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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

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


Good post. What's the projected WAR for the AAA guys that would be on those teams instead of them?
    • Tomj14 likes this
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Tom Froemming
Jan 08 2019 03:02 PM

 

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.

 

What about Adam Ottavino? Even ignoring all the health problems he's had, the guy just posted a 5.06 ERA (5.16 FIP) in 2017. Brad Brach has never posted an ERA over 3.78 (which came is rookie season) and his FIP hasn't been over 3.90 in the five seasons since leaving San Diego.

 

Brach is also a bit younger than Ottavino, yet Otto was projected to get 3$30MM and Brach 2/$12MM. 

    • Danchat and Minny505 like this
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Major League Ready
Jan 08 2019 03:07 PM

 

Good post. What's the projected WAR for the AAA guys that would be on those teams instead of them?

 

Why are the only options the very highest AAV RPs or AAA players?The whole point of presenting the facts is to illustrate the very highest paid RPs have not been the most effective.Should the goal not be to follow the most effective practices for a mid market team?

What about Adam Ottavino? Even ignoring all the health problems he's had, the guy just posted a 5.06 ERA (5.16 FIP) in 2017. Brad Brach has never posted an ERA over 3.78 (which came is rookie season) and his FIP hasn't been over 3.90 in the five seasons since leaving San Diego.

Brach is also a bit younger than Ottavino, yet Otto was projected to get 3$30MM and Brach 2/$12MM.


Couldn't tell ya. Projections are just that until they sign the contract. From the surface level view Otto is projected too high, Brach too low.
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ChrisKnutson
Jan 08 2019 03:52 PM
If I’m reading into Cruz’s club option correctly, I’m guessing the length of his Twins career really depends on how Kirilloff (Rooker too) progresses, because if AK hits anthing like like did last year he’ll be our starting RFer in 2020. And if that’s the case, then Kepler will likely move to LF (barring a Buxton meltdown) and Rosario will replace Cruz as our DH (OF/2B).

Man.........You just had to mention Aaron Hicks.  Come on bro. That's salt in the wound. Might as well mention how the Twins gave up on David Ortiz to save a few bucks in arbitration.

Why are the only options the very highest AAV RPs or AAA players? The whole point of presenting the facts is to illustrate the very highest paid RPs have not been the most effective. Should the goal not be to follow the most effective practices for a mid market team?


What's the alternative you are suggesting? I must have misunderstood.

If I’m reading into Cruz’s club option correctly, I’m guessing the length of his Twins career really depends on how Kirilloff (Rooker too) progresses, because if AK hits anthing like like did last year he’ll be our starting RFer in 2020. And if that’s the case, then Kepler will likely move to LF (barring a Buxton meltdown) and Rosario will replace Cruz as our DH (OF/2B).


I think the Twins would trade one of Kepler or Rosario once AK is ready.
Rosario isn't a great fielder, but he's far too competent to waste at DH- where his bat wouldn't be great to start with.

What's the alternative you are suggesting? I must have misunderstood.


Well there are middle and lower priced free agents, who may perform just as well, or better than those few top priced ones. Especially at relief pitching, it appears.

Well there are middle and lower priced free agents, who may perform just as well, or better than those few top priced ones. Especially at relief pitching, it appears.


Of course, you have to pick the right ones.

So, pocket the money? I don't get why fans love owners making money, but call players greedy.
    • h2oface and SF Twins Fan like this

Of course, you have to pick the right ones.

So, pocket the money? I don't get why fans love owners making money, but call players greedy.


So pick the right ones. That IS an option.
Wanting a worse, but more expensive player, just to avoid padding the owner's pocketbook takes being pro-labor to an unhealthy level, IMO.
Spend the money, yes, I'm not pro ownership, but there is a compelling argument that relief pitching may not be the smart place to do it.
    • Minny505 likes this

So pick the right ones. That IS an option.
Wanting a worse, but more expensive player, just to avoid padding the owner's pocketbook takes being pro-labor to an unhealthy level, IMO.
Spend the money, yes, I'm not pro ownership, but there is a compelling argument that relief pitching may not be the smart place to do it.


