What Can Be Done to Awaken Slumbering Twins Offense?
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA TodayFor a time, scorching hot streaks from Eduardo Escobar and Eddie Rosario served to cover up for an offense that was just never really clicking.
The Twins scored at least four runs in each of their first 11 games in May but never more than eight. We still haven't seen a double-digit run total all year. The anticipated explosiveness hasn't been there for this unit. A team that led the American League in scoring down the stretch last season entered play on Tuesday ranked 10th in runs/game and 12th in OPS.
While the AL's prime contenders are doing their things – New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Cleveland rank first through fourth in R/G – the Twins offense has sputtered, showing only sporadic flashes of its dazzling upside.
What's to be done? Well, to a large extent, all we can do is wait. If this group is gonna turn around it will be because Brian Dozier discovers his next gear, and Miguel Sano comes back to mash, and Joe Mauer finds some semblance of power, and Byron Buxton snaps out of his typical early-season funk, and Eddie Rosario settles into a sustainable approach at the plate.
History tells us at least some of these things will happen. But as the Central continues to look eminently winnable, patience is starting to wear thin. At some point the Twins need to take action in an effort to jolt this offense awake.
Here are a few options they could consider. Note that I'm not endorsing all of these solutions, only suggesting they should be on the table.
Call Up Nick Gordon and LaMonte Wade from Class-AA Chattanooga
The Twins pitching staff was in a freefall before Fernando Romero arrived on May 2nd and propelled the team to a shutout victory, snapping a losing streak and sparking a 7-1 run. Since then, the rotation and bullpen have both had a noticeably renewed swagger, and results have reflected it.
It's not a simple cause-and-effect, but there is something to be said about the contagious energy that a talented and highly motivated young talent can infuse.
Granted, Romero was in Triple-A and not Double-A, but the argument can easily be made that Gordon and Wade should've started in Rochester as well. At Chattanooga, 22-year-old shortstop Gordon entered play Tuesday slashing .350/.392/.526 while the 24-year-old outfielder Wade was at .300/.401/.442.
Both prospects need to be added to the 40-man roster, complicating matters, but each offers something the Twins could really use. Gordon brings sneaky power from a wiry athletic frame and would represent a big upgrade over the scuffling Ehire Adrianza (whose play has arguably earned him a DFA). Wade is one of the most disciplined hitters in the system and has consistently been a .400 OBP guy in the minors.
These are the two most MLB-ready hitting prospects in the high minors, and each has been making his case since spring training, where Gordon batted .417 and Wade had a .441 OBP.
Option Byron Buxton to Triple-A
As much as Molitor – and all of us, really – would love to believe otherwise, it's clear that Buxton is not a naturally adept hitter who can quickly acclimate and get rolling at the plate. Not at this stage of his career anyway.
Despite his tremendous finish in 2017, the center fielder once again came out of the gates flat this season. Then he had a bout with migraines. Then he broke his toe. Now, the Twins have curiously activated him directly from the disabled list, so he can try and play with a bum digit and a month's worth of rust.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised by the outcome. Since returning, Buxton has been at his worst offensively, which is an exceedingly low bar. In five games, he is 2-for-16 with six strikeouts. The two hits, while both big, came in the form of a bloop double off the end of the bat and a bunt single that traveled five feet.
Even with a bad toe, Buxton's defense is irreplaceable, and he's probably just as well trying to solve his hitting woes against MLB pitching. But if you're looking to quickly jump-start the lineup, there's no more obvious candidate for removal. He has been an almost automatic out.
To replace him, you could call up Wade and shift Rosario or Max Kepler to center. Or you could call up Ryan LaMarre or Jake Cave or Zack Granite from Rochester as short-term plugs.
Acquire a Catcher
Jason Castro underwent surgery on Tuesday and is expected to miss 4-for-6 weeks (or, as this team's estimations have gone, 8-to-12). Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson don't present the kind of catcher duo that inspires huge confidence offensively.
It is obviously slim pickings out there among the remaining free agents.
Carlos Ruiz is 39 and put up a .665 OPS in 53 games with Seattle last year. He went unsigned during the offseason despite expressing an interest in continuing to play. If he's stayed in shape he might be worth a flier. Geovany Soto, 35, is also still out there.
Neither of these guys are enticing options, and they'd also take time to ramp up, potentially pushing an arrival close to Castro's return. But it's no given that Castro will be able to come back strong; he's nine years older than a spry young Mauer whose rookie season at catcher was ruined by a torn knee meniscus.
* UPDATE: The Twins announced on Wednesday that Castro will miss the rest of the season after his surgery proved more extensive than expected. Go figure. *
This is where the organization's lack of high-level catching depth is quickly becoming an issue, which isn't entire surprising. It wouldn't hurt to add someone capable, even if that means giving up a bit in trade. Considering that two-thirds of the league are in blatant tanking mode, it shouldn't be all that hard to find a seller.
Shake Up the Batting Order
Get weird. Try Kepler in the leadoff spot. Move Dozier to cleanup. Escobar in the two-hole. Whatever. Perhaps a different type of sequencing or dynamic will stir something up. It couldn't really hurt at this point.
I'd like to hear some other ideas. What would you do to inject life into a Twins offense that simply isn't getting it done?