Big Splash Coming in Twins Territory
Image courtesy of © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY SportsSince Joe Mauer has decided to hang up his cleats and the organization could choose to move on from Robbie Grossman, the starting lineup is lacking some on-base prowess. On top of that reality, a feared slugger to anchor the middle of the order is essential for Rocco Baldelli’s group. Checking off both of those boxes in the form of one player would be the most optimal way to go about it, and that leads me to believe in the following necessity: A successful offseason for the organization almost must include the acquisition of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, or Daniel Murphy.
The names above are not all created equal, and there’re warts that come with each of them. However, given the mix of power and on-base skills, along with the plausible acquisition costs, each profile seems like too good of a match to pass up. Suggesting that any of the four-some are true superstars may be a stretch, but in terms of incoming talent to a Minnesota squad, they all present the opportunity to grab both an impact name and impact ability.
Diving into them individually, here’s how they break down and rank for me:
At 33 Donaldson is arguably the most complete mix of perfection in this group. He’d push Miguel Sano over to first base, but the infield would be better because of it. Obviously, there’s significant injury concern here, as he hasn’t played more than 115 games either of the past two seasons. If the bill of health is good though, he was a model of consistency from 2013-2016. A career .367 OBP guy with a .507 SLG, Donaldson would be a surefire superstar in the heart of the Twins lineup. He’s mashed at Target Field (albeit off Twins pitching) and would certainly elevate the overall ability of the starting nine. A high AAV on a one-year deal, or something a bit more conservative on a three-year deal needs to be something Minnesota jumps at.
Despite being the elder statesmen of this group, Cruz is appealing as he’s aged incredibly well. He’s going to be 38 this upcoming season, and even in his “down year” last season, an .850 OPS was still posted. The Twins would need to be certain that it’s not the beginning of the end, but a guy who posted a .925 OPS with 126 HR’s from 2015-2017 is someone to take a serious look at. With a career .342 OBP, Cruz has surpassed that mark each of the past four years, and he’s still a perennial All-Star. This is not a guy who can do anything but DH for you, but that’s a need for Minnesota and his presence should be welcomed on a one or two-year pact.
If it’s not Donaldson to shore up some of the infield situation then Santana makes an incredible amount of sense. The only caveat here is that he’s a trade target, but the choice can be made to include lesser prospects and pay more, or increase the return and have the Phillies kick in. Philadelphia is a motivated seller in this case, and the Falvey connection is certainly there. The catcher-turned-first-basemen still posted a .352 OBP during his first sub-.800 OPS season since 2015 last year. He provides a strong bat from both sides of the plate (being even better as a lefty) and plays average defense as well. Taking on the finals two years of his current deal (and the 2021 option) would be a nice fit for Minnesota.
Of this group it’s Murphy who really profiles the most difficult to fit. He’s a second basemen by trade but is terrible or worse in the field. He’s never played much more than a fill-in role at first but would likely be much better suited there. In 2019 Murphy will be 34 and looking for what should be his last payday. You can expect him to provide a high .700 OPS, but the .900-plus marks in two full seasons with Washington may be wishful thinking. Murphy is a high average, high on-base guy, with more gap power than anything. He’ll launch about 20 long balls a year, but it’s the doubles that will really come in bunches. Coming off injury last season he got into just 91 games, and that could help to suppress his price some in this market. I’d prefer not to see him play up the middle with Jorge Polanco, but inking him to a three-year deal isn’t a bad idea either.
When the dust settles on this offseason, I think it’s a pretty fair expectation to assume the Twins will have at least two new infielders (2B/SS and 1B/3B), as well as at least one new reliever. Adding in a top-three starter would be a bonus, and a designated hitter could be addressed as well. Given what’s out there however, none of the necessary additions can simply be band-aids. Whether or not the front-office goes for it in 2019 or beginning in 2020 doesn’t much matter. This club needs an impact bat in the worst way and skimping on that should draw ire from the fan base.
Buckle up as things are about to get interesting.
- Blake, howieramone2, nclahammer and 2 others like this