The 10 Best Twins Targets Among Remaining Free Agents
Image courtesy of Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY SportsThese rankings take into account the likely price it'll cost to land the free agent in question. If that were not a factor, I'd have guys like Trevor Bauer and Marcell Ozuna at the top. But all things considered, I'm not especially interested in paying Bauer $35 million annually, or committing to Ozuna for three-plus years, so they don't make the cut.
Instead, I went with players that I see as strong fits for the Twins' needs – in terms of the roster, payroll, and overall team-building strategy. Here are my picks, with quick explanations. (Contract estimates via MLB Trade Rumors.) Let's hear yours in the comments.
1. Jurickson Profar, UTIL
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $7 million
The Twins need to add an impact player in the super-utility role vacated by Marwin González. Generally speaking, my preference would to bring in a new shortstop and slide Jorge Polanco into that role. Unless Minnesota can go and get Jurickson Profar.
Functionally, he's a great match. Profar can play second base, left field, third, first, and even short in a pinch (he came up as a shortstop originally). He's a switch-hitter who doesn't strike out much. Most importantly, he seems to be in a state of ascent. The former No. 1 prospect in baseball has been a late bloomer, once considered a bust, but has improved dramatically since arriving in the majors at age 19, and is coming off a career year with the Padres. He turns 28 in February, so he could theoretically become a key part of Minnesota's prime-aged nucleus. I don't think he'll be as cheap as MLBTR projects, but would love to see the Twins land him on a multi-year deal at a similar AAV.
2. Jake Odorizzi, SP
Estimated Contract: 3 years, $39 million
Aside from Bauer, I'm not convinced any remaining free agent starting pitchers are better than a healthy Jake Odorizzi. That's before you account for the familiarity with a coaching staff that helped the righty unlock his potential and reach the All-Star Game.
The Twins need another starting pitcher that at least matches the level of their current top three. Odorizzi checks that box, warranting a "playoff starter" designation, and he's only 30. In 2019, the Twins went 21-9 in his turns. While his 2020 was an injury-ruined mess, there's not much reason to think the health woes will carry forward.
Odorizzi could be viewed as the safe and unsexy free agent addition, but I'm not sure why Twins fans would feel that way after seeing what he did two seasons ago. His upside as a borderline ace is hardly theoretical.
3. James Paxton, SP
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $10 million
There are several intriguing reclamation projects in the starting pitching pool, but Paxton does more for me than others. Though he missed most of 2020 with a flexor strain issue, the lefty reportedly was flashing mid-90s in a December throwing session, and for a 32-year-old his arm has relatively little mileage (750 IP in the majors).
Prior to last year, Paxton was a reliable frontline starter, bringing dominant stuff from the left time. He carries his fair share of risk, as someone who's never thrown even 170 innings in a season, but for that reason buying into his potential should be relatively affordable.
Plus, the last time he pitched at Target Field a freaking bald eagle landed on his shoulder. If that's not a sign that his future here is written in fate ... I dunno.
4. Andrelton Simmons, SS
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $12 million
If the Twins are going to add a new starting shortstop, Simmons is easily my favorite option on the free agent market. While the buzz around Marcus Semien is not unexciting, Simmons feels like the safer bet, with a more consistent offensive track record and unparalleled defensive rep. It's hard to overstate the value of having the best fielder in the sport at the most critical position on the diamond.
Simmons seems likely to accept a shorter-team deal, which is ideal for the Twins as they spend a year or two assessing what they have in Royce Lewis.
5. Nelson Cruz, DH
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $16 million
We all know what Nelson Cruz is capable of bringing to the table. We've seen it fully on display over the past two seasons. He has been, by some measures, the second-best hitter in baseball behind Mike Trout, and it's hard to ask for anything more in a DH and No. 3 hitter. The problem of course is that Cruz turns 41 in July and wasn't healthy down the stretch.
