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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

"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."

 

What?We have no idea what we will get from him this season or beyond.That is a problem.

    • jokin likes this
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jorgenswest
Jan 09 2019 06:25 PM

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


I think I agree but I wouldn’t be very upset if they trade Kirilloff for Realmuto.

They would be selling Kirilloff at his highest point thus far in his career and getting a huge upgrade at catcher. We could easily sitting in July 2020 with no solution at catcher while keeping a top prospect significantly struggling with plate discipline in the major leagues.

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.

option 3, convert starters to relievers: Romero, Mejia and Gonsalves could be good relief options in 2019
    • BK432, Riverbrian and howieramone2 like this

 

option 3, convert starters to relievers: Romero, Mejia and Gonsalves could be good relief options in 2019

 

I think this is a very real possibility. And one I think could work. I just think they're close enough that spending some money to provide options is the most prudent path forward.

    • Carole Keller, birdwatcher and Sconnie like this
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birdwatcher
Jan 09 2019 09:29 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. 

 

 

Reading Tom's comment at #22 gives us a better context of what he meant by that sentence. I believe you may have misconstrued his meaning.

 

That said, I'm sick and tired of this FO and the last one falling short on remedies in the penover the last half dozen off-seasons and a handful of deadlines.

    • Carole Keller and USAFChief like this
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Major League Ready
Jan 10 2019 09:33 AM

 

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.

 

They are predicted for 83 wins. Harper would not be taking the place of a replacement level player.He had an enormous year in 2015 with 9.3 WAR in 2015but he has averaged 3.77 WAR over the last 3 years since that huge season. He would not add 6 or 7 WAR.More like 2 and perhaps less if Kepler breaks-out as predicted.As the data above has shown, the highest AAV free agent RPs have produced 1 WAR on average so your projection is very optimistic.

 

Realmuto would already be in Houston or LA if Miami was willing to take the type of package you suggest. It's well-documented their ask is ridiculous. Is that the type of deals you want the FO to make?

They are predicted for 83 wins. Harper would not be taking the place of a replacement level player. He had an enormous year in 2015 with 9.3 WAR in 2015 but he has averaged 3.77 WAR over the last 3 years since that huge season. He would not add 6 or 7 WAR. More like 2 and perhaps less if Kepler breaks-out as predicted. As the data above has shown, the highest AAV free agent RPs have produced 1 WAR on average so your projection is very optimistic.

Realmuto would already be in Houston or LA if Miami was willing to take the type of package you suggest. It's well-documented their ask is ridiculous. Is that the type of deals you want the FO to make?


I'm assuming the last relief pitchers they use this year will produce negative WAR, as they have nearly every year here, so we are looking at more than a 1 WAR gain.

I'd like them to try to win. If they have other ways of doing that, great. But adding wins helps more than pocketing money, at least for fans. So, if they have another way, great! But treading water does nothing but use another year of control for this group up.

So, if every idea I have is unreasonable, which it might be, what is your suggestion for actually winning? I'm not interested in another year or three of waiting. Other teams have rebuilt much, much, faster.
    • jokin likes this
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howieramone2
Jan 10 2019 11:48 AM

 

I'm assuming the last relief pitchers they use this year will produce negative WAR, as they have nearly every year here, so we are looking at more than a 1 WAR gain.

I'd like them to try to win. If they have other ways of doing that, great. But adding wins helps more than pocketing money, at least for fans. So, if they have another way, great! But treading water does nothing but use another year of control for this group up.

So, if every idea I have is unreasonable, which it might be, what is your suggestion for actually winning? I'm not interested in another year or three of waiting. Other teams have rebuilt much, much, faster.

Can you give the board the names of mid-market teams which have rebuilt much, much faster? I can't help remembering you posted the Phillies rebuilt much faster recently. They haven't made the play-offs since 2011. 

Brewers, Braves, Oakland, Tampa, Rockies.
    • Carole Keller, USAFChief and jokin like this
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howieramone2
Jan 10 2019 12:13 PM

 Brewers, A's, and Braves took less time. Tampa hasn't made the play-offs since 2013 and the Rockies took longer. In no case was any rebuild much, much faster. In fact all were fairly close. 

 

I can't help but remember an article I read in BA years ago. The crux of the article was it takes a mid-market team a minimum of 6 years to do a complete rebuild. Feel free to contact the boys down in North Carolina if you want a copy. They are very helpful.

I'm not sure I'd classify the Braves as mid-market

 

Tampa never really went away, so there wasn't really a rebuild there.

 

I'll give you the other 3, but the A's a just a bizarre organization. 

The last time the Braves had a payroll above 14th in the league was 2008, when they had the 10th highest payroll in baseball. They're a mid market team.
    • jokin likes this
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Major League Ready
Jan 10 2019 02:24 PM

 

 Brewers, A's, and Braves took less time. Tampa hasn't made the play-offs since 2013 and the Rockies took longer. In no case was any rebuild much, much faster. In fact all were fairly close. 

