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Mailbox: Openers, Trading Buxton, Kirilloff’s Debut

The off-season can drag on, especially with the free agent market moving at a snail’s pace. However, spring training is on the horizon, so it’s time to start thinking about baseball in the Florida sun.

I put out a call on Twitter for mailbag questions and my followers didn’t disappoint. If you want to be part of the next mailbag article, make sure to follow me on the Twitter machine.

Let’s open the mailbox.
Image courtesy of Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

New Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is coming from the Tampa Bay organization, which used the “opener” strategy quite frequently last season. That being said, I think he will utilize this strategy throughout the 2019 season. Trevor May seems like a strong candidate to slide into an “opener” role, especially with his previous starting experience. Minnesota started using an “opener” at Double-A and Triple-A last season so younger pitchers are starting to get accustom to this process. The club has shared information with players about the benefits of using this strategy and I think the club will use it even more in 2019.


Sano is not facing any legal situations in his home country. Earlier in the off-season, he ran over a police officer, breaking one of the officer's legs. He showed up for his court date and the police found no intent on his part to hurt the officer. Rocco Baldelli recently visited Sano in the Dominican Republic and the Twins slugger posted about it on Instagram. In the photos, Sano looks like he has dropped some weight. There have been some issues in the past with him showing up to spring training with extra weight. Hopefully, his demotion and time in the minors last season allowed him to reflect on his career and what he wants for the future. This is a pivotal off-season for him as he can hopefully regain his All-Star form from 2017.


Trading Buxton simply doesn’t make sense. His value is probably at an all-time low. He just turned 25 and he is coming off his worst professional season. Look at a player like Aaron Hicks. Many fans wanted him traded and out of Minnesota. Over the last three seasons, Hicks has been the 10th most valuable AL outfield during his age 26-28 seasons. Be patient with Buxton, he needs to be part of the Twins solution and he certainly isn’t part of Minnesota’s problem right now.


I think Tyler Austin has some continued value to the team, especially with no established first baseman currently under contract. There are other options at the back-end of the 40-man that could slip through the waiver wire. Zack Granite is coming off a rough year in the minors and there is a lot of outfield depth on the 40-man. Willians Astudillo has been tearing the cover off the ball this winter but the club will likely break camp with Jason Castro and Mitch Garver as the club’s catchers. Does that make Astudillo replaceable? Adding Blake Parker might make another relief pitcher expendable (see Tyler Duffey or Matt Magill).There are always options and I don’t think the club is done adding pieces before the start of the season.


Alex Kirilloff is coming off a huge season in the minor leagues, as he was named MiLB’s Breakout Player of the Year. He missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery so it was nice to see what he could do when he was back and healthy. He finished the 2018 campaign at High-A so he could spend the majority of 2019 at High-A and Double-A. If he hits like he did in 2018, it’s not out of the question for him to make his big-league debut at some point next season. He is the type of prospect that might not need any playing time at Triple-A. A lot is going to depend on how he performs in 2019 and if the big-league club has a need in the outfield.


For the second year in a row, the free agent market has been cold as ice. Dallas Keuchel is considered the best starting pitcher on the market, but the Twins might not be looking to add another starter. Michael Pineda was signed last off-season to join the rotation in 2019. Other free agent starting options include Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland, Wade Miley, and other lower tier options. Relief pitchers like Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, and Andrew Miller have all signed for $25 million or more. It doesn’t make sense to overspend on relief pitchers and the Twins might be satisfied with the players already on the roster. Reports on Monday had the club signing Blake Parker. My guess is they will take a flyer on a couple of other relief options, but it might be closer to when spring training starts.

Thanks to everyone for their questions. Make sure to follow me on Twitter, as I will probably do multiple mailbag segments in the weeks ahead.

