A Quick Look Around
Image courtesy of Kim Klement / USA Today SportsBefore I look ahead two years, though, I looked back at the Opening Day lineup from 2015, you know, the year the Twins won 83 and narrowly missed the playoffs. Beyond the top three (Danny Santana, SS; Joe Mauer, 1B and Brian Dozier, 2B), none of the other six remain with the Twins. (Kennys Vargas did DH and is with Rochester.)
Will there be that much turnover again in two years?
Jason Castro will enter the final year of his three-year pact. Assuming the Twins compete at some point between now and then, Castro will be the Opening Day catcher in 2019.
The Twins hold an option on Ervin Santana for 2019 and Phil Hughes will be in the last year of his very questionably-signed extension. The only other player under contract for the season is ByungHo Park.
As previously mentioned, Mauer and his $23 million will come off the books. At that point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a spot for Mauer. He’d have to re-sign for an amount significantly less than he currently plays for and agree to a huge reduction in playing time. Sure, I could find him some time to DH against right-handers… but it would be hard to forecast anything but retirement for number seven.
Home run bangin’ Brian Dozier will earn $6 million this year and $9 million next year before getting the opportunity to test free agency for the first time. I’m sure the club will explore extending Dozier before then, but trading Dozier for important pieces (plural, yes) remains the most likely outcome.
The outfield trio is going to remain affordable for the next few years. Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton will likely be entering arbitration in advance of the 2019 season. Max Kepler isn’t scheduled to hit arbitration until the following season, 2020. As teams start to realize the value of locking up pre-arbitration players, look for the Twins to do their homework on Buxton and Kepler. Rosario, in my opinion, remains a player that Twins could look to move, maximizing his value at some point in the next couple of years.
Moving into the infield, Miguel Sano is on the same schedule as Buxton and Rosario. Though his defensive home will be questioned, his true home is in the middle of the lineup. Park, under contract, and Vargas, with less than two years of service, could still fit into the equation.
The middle infield is more interesting. Assuming Dozier moves on, does Jorge Polanco, who still has five years of team control left, slide to second? (This year will help answer that question.) Can Nick Gordon stick at shortstop? Does Engelb Vielma hit enough to be the everyday shortstop? Do the Twins pursue keeping Eduardo Escobar, who will also be a first-time free agent?
The rotation could still include Santana and Hughes. The combination of youngsters Jose Berrios, Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero and Kohl Stewart, among others, will compete for rotation spots too.
That makes no mention of Kyle Gibson, who will be arbitration-eligible for the last time in 2019.
Then there’s the bullpen…
Fortunately, there are more potential relievers than ever before. Without diving into the dozens of names, there is both power and depth from both sides of the pitching rubber.
No matter how you look at it, it’s hard to imagine a lineup in early April of 2019 that doesn’t resemble this week’s club.
That is very encouraging… and jibes well with the baseball operations crew looking at the team they inherited and not making significant changes.
Of course, you can’t just wait for the future to show up. There’s always things you can do to improve the club… and over the course of the season we’ll look at some specific moves the Twins can make before 2019 to ensure meaningful October baseball.
- Sconnie and tarheeltwinsfan like this