 

I can't help but remember an article I read in BA years ago. The crux of the article was it takes a mid-market team a minimum of 6 years to do a complete rebuild. Feel free to contact the boys down in North Carolina if you want a copy. They are very helpful.

 

Atlanta and Oakland did a great job but their strategies were also pretty much the exact opposite of what is being endorsed here. They did not trade away any top prospects and they did not sign any high profile FAs. The A’s free agent acquisitions were basically the type of acquisitions that people complain about here.

 

The A’s had 5 position players at 3WAR or better.

Matt Chapman - 6.5 WAR – A’s 1st round pick in 2014.
Jed Lowrie - 4.9 – WAR – I think it’s fair to say Lowrie would have been categorized here as a meh acquisition had the Twins acquired him when the Astros signed him for 3/23 in 2015.
Marcus Semien – 3.7 WAR - Acquired from the White Sox after seasons with Chicago and a cumulative WAR of .7.
Matt Olson - 3.4 WAR - Drafted with the 47th pick in 2012
Stephen Piscotty - 3.0 WAR - Acquired from the cardinals after his 1st year of service where he had .4 WAR

 

The A’s had one SPs that delivered 160 innings. That was Menea who was acquired as a prospect from KC. Their next best SP was Cahill who signed a 1 year deal for 1.5M which would have definitely been characterized as dumpster diving. Their highest WAR pitcher was actually a RP (Theinen) who was acquired for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Theinen was an average RP before they acquired him.

There is not a single high profile free agent nor did they trade any prospects of note. They built a contender by drafting and making trades for players as prospects or before they broke out.

 

Atlanta had 4 position players at 3 WAR or higher but they had Inciarte at 2.9 so I will include him.

Freddie Freeman - 5.2 WAR – Drafted by the A’s with the 78th pick.
Ozzie Albies- 3.8 WAR - Signed as an Int free agent for $350K.
Ronald Acuna - 3.7 WAR - Signed as an Int free agent for $350K.
Johan Camargo - 3.3 WAR – Signed as an Int free agent for $42K.
Ender Inciarte - 2.9 WAR – Acquired by trading away a proven middle of the rotation SP (Miller) The braves also got a top 10 prospect in Danby Swanson. In other words, the exact opposite approach being supported by many here. 

The Brave’s position players are a result of good drafting and International signings. None of the International draftees were particularly high profile. The total expenditure for all three was just under $500K

 

They had 1 good SP and two decent SPs. Their best SP (Mike Foltynewicz) was acquired by trading away an established player (Gattis) when Foltynewicz had not yet established himself at the MLB level. He finally stepped up in 2018. Their 2nd best SP was Sanchez who the Twins cut. He was not great and certainly is not the type of difference maker acquisition being called for here. The other Sp to log decent innings was Sean Newcomb who the A’s traded Andrelton Simmons to acquire. Again the opposite practice being called for here by many.

The Braves roster was built trading away established talent. There are no big $ free agents or high $ International signings.

 

Tampa’s top 5 position players ( Wendle / Smith / Duffey / Robertson / Cron ) were all acquired before becoming established ML players. They only have 3 pitchers who stand out. Where pitching is concerned, they drafted Snell with the 52nd overall pick. Alvarado was signed as an international free agent at 16 y/o. (cant find the amount). Chris Archer was traded for when he was in AA for Matt Garza

 

The brewers are much the same as Atlanta and Oakland and Tampa with the exception of the Yehlich trade. There is a very consistent theme among these teams. They drafted well and traded established players for young players as prospects or before they became established.None of these teams have spent for high profile FAs. It makes absolutely no sense to hold these franchises up as examples while promoting the practice of signing high dollar free agents and trading away prospects. The franchises are good examples of what the Twins SHOULD do. Yet many people seem to ignore how they built these teams and even go so far as to promote practices that are basically the antithesis of how these teams were built.

    • birdwatcher likes this

Brewers, A's, and Braves took less time. Tampa hasn't made the play-offs since 2013 and the Rockies took longer. In no case was any rebuild much, much faster. In fact all were fairly close.

I can't help but remember an article I read in BA years ago. The crux of the article was it takes a mid-market team a minimum of 6 years to do a complete rebuild. Feel free to contact the boys down in North Carolina if you want a copy. They are very helpful.


Well, the Twins aren't rebuilt yet according to most people and projections. So, we don't know how long this will take.
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howieramone2
Jan 10 2019 06:32 PM

 

Well, the Twins aren't rebuilt yet according to most people and projections. So, we don't know how long this will take.

The rebuild ended in 2017 when we were the first team in the history of baseball to lose 100 games and make the play-offs the next season. I recall several members telling you this. I really don't care what most people think and projections are merely guesses. I do recall all of the board's writers except for 1 or 2 predicted we would make the play-offs last season. I have more faith in those guys. 

 

Do any of these most people have names I would recognize? I can't imagine one of the talking heads would state the rebuild wasn't completed in 2017. Every year in every sport, teams falter when they can't get their best players on the field.  


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