Now, it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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65 Comments

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SF Twins Fan
Jan 07 2019 10:22 PM
Sano looks great in the photo! Excited to see him in spring training and hopefully this is the first step for him getting back to his 2017 form (Before the injury). I can’t see Kirilloff starting in High A after dominating that league last season. If I remember correctly he played just about the same number of games in A and High A. I’ll be highly disappointed if he doesn’t start the season in AA.
    • caninatl04 and Dakota Diver like this
Nice mailbag and responses Cody! But I take issue with May as a possible opener, despite his previous starter experience. I see him as a valuable back of the pen option with not only his stuff and his finish to 2018, but also his embracing of his role as a reliever now. Just my opinion.
    • h2oface, bluechipper, NoCryingInBaseball and 9 others like this

Sano looks great in the photo! Excited to see him in spring training and hopefully this is the first step for him getting back to his 2017 form (Before the injury). I can’t see Kirilloff starting in High A after dominating that league last season. If I remember correctly he played just about the same number of games in A and High A. I’ll be highly disappointed if he doesn’t start the season in AA.


Yeah he does. Slimmest I’ve seen him in a long time. Hope all the hard work translates

"It doesn’t make sense to overspend on relief pitchers......."

 

Definitely opinion and not fact. In fact....... recent (the last decade) post season runs that are successful would beg loudly to differ.

    • USAFChief, Thrylos, Mike Sixel and 12 others like this

Is there an average number of years it takes to get to the MLB?After so many years do they just give up?

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killertwinfan
Jan 08 2019 07:55 AM

I hope that is Sano, other than his face it doesn't even look like him.  

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Old Twins Cap
Jan 08 2019 07:58 AM

Doesn't matter how Sano looks in photos if he thinks fastball when a curve is coming.

 

Donuts on the outside corner get him every time.

 

There is no diet for that.

    • Danchat, Monkeypaws, mikelink45 and 2 others like this

"It doesn’t make sense to overspend on relief pitchers......."

Definitely opinion and not fact. In fact....... recent (the last decade) post season runs that are successful would beg loudly to differ.


Also...

What is “overspend” for relief these days?
    • USAFChief, Oldgoat_MN, h2oface and 3 others like this
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Tom Froemming
Jan 08 2019 08:16 AM

 

"It doesn’t make sense to overspend on relief pitchers......."

 

Definitely opinion and not fact. In fact....... recent (the last decade) post season runs that are successful would beg loudly to differ.

Yeah, but which of those postseason teams built up their bullpen via free agency? Ask the Rockies how overspending on a bullpen worked out.

 

Biggest AAV deals to RPs last offseason

 

Wade Davis COL 4.12 ERA 65.1 IP
Greg Holland STL 7.92 ERA in 25 IP (released)

Brandon Morrow CHC 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP

Bryan Shaw COL 5.93 ERA in 54.2 IP

Tommy Hunter PHI 3.80 ERA in 64 IP

Jake McGee COL 6.49 ERA in 51.1 IP

Juan Nicasio SEA 6.00 ERA in 42 IP

Addison Reed MIN 4.50 ERA in 56 IP

 

Ick. The only one of those guys who pitched well was Morrow, and even he missed a big chunk of the season. 

    • birdwatcher, PseudoSABR, Monkeypaws and 10 others like this

 

Yeah he does. Slimmest I’ve seen him in a long time. Hope all the hard work translates

I never thought I'd see the day when "Sano" and "slimmest" were used in the same sentence. That made me smile big time!

    • Minny505 likes this

 

 

Yeah, but which of those postseason teams built up their bullpen via free agency? Ask the Rockies how overspending on a bullpen worked out.

 

Biggest AAV deals to RPs last offseason

 

Wade Davis COL 4.12 ERA 65.1 IP
Greg Holland STL 7.92 ERA in 25 IP (released)

Brandon Morrow CHC 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP

Bryan Shaw COL 5.93 ERA in 54.2 IP

Tommy Hunter PHI 3.80 ERA in 64 IP

Jake McGee COL 6.49 ERA in 51.1 IP

Juan Nicasio SEA 6.00 ERA in 42 IP

Addison Reed MIN 4.50 ERA in 56 IP

 

Ick. The only one of those guys who pitched well was Morrow, and even he missed a big chunk of the season. 

Yeah, that was a weird Rockies team last year. All those "great" additions to their bullpen pretty much stank up the place ... and yet they made the playoffs. Baseball is such an unpredictable beast.

    • nicksaviking, ChrisKnutson, Minny505 and 1 other like this

 

Yeah, but which of those postseason teams built up their bullpen via free agency? Ask the Rockies how overspending on a bullpen worked out.

