Offseason Blueprint: Bargain Bin Shopping (Part 1)
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Philosophy - This is the easiest position to fill. The Twins have a desperate need, but also have several middle infield prospects approaching the majors. The free agent market is deep, especially with second basemen. It makes sense to sign someone to a short contract, filling the need for the present and giving the future the time it needs to develop.
Targets - I’d look to the more competitive shortstop market initially, moving Jorge Polanco to second base. Put shortstop Freddy Galvis at the top of the list, who is 29 years old, cost $15M over two years (per the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook) and brings a solid glove to help out the left side of the infield along with a little (13 HR in 2018) pop. I’d also stay involved in the bidding for shortstops Jose Iglesias and Jordy Mercer.
If that doesn’t work, there are a ton of second basemen to consider even if the team is determined not to guarantee more than two years at a cost of $7M or so per year. Candidates include Ascrubal Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and even old friend Brian Dozier. (Hey, he and that left field porch were a good match.) This is the one area it’s almost impossible to screw up. The market will come to the Twins.
Philosophy - In an ideal world, this is the area that the Twins will spend a lot of money. They need a middle-of-the-order hitter, and with spots open at first base and designated hitter, they should be thinking bat first and figure out where to play them later. Plus, this free agency has some bats, even beyond Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, that fit that bill. (Nelson Cruz seems like an ideal fit.)
But this is supposed to be a frugal list, so I’m going to focus on strategy that leads to a couple of budget options. And those options start in-house, because after a few big names, this free agency class falls off a cliff.
Targets - I expect the Twins will keep Tyler Austin in their plans for next year. Acquired from the Yankees, he is 27 years old and has posted a 937 OPS against southpaws over his career. Adding a left-handed bat to pair with him makes sense, even if it costs a bench spot.
At the top of my wish list is 30-year-old Matt Adams, who slugged 21 home runs in only 306 AB - and twenty of those came against right-handed pitching. ‘Nuff said. He costs about $8M. A backup plan is Lucas Duda (~$4M), who is 32 years old and posted a 813 OPS against right-handers last year.
I’ll tell you who I would’ve liked the second name to be: Joe Mauer. I wish him the best in his next career, but it’s a bummer that he is moving on when he was such a good fit for the Twins. He is cheap ($7M), gets on-base, good defensively, a veteran role model and hungry for the postseason. He would've been a nice fit.
Instead, I suspect the Twins could just hang onto Robbie Grossman who can be sort of a Joe Mauer Lite: he gets on base (.355 OBP over his career, .367 last year), is just 29 years old, can play outfield in a pinch, and most importantly for this list, is still relatively cheap (~$4M).
Those names likely will not generate any High Fives at your favorite watering hole, but such is the life of the bargain shopper. Tomorrow we'll look at two other markets that look promising as well: starting pitcher and relievers.
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