Fair. Of course, others will say old players aren't the right place, nor are starting pitchers, nor any deal more than two or three years. That doesn't leave much....

 

"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.

We can spend.Pay a high quality pitcher what they are worth.So sick of bargain shopping!

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diehardtwinsfan
Jan 09 2019 07:29 AM

 

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.

It sounds like the new analytic is figuring out the correlation on which FA pitchers are more likely to live up to those contracts and target them... 

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diehardtwinsfan
Jan 09 2019 07:38 AM

 

I think the Twins would trade one of Kepler or Rosario once AK is ready.
Rosario isn't a great fielder, but he's far too competent to waste at DH- where his bat wouldn't be great to start with.

 

I think this is more reputation based and the fact that defensive stats penalize him when Buxton is on the field. He's got + range, though he does make the occasional bone headed throw... His bat has more than made up for it. You're right though, if Kirilloff progresses similarly in 2019 than he did in 2018, I don't see a scenario where he's not the starting RF in 2020. And that means Rosario, Cave, or Kepler is traded/non-tendered. If all are doing well, someone will get a nice return, as all of them can play CF.

 

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?

 

 

 

I'm pretty sure every team not named the Marlins would sign either of those deals in a heartbeat. 

 

I think the thought is, he's looking for 5/100M

    • Sconnie likes this
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ChrisKnutson
Jan 09 2019 10:47 AM

I think this is more reputation based and the fact that defensive stats penalize him when Buxton is on the field. He's got + range, though he does make the occasional bone headed throw... His bat has more than made up for it. You're right though, if Kirilloff progresses similarly in 2019 than he did in 2018, I don't see a scenario where he's not the starting RF in 2020. And that means Rosario, Cave, or Kepler is traded/non-tendered. If all are doing well, someone will get a nice return, as all of them can play CF.


I don’t see a problem with Rosario sharing DH duties with Kirilloff, along with occasionally filling in at 2B when needed, but when it comes to Kepler and Cave, I’d really prefer it if we hold on to Kepler’s potential. And while Cave may not have as many suitors as Kep does, he’s still plenty valuable and could bring back a decent arm if packaged with 1-2 prospects.

 

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

 

Hmm.....I kind of hate using WAR to evaluate single seasons of relief pitchers, but if that's what we're doing, I still think it's impossible to draw any sort of conclusion from all this data. And it's good data, but it's not information.

 

How does average WAR for highest AAV compare to the lowest AAV? And the middle tier(s)? How should a team be spending its money? And how would the marginal dollars be spent differently (or would they be spent at all)?

 

While the research and data is appreciated and impressive, I don't think any of this gets us much closer to answering those questions.

    • USAFChief and Sconnie like this

 

I'm pretty sure every team not named the Marlins would sign either of those deals in a heartbeat. 

 

I think the thought is, he's looking for 5/100M

 

I think he's going to be waiting a while, then. 1) I'm not sure too many teams consider him a $20M/year pitcher, and 2) too many teams have gotten burned on the 5+ year pitching contracts. (James Shields, anyone?)

 

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Major League Ready
Jan 09 2019 02:11 PM

 

What's the alternative you are suggesting? I must have misunderstood.

 

I am not really sure, Mike.BP arms are so unpredictable. The question I am raising is basically … Are high dollar free agent RPs a good utilization of financial resources?Would we be better off spending our available free agent dollars on position players or is there a category of SPs that have proven to effective spending. This is by no means a suggestion we not spend for BP arms.I just does not look like the correlation between salary and WAR is very strong. I wish I had the data available to the FO. It would be a lot easier to recognize which practices (player profiles) have produced the best results.

 

We are seeing changes to spending strategy across the league. There are teams recognizing they have built rosters that maximized their spending and resulted in good teams but not serious contenders and they are reconstructing those rosters. I am suggesting we not follow a path that leads to the same result … good but no real chance of becoming a serious contender.

    • BK432 likes this
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Major League Ready
Jan 09 2019 03:52 PM

 

Hmm.....I kind of hate using WAR to evaluate single seasons of relief pitchers, but if that's what we're doing, I still think it's impossible to draw any sort of conclusion from all this data. And it's good data, but it's not information.