 

Biggest AAV deals to RPs last offseason

 

Wade Davis COL 4.12 ERA 65.1 IP
Greg Holland STL 7.92 ERA in 25 IP (released)

Brandon Morrow CHC 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP

Bryan Shaw COL 5.93 ERA in 54.2 IP

Tommy Hunter PHI 3.80 ERA in 64 IP

Jake McGee COL 6.49 ERA in 51.1 IP

Juan Nicasio SEA 6.00 ERA in 42 IP

Addison Reed MIN 4.50 ERA in 56 IP

 

Ick. The only one of those guys who pitched well was Morrow, and even he missed a big chunk of the season. 

 

Wow, innings and performance-wise, Reed doesn't look so bad right about here. Hope he's healthy in 2019 and is what we thought he was.

    • Twins33, howieramone2, Minny505 and 2 others like this

"Sano is not facing any legal situations in his home country. Earlier in the off-season, he ran over a police officer, breaking one of the officer's leg"

 

Was Sano driving a car or did this happen on his daily 5 mile training run?

 

Sorry, but there is just something about this guy that does not bode well for any long term success. He is an accident either waiting to happen, or already has happened, to himself or those around him. Lack of focus doesn't just apply to detecting a curve ball during an AB. It applies to daily life as well and I think he is just one of those happy go lucky type of people who doesn't take much very seriously.

 

I hope I am wrong.

Kirloff will most likely become a first baseman if Rooker does not make it and Sano can stay at third.Worst case is he becomes a corner outfielder with Kepler in center and Buxton as the 4th outfielder.  

Not this year, but can see the Twins move an outfielder for relief pitching (or starting if the price is right).

Yeah, but which of those postseason teams built up their bullpen via free agency? Ask the Rockies how overspending on a bullpen worked out.

Biggest AAV deals to RPs last offseason

Wade Davis COL 4.12 ERA 65.1 IP
Greg Holland STL 7.92 ERA in 25 IP (released)
Brandon Morrow CHC 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP
Bryan Shaw COL 5.93 ERA in 54.2 IP
Tommy Hunter PHI 3.80 ERA in 64 IP
Jake McGee COL 6.49 ERA in 51.1 IP
Juan Nicasio SEA 6.00 ERA in 42 IP
Addison Reed MIN 4.50 ERA in 56 IP

Ick. The only one of those guys who pitched well was Morrow, and even he missed a big chunk of the season.


There's really only 2 ways to go about this. Either spend only money to fix this unit, or trade prospects in July. Since there's no ambition to trade prospects, I don't see any other way to improve the bullpen. I don't think there are enough internal options who will be good enough for the MLB team in 2019.
    • Tomj14 and caninatl04 like this

Remember how the Free Agent market was supposed to go a lot faster this year? Well, it's going pretty darn slow again. It's hard to say if there will still be big names on the market in mid-March again, but the idea that this year's market was going to go a lot quicker seems to have been wrong at this point.

    • howieramone2 and caninatl04 like this
I know that this has been debated in other threads, but it is hard to see much value in Austin to the Twins right now. Cron and Cruz likely make it almost impossible to keep Austin on the 25 man roster. He can't be optioned, so he may be traded or more likely, dropped from the 40 man and hoping nobody claims him.
    • Oldgoat_MN, LA VIkes Fan, howieramone2 and 1 other like this

I really don't know what to think on Dallas Keuchel. He had a solid year last season and looks healthy again, but the k/9 is down and he gave up quite a few hits. His control is solid and he knows how to pitch, but...is he better than Kyle Gibson? That's sort of my criteria on signing starters right now. If we're going to invest real money in a guy, I want him to be better than Gibson. And how much does Keuchel want? How many years? Do we want him if it's 3 years & $51M? What if it's 4 years and $60M?

 

Kirilloff is going to be a guy to watch this year. I suspect they'll start him in Ft. Myers again, since he only did a half season there, make sure it wasn't a fluke, etc. The jump to AA will be where we really find out how good a prospect he is. A lot of nice looking prospects hit AA and the wheels fall off. I think he can handle it. Sure would be nice for him to be crushing A ball again that he gets bumped faster and then for him to rip apart AA. No reason to rush him up yet (especially since we still want to know what we really have in guys like Kepler/Cave) but I think he'll be pushing for a shot in 2020. He should stick in the OF too, profiles just fine in RF

    • caninatl04 likes this
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Major League Ready
Jan 08 2019 10:25 AM

 

Yeah, but which of those postseason teams built up their bullpen via free agency? Ask the Rockies how overspending on a bullpen worked out.

