Should These Twins Free Agents Stay or Go?
You can watch the episode below, or scroll down for a quick overview of the nine players in question, their situations, and a key stat to keep in mind for each.
Feel free to share your opinions on who should stay or go in the comments.
Sergio Romo, RP
2020 Stats: 20 IP, 4.05 ERA, 4.34 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
The Situation: The Twins traded for Romo at the 2019 deadline as a pending free agent, and then brought him back last winter on a one-year deal with a $5 million option for 2021. Activating that option seemed like a no-brainer midway through the season, as he was dominating with his slider and siphoning save opportunities from Taylor Rogers, but Romo faltered down the stretch and in the playoffs. He turns 38 in March, and $5 million is a pretty penny for a relief pitcher if you don't think he'll be a major asset. Declining Romo's option would give the Twins more flexibility to try and retain the following players.
Key Stat: 1.03 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 51 appearances with Twins
Alex Avila, C
2020 Stats: 62 PA, .184/.355/.286, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0.2 fWAR
The Situation: The Twins tabbed Avila as Mitch Garver's backup last offseason, signing him to a one-year deal worth $4.75 million. The veteran ended up playing a fairly minor role for the Twins, accruing only 30% of PAs among catchers, and he didn't hit a lick. That said, he was reliable defensively and his .355 OBP tied for fourth-best on the team (50+ PA). If the Twins want to carry three catchers in 2021, they could do a lot worse than bringing Avila back on a cheap one-year deal.
Key Stat: Started 19 of 63 games (including playoffs) for Twins and batted .184
Ehire Adrianza, UTIL
2020 Stats: 101 PA, .191/.287/.270, 0 HR, 3 RBI, -0.1 fWAR
The Situation: Adrianza heads into free agency for the first time with a thud. He seemed to be shaking his rep as a no-hit utilityman over three seasons in Minnesota, posting a respectable .260/.321/.391 slash line from 2017 through 2019 and enjoying a career year in the latter (.765 OPS). But Adrianza fell apart at the plate in a 2020 season where he appeared in 44 of the team's 60 games. The 31-year-old may struggle to find a major-league league deal, though his ability to play a quality shortstop is a differentiating strength.
Key Stat: Career-low .557 OPS in 2020
Marwin Gonzalez, UTIL
2020 Stats: 199 PA, .211/.286/.320, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 0.2 fWAR
The Situation: Playing out the last year of his two-year, $21 million contract with the Twins, Gonzalez was an all-out disaster in 2020. Injuries forced the team to lean on him heavily – he started 51 of 60 games, and ranked fifth on the team in PAs – but he let them down in a big way, grading as one of the worst regulars in all of baseball. He turns 32 in March, has seen his OPS+ drop in three consecutive seasons, and his athleticism is rapidly declining (his sprint speed has fallen from the 39th to 27th to 20th percentile). Add in the taint of involvement with the cheating Astros, and it seems very unlikely Gonzalez will have a remotely welcoming offseason market.
Key Stat: Ranked 137th out of 142 qualified MLB players in OPS in 2020
Tyler Clippard, RP
2020 Stats: 26 IP, 2.77 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 0.89 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9
The Situation: Signed to a $2.75 million deal last offseason, Clippard was an unheralded hero of the Twins bullpen. He led all relievers in innings, started two games as opener, finished another, and was altogether an incredibly versatile and reliable arm. Minnesota signed him to be a weapon against lefties, and he was, but he also shut down right-handed hitters. Given the valuable role he played on this year's club, Clippard would seemingly be very appealing to the Twins (and other teams) on a similar contract.
Key Stat: Held LH batters to .213 average (.479 OPS) in 2020. Held RH batters to .191 average (.607 OPS).
Trevor May, RP
2020 Stats: 23.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 14.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
The Situation: In his career as a reliever, May has averaged 12.0 K/9 with a 3.49 ERA over 188 ⅓ innings. He's one of the best strikeout pitchers in the league, and in 2019 he set new personal records for strikeout rate, whiff rate, and fastball velocity. His proneness to home runs (five allowed in 23 ⅓ frames) was the lone blemish on a remarkably dominant season out of the bullpen. A top-tier power arm hitting his stride just as he hits free agency at 31, May is likely to be in high demand. Can the Twins afford to keep him around? ... Can they afford not to?
Key Stat: His career 10.5 K/9 rate is 2nd-highest in Twins history (min. 300 IP), behind Joe Nathan
Rich Hill, SP
2020 Stats: 38.2 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
The Situation: At times, it looked like Hill might not have it anymore. The Twins knew they were gambling on the left-hander, who signed an incentive-laden one-year contract coming off elbow surgery at age 40. He had his rough patches. His control worsened, his strikeout and whiff rates plummeted, and at one point his shoulder acted up. But by the time September rolled around, Hill had rounded into form, looking every bit like the gritty difference-maker of repute. Whether he can do it again, at age 41 in what figures to be a more full-length season, is very much an open question.
Key Stat: In 4 September starts, posted 2.38 ERA and .190 BAA
Jake Odorizzi, SP
2020 Stats: 13.2 IP, 6.59 ERA, 6.12 FIP, 7.9 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
The Situation: Returning to the Twins after accepting a qualifying offer for $17.8 million a year ago, the 2020 season was a complete wash for Odorizzi. He opened on the Injured List, and saw two attempted comebacks stymied by misfortune: first, a line drive to the ribs, and then a bloody blister opened on his finger. His ability and talent have been plain to see when healthy, but it's going to be hard for Odorizzi to command what he probably deserves coming off a lost season. If the Twins can find a sensible way to bring him back, he'd be a hell of a fourth starter.
Key Stat: Holds lowest overall FIP (3.88) of any Twins SP since 2011
Nelson Cruz, DH
2020 Stats: 214 PA, .303/.397/.595, 16 HR, 33 RBI, 2.0 fWAR
The Situation: He's been the Twins' best hitter for two years running, and one of the most feared hitters in the major leagues. He's also a clubhouse leader and beloved teammate, credited for helping players around him develop and mature. The thought of losing Cruz is tough, but he'll turn 41 next summer and historically, performance drop-offs have hit rapidly and without warning for players at this age. He also figures to have a fairly favorable offseason market, with the universal DH doubling his potential suitors. If the Twins have ~$30 million to spend this offseason (as our payroll episode ballparked) can they afford to spend half of it on Cruz with other needs to address?
Key Stat: 57 HR and 141 RBIs in 173 games with Twins
Offseason Live Schedule
- Ep 1: Twins Offseason Jeopardy! (Thurs, 10/8)
- Ep 2: Projecting the Twins’ 2021 Payroll (Tues, 10/13)
- Ep 3: Stay or Go? Twins Impending Free Agents (Thurs, 10/15)
- Ep 4: Twins Arbitration Decisions (Tues, 10/20)
- Ep 5: Free Agency – Catchers & Infield (Thurs, 10/22)
- Ep 6: Free Agency – Outfield & DH (Tues, 10/27)
- Ep 7: Free Agency – Starting Pitchers (Thurs, 10/29)
- Ep 8: Free Agency – Relief Pitchers (Thurs, 11/5)
- Ep 9: Twins Trade Targets (Tues, 11/10)
- Ep 10: Offseason Blueprints (Thurs, 11/12)
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