There's no question that the veteran slugger is valuable to the Twins, both as a thunderous bat in the lineup's No. 3 spot and a cherished leader in the clubhouse. But at this point, the downsides – high regression and injury risks, combined with clogging up the DH spot on a team that could use some flexibility there – weigh heavily enough to keep him from being a top priority in my eyes.
6. Trevor Rosenthal, RP
Estimated Contract: 2 years, $14 million
On the one hand, it's generally unadvisable to spend big bucks on free agent relievers. On the other hand, the Twins' bullpen is running quite low on proven high-end arms, with both incumbent closer Taylor Rogers and newly signed Hansel Robles looking to bounce back from tough seasons. The loss of Trevor May and his dominant stuff will be felt in this unit, but Trevor Rosenthal could help negate it. (And not just by refilling the "Trevor" quotient.)
Rosenthal is coming off a stellar campaign, in which he posted a 1.90 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. He throws in the high 90s and can touch 100. He's one of the league's top strikeout pitchers. Adding him into Minnesota's late-inning mix alongside Rogers, Robles and Tyler Duffey would be a transformative upgrade, greatly lessening the pressure on inexperienced Jorge Alcala to step up in big spots right away.
I know some folks fancy Brad Hand for similar reasons, but count me out on him. He's not a great fit in this bullpen functionally to begin with, and moreover, there's something deeply concerning to me about every team in the majors passing up his one-year, $10 million commitment on waivers at a time where Liam Hendriks can score $54 million guaranteed.
7. Kirby Yates, RP
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $5 million
Much like starting pitching, the free agency market is teeming with interesting rebound candidates with glossy track records. If I'm putting my money on one it is Yates, who offers Hendriks-like upside if healthy and should come at something like 10% of the cost.
Instead of making a drawn-out case for the former Padre, I'll simply list his 2019 stats and let you salivate at the thought of adding anything approaching his peak form to the Twins bullpen: 60.2 IP, 1.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 2 HR, 15.0 K/9, 1.9 BB/9.
8. José Quintana, SP
Estimated Contract: 2 years, $18 million
The argument for José Quintana is simple: he's a highly accomplished veteran who raises the rotation's floor. Although a lat injury and thumb laceration limited him to 10 innings in 2020, he'd previously been incredibly durable, making making 31-plus starts and totaling more than 170 innings in seven straight years. He has posted an above-average ERA+ in eight of nine MLB seasons.
It's been a while since Quintana has been credibly viewed as a rotation-fronter, but the Twins don't necessarily need one. The left-hander would bring steady stability, and at age 32 a late-career renaissance doesn't seem out of the question.
9. Kiké Hernández, UTIL
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $7 million
Many words have been written on why Kiké Hernández is a nice fit for the Twins, and I won't rehash them too much. In short, his defensive versatility, ability to hit left-handed pitching, and experience on a perennial contender and reigning World Series champ all align nicely with Minnesota's circumstances.
The reason I don't have him higher on this list is that I'm just not convinced Hernández is all that great of a player. His OPS+ has been lower than 90 in three of the past five seasons and he has only once posted an fWAR higher than 1.5 in the big leagues. I see him more as a fallback option if the Twins miss out on Profar, or a nice asset as the secondary utility piece, rather than being a highly desirable target to fill the Marwin role.
Note that the contract estimate above is my own, since MLBTR didn't have Hernández listed. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets less.
10. Tyler Clippard, RP
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $3 million
Rounding out the list, another player who I see as more of a complementary fit as opposed to a primary target. It'd be disappointing if Clippard was the most prominent remaining addition to this bullpen, but it would also be a little disappointing if he isn't added. He was just so incredibly useful for the 2020 Twins, and the cost to bring him back should be negligible (this, again, is my own estimate since MLBTR didn't list him).
Now that May has signed elsewhere, Clippard, Cruz and Odorizzi are the only Twins free agents that I'm particularly keen on bringing back.
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
- alphanumeric, dbminn, ToddlerHarmon and 3 others like this