 

Biggest AAV deals to RPs last offseason

 

Wade Davis COL 4.12 ERA 65.1 IP
Greg Holland STL 7.92 ERA in 25 IP (released)

Brandon Morrow CHC 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP

Bryan Shaw COL 5.93 ERA in 54.2 IP

Tommy Hunter PHI 3.80 ERA in 64 IP

Jake McGee COL 6.49 ERA in 51.1 IP

Juan Nicasio SEA 6.00 ERA in 42 IP

Addison Reed MIN 4.50 ERA in 56 IP

 

Ick. The only one of those guys who pitched well was Morrow, and even he missed a big chunk of the season. 

 

Listed below is the fWAR for the top 8 RPs in terms of AAV.

 

Jansen 2017 ------- 3.2
Jansen 2018 -------- .4

Melancon 2017 ----- .4
Melancon 2018 ----- .3

W. Davis 2018 ----- .9

Chapman 2017 --- 1.6
Chapman 2017 --- 1.9

Britton 2017 ------.6
Britton 2017 ------.1

A Miller 2017 ----- 2.4
A Miller 2017 ----- .4

Robertson 2016 -- .9
Robertson 2016 -- 1.9
Robertson 2016 -- 1.5

Nicasio 2017 ----- 1.5
Nicasio 2017 ----- .8

 

Average WAR ---- 1.175
1 of 16 seasons over 2.5 WAR
2 of 16 seasons over 2.0 WAR
2 of 16 seasons over 2.0 WAR
5 of 16 seasons over 1.5 WAR

 

Listed below is the fWAR for this years top free agent RPs in terms of AAV.

 

Britton ---- 0.6 / 0.1
Robertson - 1.9 / 1.5
Miller ------ 2.4 / 0.4
Familia ---- 0.3 / 1.7
Joe Kelly -- 0.7 / 0.7
Herrera -- 0.1 / 0.4

 

Average WAR for the past two years = .9
1 of 12 seasons with a WAR of 2+

Listed below are the 2018 top RPs in terms of fWAR

1 - Blake Treinen
2 - Edwin Diaz
3 - Josh Hader
4 - Jose Leclerc
5 - Craig Stammen
6 - Felipe Vazquez
7 - Adam Ottavino
8 - Jose Alvarado
9 - Will Smith
10 - Aroldis Chapman
11 - Taylor Rogers
12 - Ryan Pressly
13 - Joakim Soria
14 - Jeremy Jeffress
15 - Dellin Betances
16 - Jeurys Familia
17 - Kirby Yates
18 - Chad Green
19 - Tony Watson
20 - Mychal Givens

    • birdwatcher, h2oface and caninatl04 like this

 

Doesn't matter how Sano looks in photos if he thinks fastball when a curve is coming.

 

Donuts on the outside corner get him every time.

 

There is no diet for that.

 

It may not help him hit a curveball, but it should help him stay at 3B.

    • Twins33, Oldgoat_MN, howieramone2 and 2 others like this
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Tom Froemming
Jan 08 2019 10:54 AM

 

There's really only 2 ways to go about this. Either spend only money to fix this unit, or trade prospects in July. Since there's no ambition to trade prospects, I don't see any other way to improve the bullpen. I don't think there are enough internal options who will be good enough for the MLB team in 2019.

My main point is top dollar doesn't necessarily mean you're getting top results in the bullpen market. I agree that you do have to address the bullpen one way or another. I don't love the idea of crossing your fingers that Moya/Vasquez/Curtiss blossoms or you can successfully convert Romero or another starter. If that happens, great! But you shouldn't be banking on it.

 

I do feel the Twins have enough depth in the system to trade some prospects for an established reliever who has multiple years of team control and there's no reason to think you couldn't pull off a trade over the offseason. I'm thinking maybe like a Mychal Givens or Archie Bradley type.

