5 Things the Twins Absolutely Must Accomplish This Offseason
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA TodayIn a little over a month, Twins Daily will be putting out its annual Offseason Handbook. I'm really excited about this edition because the coming winter is as ripe for discussion and dissection as any in memory.
We'll be featuring plenty of stories here as we build up to the Handbook's release, but today I thought we'd kick things off with a high-level look at some critical priorities. If the Twins don't check all five of these boxes before spring training 2019 gets underway, it's gonna be hard to view their offseason as a real success.
1. Overpay Byron Buxton in arbitration
Regardless of your feelings on the matter, there's no doubt about this: The Twins damaged their relationship with Buxton by sending him home after the minor-league season ended. His year was clearly a disaster but Buxton remains a centerpiece of the franchise's vision going forward. Creating ill will with such a player is suboptimal, to say the least.
General manager Thad Levine acknowledged as much at the time. "From this day forward," he said, "I think we recognize a responsibility to make amends and that we’re going to need to invest in the relationship with Byron Buxton."
Well, they'll get their chance to start on that almost immediately.
Although the decision not to recall Buxton pushed his free agency back to 2022, he's still eligible for arbitration this offseason as a "Super 2." For the first time, he and his agent will be able to negotiate his salary. The Twins would be wise to ease up a bit.
Given his complete lack of output this year (.383 OPS in 94 plate appearances), Minnesota is technically justified in giving Buxton a minimal raise from his $580,000 salary. Doing so would be standard operating procedure. But this might be a time to deviate.
When the two sides submit numbers, the Twins should make sure theirs is fairly generous, and as long as Buxton's request is within reason, they should quickly accept it. No pushback. He's surely feeling as though they robbed him of millions by delaying his big payday, and while they can't fully make it up to him at this point, they can at least make a showing of good faith.
It's a first step toward mending what will hopefully still be a tight long-term relationship. And given the relative dollars involved, it's a no-brainer.
2. Sign or trade for a top three starter in the rotation
While some other areas of the roster are riddled with uncertainty, Minnesota's starting rotation is looking pretty solid. Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda are essentially locked in, leaving one vacancy. The Twins could theoretically fill that spot internally, holding a spring competition between the likes of Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell and others.
But given the uncertainty surrounding Pineda and his perpetual ailments, the club is probably wise to reserve as much minor-league depth as it can. With their considerable stockpile of both available funds and tradable assets, the Twins should be looking to make a bold move on the pitching market.
There are some premium names in free agency, as well as some intriguing trade scenarios. You'll find plenty covered in the Handbook. The Twins need to aim high here. It's an opportunity for Levine and Derek Falvey to make a signature splash after smartly bowing out of last year's Darvish Derby.
3. Extend Jose Berrios
There is zero reason not to do this. Berrios is the player this organization has long been waiting for: a young, dominant, starter with an amazingly clean bill of health. After thoroughly dominating the minor leagues, he has improved in each of his three turns at the majors, and was named an All-Star at age 24 in July.
The right-hander has four years of team control remaining, and will be eligible for arbitration next winter. This is the ideal time to strike an extension, leveraging that team control to score a relative bargain on his first years of free agency, and maybe even a team option or two. It's the blueprint Falvey helped execute in Cleveland multiple times.
Given his age and almost spotless track record, Berrios will be able to command a hefty sum. But I can't see any reason why the Twins would be reluctant to do whatever it takes to lock him up through 2024 or beyond. He is the definition of a building block.
The longer they wait, the more their leverage dissipates.
4. Build corner infield depth
Joe Mauer's contract is up, and he seems likely to retire. Logan Morrison will be a free agent and probably won't return return. Eduardo Escobar was traded in July. Miguel Sano... well, it's gonna be tough to really count on him in any capacity next year.
The Twins find themselves shallow at the infield corners. Tyler Austin looks like he'll be a factor but outside of him and Sano there won't be any incumbency at first or third on next year's roster. The closest legitimate impact help is Brent Rooker in Double-A.
Acquiring a starting-caliber corner infielder – whether at first, or at third with Sano going to first or DH – should be a given. The team might even want to think about getting creative to increase its flexibility and options. Max Kepler started 38 games at first base in the minors...
5. Clear 40-man flotsam
The decisions coming up in late November, as the Winter Meetings and Rule 5 draft approach, are among the toughest of the year for a front office. They'll have to take a hard look at their 40-man roster and decide who's really worth protecting – who they absolutely can't afford to lose.
Making room for a new wave of additions, and also hopefully a number of external pickups, will require the Twins to take a hard look at who they need to keep. Some members of the 40-man are already on their way out (Mauer, Chris Gimenez, Logan Forsythe) and others make are fairly obvious cut candidates, but there will be some difficult calls to make.
Is there room for Aaron Slegers or Adalberto Mejia anymore? Has Matt Magill shown enough to merit keeping around? What about Oliver Drake? Does it really make sense to keep dedicating spots to John Curtiss or Tyler Duffey or Alan Busenitz?
This year's team appears a long way from where it needs to be. A fairly extensive overhaul would be warranted and I suspect we'll see one.
Stay tuned for more details on the 2019 Offseason Handbook and, of course, more daily wall-to-wall coverage of your favorite team.
- nicksaviking, brvama, NoCryingInBaseball and 5 others like this