 

How does average WAR for highest AAV compare to the lowest AAV? And the middle tier(s)? How should a team be spending its money? And how would the marginal dollars be spent differently (or would they be spent at all)?

 

While the research and data is appreciated and impressive, I don't think any of this gets us much closer to answering those questions.

 

I agree WAR is a bit iffy but it’s probably the best summary data we have.It should also be noted this is not anecdotal and the data does provide some insight . There is 2 years WAR for everyone but Davis and this data represents the entire population with the entire population being defined as the top AAV guys.Of course, there is some subjectivity as to where to cut off the top AAV.

There are some reasonable takeaways.The context of the discussion here is putting difference makers on the roster. The top RPs we primarily not the highest paid RPs. Therefore, to insist the only or even best route is to sign the top $ guys is to ignore history (data). The data also shows the tenuous nature of RPs which in itself calls into question the wisdom of a mid-market team spending for multiple high $ BP arms.

 

The argument it will go unspent is short-sighted. Yes, it might go unspent this year but the league demonstrates a consistent pattern of spending. That pattern is max the budget when within a window of contention. We will get there if the team comes together and we spend the $30-40M of remaining budget wisely. If we spend the lion’s share on a couple RPs and they perform as history suggests, we add a 2-3 wins and the team is still considerably short of the other playoff-teams.

 

I agree WAR is a bit iffy but it’s probably the best summary data we have.It should also be noted this is not anecdotal and the data does provide some insight . There is 2 years WAR for everyone but Davis and this data represents the entire population with the entire population being defined as the top AAV guys.Of course, there is some subjectivity as to where to cut off the top AAV.

There are some reasonable takeaways.The context of the discussion here is putting difference makers on the roster. The top RPs we primarily not the highest paid RPs. Therefore, to insist the only or even best route is to sign the top $ guys is to ignore history (data). The data also shows the tenuous nature of RPs which in itself calls into question the wisdom of a mid-market team spending for multiple high $ BP arms.

 

The argument it will go unspent is short-sighted. Yes, it might go unspent this year but the league demonstrates a consistent pattern of spending. That pattern is max the budget when within a window of contention. We will get there if the team comes together and we spend the $30-40M of remaining budget wisely. If we spend the lion’s share on a couple RPs and they perform as history suggests, we add a 2-3 wins and the team is still considerably short of the other playoff-teams.

 

I don't disagree with much of what you say. Don't misunderstand my arguments to be of the same ilk at the CHEAP POHLADZ crowd. Spending money on free agents is far from the most important thing you can do to build a contender.

 

What I will say though is that on paper, right now, the Twins will likely by a ~83 win team when PECOTA is released by Baseball Prospectus. The marginal value of adding 5-6 wins for the Twins is higher than it is for most teams in the league. They should be making bets to get those wins. Those bets might be expensive, they might not be. They have PLENTY of money to go out and make the moves they believe raise their projections to 88 wins. I'd advise against locking into long term deals given the current young core, but $$ shouldn't be a primary door-closer.

Machado or Harper and one more relief pitcher puts them at around ninety wins, if you think they are at 83 or 84 right now.

I agree, position players are more predictable. But, as we are seeing this year, needs and available talent don't always line up. It's why I am sceptical that waiting for everything to line up, then spend, will work. Because what if there is no difference matter at the position the twins need next year? Then what?

Add talent. When you can. Wisely, but add it.

Realmuto and Harper. Make it happen. Rosario or Kepler go to Miami, plus Gordon and any minor league pitcher other than whomever the twins like most. Then pay the money for Harper and a relief pitcher.
    • Carole Keller, BK432, Twins33 and 2 others like this
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jorgenswest
Jan 09 2019 05:57 PM
Would you trade Kirilloff or Lewis for Realmuto? I think that would get it done.

Would you trade Kirilloff or Lewis for Realmuto? I think that would get it done.


I might have last year, but not for two years of control, no. Three or more years? Probably.
    • Twins33 likes this

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