 

As far as free agency goes, consider this:

 

2017-18 ERA

2.72 Adam Warren

3.03 Oliver Perez

3.21 Hunter Strickland

3.38 Brad Brach

3.43 Justin Wilson

3.50 Adam Ottavino

3.82 Cody Allen

 

2017-18 FIP

2.79 Oliver Perez

3.45 Adam Warren

3.51 Justin Wilson

3.63 Brad Brach

3.72 Adam Ottavino

3.87 Cody Allen

3.97 Hunter Strickland

 

Despite those numbers, I think the Twins signing Ottavino and Allen to nice multi-year deals would garner a ton more excitement than if they nabbed say Warren and Perez or Brach and Wilson on modest one-year deals.

    • birdwatcher, SF Twins Fan and caninatl04 like this

Kirloff will most likely become a first baseman if Rooker does not make it and Sano can stay at third. Worst case is he becomes a corner outfielder with Kepler in center and Buxton as the 4th outfielder.
Not this year, but can see the Twins move an outfielder for relief pitching (or starting if the price is right).


Kiriloff is a pretty solid defensive corner outfielder. I'd be surprised if they move him to first base.
    • Twins33, jokin, Oldgoat_MN and 2 others like this
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Canizaro's Ghost
Jan 08 2019 12:55 PM

"It doesn't make sense to overspend on relief pitchers."Man, some Twins fans/writers have Stockholm Syndrome. The Twins ownership can certainly afford to spend more than they currently do, and there is no cap in baseball so there is no such thing as overspending, IMO. 

    • USAFChief, Mike Sixel, Rigby and 4 others like this

The problem with signing relief pitchers is that overall the performance is erratic and the use that gives great stats one year can mean a down year that follows.One of the problems, and it is not Molitor' problem, is that the new extreme use of relievers has not been matched with a good strategy for when and how often to use, and when to rest. We just guess at that.So the relievers perform and under-perform regularly.I suspect that Reed will be what we were signing this year, but his value was built in an over use year. 

    • snap4birds likes this

My main point is top dollar doesn't necessarily mean you're getting top results in the bullpen market. I agree that you do have to address the bullpen one way or another. I don't love the idea of crossing your fingers that Moya/Vasquez/Curtiss blossoms or you can successfully convert Romero or another starter. If that happens, great! But you shouldn't be banking on it.

I do feel the Twins have enough depth in the system to trade some prospects for an established reliever who has multiple years of team control and there's no reason to think you couldn't pull off a trade over the offseason. I'm thinking maybe like a Mychal Givens or Archie Bradley type.

As far as free agency goes, consider this:

2017-18 ERA
2.72 Adam Warren
3.03 Oliver Perez
3.21 Hunter Strickland
3.38 Brad Brach
3.43 Justin Wilson
3.50 Adam Ottavino
3.82 Cody Allen

2017-18 FIP
2.79 Oliver Perez
3.45 Adam Warren
3.51 Justin Wilson
3.63 Brad Brach
3.72 Adam Ottavino
3.87 Cody Allen
3.97 Hunter Strickland

Despite those numbers, I think the Twins signing Ottavino and Allen to nice multi-year deals would garner a ton more excitement than if they nabbed say Warren and Perez or Brach and Wilson on modest one-year deals.

I agree with mostly all of this. I also don't want to rely on the young players to step up right away and also convert Romero to the bullpen just because they don't have better options.

I also agree there is depth to make trades, a drum I've been beating all winter. However, there doesn't seem to be any urgency from Falvine to trade from their riches in the minors.

I don't doubt that there are bargains to be found in FA, and some top money players won't live up to their contract. As a fan I can't confidently say player X is going to have his best season ever. Maybe the Twins do. What you do get for a higher price tag is a player with a better track record, a small variance between their best and worst seasons, and better odds they will produce good results.

Take Oliver Perez for example. Near the top of the list in your sample, right? The discrepancy in ERA in just 2 seasons is over 3 runs. Is he a 1.39 ERA pitcher like 2018 or a 4.64 ERA pitcher like 2017? Those are the difficult decisions Falvey has to make when he's shopping in the bargain bin.
    • SF Twins Fan likes this

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