Offseason Underway: Twins Make Flurry of Moves
Image courtesy of David Berding-USA TODAY SportsNELSON CRUZ 2020 OPTION ACTIVATED
This barely qualifies as news. Activating the ultra-reasonable $12 million club option on Cruz was a total no-brainer, and the club's intention had already been announced via media reports. Nevertheless, it's now official: Boomstick is back.
MARTIN PEREZ 2020 OPTION DECLINED
Around the middle of May, the decision to activate Perez's team option in 2020 looked about as obvious Cruz's does now. Through his first eight starts he put up a 2.17 ERA, pairing a standout cutter with eye-catching fastball velocity, but it was all downhill from there. He posted a 6.17 ERA the rest of the way and was left off the ALDS roster.
The Twins are exercising a $500,000 buyout on the southpaw's $7.5 million option for next year, so he'll enter free agency.
I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Perez coming back on a one-year deal as a reliever (lefty batters hit just .228/.291/.294 against him this year), but the Twins clearly need to aim higher for the rotation.
QUALIFYING OFFER EXTENDED TO JAKE ODORIZZI
Coming off a breakthrough season, Odorizzi is poised to hit the open market, but the Twins now have an inside track on retaining him. By making him one of 10 free agents to receive a qualifying offer, the Twins have placed the ball in Odorizzi's court – he can either accept a one-year deal worth $17.8 million, or reject it and negotiate with other teams. Should he sign elsewhere, Minnesota will receive valuable draft pick compensation. Should he find the market underwhelming with this stipulation, the Twins gain leverage as the only team that won't lose a pick by signing him. Carl Pavano's 2010-11 offseason exemplifies such a scenario.
It really could go either way with Odorizzi. On the one hand, $17.8 million is a lot of money (especially for a guy who's made around $20 million total in his MLB career), and accepting the QO would enable him to hit free agency unencumbered next winter. On the other hand, he's coming off an All-Star season, and he's still under 30. This might be his best chance to shop himself and score a career-making payday. If his market isn't hot, I assume the Twins would be amenable to a longer deal that makes sense for both sides (we suggested three years, $36 million in the Offseason Handbook). Either outcome puts the team in a favorable position. Odorizzi has 10 days to decide.
Michael Pineda was not extended a qualifying offer, so he'll head to free agency with no hindrance other than the 39-game ban carrying over from this year.
STEPHEN GONSALVES CLAIMED BY METS
Minnesota tried to sneak the lanky left-handed pitching prospect through waivers, but weren't so lucky. Though his entire 2019 season was basically washed out by elbow issues, Gonsalves – Twins Daily's No. 4 prospect as recently as spring of 2018 – has a 2.50 ERA and 9.6 K/9 rate in the minors. He showed some intriguing signs during an altogether inconspicuous MLB debut last year. It's a bummer to lose him for nothing.
But it's also not a shocking or controversial call by the front office. The elbow issues are concerning and likely to linger. Even beyond that, there have always been questions about the viability of his middling fastball against big-league hitters. Turning 26 next season, he isn't young by prospect standards.
There's certainly a chance the Twins could live to regret this, but they can mitigate that risk by aggressively pursuing high-caliber arms to replace Gonsalves and his enduring promise.
KOHL STEWART OUTRIGHTED, ELECTS FREE AGENCY
And there goes one of the most painful busts in franchise history. Drafted with the No. 4 overall pick in 2013, at a time where the Twins desperately needed a transcendent pitcher to reverse their sagging fortunes, Stewart never developed into anything more than a mediocre sinkerballer, incapable of missing bats or consistently throwing strikes anywhere above rookie ball. He departs Minnesota with a 4.79 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 62 big-league innings.
Stewart isn't totally hopeless. He's still only 25 and a very good athlete. His outstanding ability to induce grounders is a building-block skill. Maybe a change of scenery will turn him around but the Twins could no longer justify giving him a 40-man spot.
CATCHING COORDINATOR POACHED BY YANKEES
Amidst this flurry of roster maneuvering, it was a non-player personnel move that hit me hardest today. Per Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne, Twins catching coordinator Tanner Swanson is leaving the club to join the Yankees (UGH) as Major League Catching and Quality Control Coach.
I've always heard good things about Swanson. My appreciation for him grew upon reading Parker's excellent spring training feature on his efforts to refine Mitch Garver's receiving technique, only to be crystallized as I saw those efforts pay off magnificently during the summer. Swanson is the real deal, and another tough loss in a young offseason that has already seen Minnesota lose hitting coach James Rowson and minor-league hitting coordinator Pete Fatse.
If there's any silver lining to be found in this scavenging by rivals, it's that having baseball powerhouses like Boston and New York hiring out of your ranks says a lot about your eye for talent. The Twins' newly reassembled baseball ops unit is becoming a hotbed, and that's about the highest praise you could give Derek Falvey as he enters his third year on the job.
(Speaking of which, let's us all just breathe a sigh of relief that Minnesota has evidently missed the biggest potential bullet: I wondered openly if the Red Sox would come calling on Falvey to replace fired GM Dave Dombrowski – turns out they did, and he said no.)
How are you feeling about this smattering of moves to kick off Twins' offseason? Anything you'd have done differently? Sound off in the comments.
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