's ERA for the season was 4.77, it was 5.10 with the Twins, good times.....

    • tarheeltwinsfan, Jamie Cameron and CharlieDee like this
Shouldn’t we wait until we see some results before throwing around “proven masters of efficiency?” Doesn’t efficiency imply you’re achieving at the same level as others dedicating more resources?

To date, we’ve accomplished nothing other than the longest playoff losing streak in the history of any documented sport. Are we really that confident shedding Rosario and adding Simmons is getting us over that hump? I’m not.

I hate to keep beating this drum, but I feel it’s just a fact of life at this point. It’s the same story every year, only the characters’ names change a little. Through the Gardy years, and now we’re seeing it again. We tout the bargains and savvy, then end up lamenting being one piece short. Rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, those “inefficient” clubs throwing money around like schmucks take home the hardware.

I’d like, for once, to be that schmuck.
    • mikelink45, Jamie Cameron, rv78 and 1 other like this

Eddie Rosario has averaged 2+ WAR over the last 4 years and 0.9 in the short season 2020.I get tired of the repeated downgrading of Eddie - he is gone, he will do well for his next team.But in the analysis we have to account for is loss.His last three full seasons before 2020 he had 2.7, 3.1, 2.4 Offensive War per BR.  

 

I do like the upgraded defense in the infield, but baseball has turned into a fly ball league.If/when Buxton goes down I want to see our true centerfielder in the minors come in - not Broxton, not moving Kepler, not cave.Put Celestino in.If the team is acknowledging the importance of defense we should not compromise CF when the time comes that Buxton is not out there. 

 

According to Keith Law:  Celestino is an above-average center fielder with great bat-to-ball skills who hits the ball surprisingly hard, but often not at the right angle to create more hits and extra bases. Acquired in the Ryan Pressly trade from Houston, he has just an 18 percent strikeout rate in his pro career and has cut his rate with each promotion. If he can fine-tune his swing to hit more line drives, he has everyday upside, maybe even a grade 55 regular ceiling.

    • hugelycat, Jamie Cameron, rv78 and 4 others like this
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Jamie Cameron
Feb 14 2021 07:57 AM

Thanks for reading

 

efficiency as in - paying less of a premium for what players should produce on the field. 

 

Of course the Twins need to win in the post-season, this is purely a look at how the front office puts a strong product out there with the constraints of the Twins in place.

Shouldn’t we wait until we see some results before throwing around “proven masters of efficiency?” Doesn’t efficiency imply you’re achieving at the same level as others dedicating more resources?

To date, we’ve accomplished nothing other than the longest playoff losing streak in the history of any documented sport. Are we really that confident shedding Rosario and adding Simmons is getting us over that hump? I’m not.

I hate to keep beating this drum, but I feel it’s just a fact of life at this point. It’s the same story every year, only the characters’ names change a little. Through the Gardy years, and now we’re seeing it again. We tout the bargains and savvy, then end up lamenting being one piece short. Rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, those “inefficient” clubs throwing money around like schmucks take home the hardware.

I’d like, for once, to be that schmuck.

 

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

Darius may have written the most profound, funny, sad line ever:

 

To date, we’ve accomplished nothing other than the longest playoff losing streak in the history of any documented sport.

 

I went from laughing to feeling sad in seconds

    • Jamie Cameron likes this
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Major League Ready
Feb 14 2021 08:55 AM

 

Shouldn’t we wait until we see some results before throwing around “proven masters of efficiency?” Doesn’t efficiency imply you’re achieving at the same level as others dedicating more resources?

To date, we’ve accomplished nothing other than the longest playoff losing streak in the history of any documented sport. Are we really that confident shedding Rosario and adding Simmons is getting us over that hump? I’m not.

I hate to keep beating this drum, but I feel it’s just a fact of life at this point. It’s the same story every year, only the characters’ names change a little. Through the Gardy years, and now we’re seeing it again. We tout the bargains and savvy, then end up lamenting being one piece short. Rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, those “inefficient” clubs throwing money around like schmucks take home the hardware.

I’d like, for once, to be that schmuck.

 

I just don't understand why people complain about efficient use of payroll. The twins and teams like them have to be more efficient. It's not a theory. It's an absolute fact. Twenty-one of the last 25 World Series have been won by top 10 revenue teams. We should all be applauding any strategies that help overcome the significant advantage held by top revenue teams. Complain that we can't follow inefficient practices if you like but it makes no sense to complain that we don't follow inefficient practices.

    • Jamie Cameron and Joey P like this
"Has evolved and improved since 2018"! Really? How many more Playoff wins? May want to rethink the "Evolved and improved" line. Playing on the edges will never improve the Playoff record. Must get serious and get an Ace and more than .200 hitters with a few home runs. Plus loss of Rosario who could Run, Hit and Throw is a bigger mistake than most are realizing. Plus he added excitement to the lineup.
    • mikelink45 likes this
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Jamie Cameron
Feb 14 2021 02:20 PM

Thanks for reading and commenting, Mike. I agree that Celestino is the heir apparent. Don't know that the Twins will deem him ready given his last full season was in A+ and last season was lost.

 

I get the Eddie thing, but he was at 1.2 fWAR in the Twins last full season. I think Cave/Rooker/Kirilloff has going to be at least a continuation of the same quality in LF.

 

Eddie Rosario has averaged 2+ WAR over the last 4 years and 0.9 in the short season 2020.I get tired of the repeated downgrading of Eddie - he is gone, he will do well for his next team.But in the analysis we have to account for is loss.His last three full seasons before 2020 he had 2.7, 3.1, 2.4 Offensive War per BR.  

 

I do like the upgraded defense in the infield, but baseball has turned into a fly ball league.If/when Buxton goes down I want to see our true centerfielder in the minors come in - not Broxton, not moving Kepler, not cave.Put Celestino in.If the team is acknowledging the importance of defense we should not compromise CF when the time comes that Buxton is not out there. 

 

According to Keith Law:  Celestino is an above-average center fielder with great bat-to-ball skills who hits the ball surprisingly hard, but often not at the right angle to create more hits and extra bases. Acquired in the Ryan Pressly trade from Houston, he has just an 18 percent strikeout rate in his pro career and has cut his rate with each promotion. If he can fine-tune his swing to hit more line drives, he has everyday upside, maybe even a grade 55 regular ceiling.

 

    • mikelink45 likes this
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Jamie Cameron
Feb 14 2021 02:22 PM

 

Evolved and improved as in 'spent less on their expected WAR from the forthcoming season. Front office doesn't control how the team play in October. Eddie was below league average in sprint speed fwiw, 12th slowest among LF.

"Has evolved and improved since 2018"! Really? How many more Playoff wins? May want to rethink the "Evolved and improved" line. Playing on the edges will never improve the Playoff record. Must get serious and get an Ace and more than .200 hitters with a few home runs. Plus loss of Rosario who could Run, Hit and Throw is a bigger mistake than most are realizing. Plus he added excitement to the lineup.

 


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