The Lost Ones
Releasing Ortiz sticks out as the singular worst decision in an overall highly respectable career for Terry Ryan as Twins GM. At the time, he was maneuvering to make room on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft. He ended up giving away a Hall of Fame player for nothing.
Now, this is NOT meant to be yet another lamentation of a move we've all heard more than enough about. But the point is this: Oftentimes, front office execs will be judged more by the great players they let get away than the good ones they bring aboard.
Entering their first full offseason at the helm, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have been doing some 40-man shuffling of their own, parting ways with several players (some of them long-tenured members of the organization) in order to free up room for the Hot Stove Season ahead.
Ortiz's still ghost lingers subtly, taking forms like Aaron Hicks and Anthony Swarzak. Will any of these new Lost Ones haunt the organization going forward? Let's examine each player who's been sent out, with a 1-5 score on the O.R.T.I.Z. (Odds of Regret due to Turnaround or Improvement... Zone) Scale, with Big Papi himself of course being an off-the-charts, beyond-a-5 case.
Chris Gimenez (outrighted)
To be honest, I thought there was a good chance Gimenez would be retained. He still might, I guess, but the Twins are letting him hit the market rather than bringing him back cheaply through arbitration. The 34-year-old was productive enough and genuinely seemed like an all-around asset – beloved in the clubhouse, sharer of knowledge, able to take the mound in a pinch.
I wondered if the Twins trusted Mitch Garver's glove enough to give him the sole backup job, and that still remains to be seen, but with John Ryan Murphy gone they'll certainly be casting a net for other high-level options. As for Gimenez, what we saw was his ceiling.
O.R.T.I.Z. Score: 1
Randy Rosario (claimed by Cubs)
Rosario is one of those cases where the international development timelines can sting you. The Twins signed him young, at 16, all the way back in 2010 and consequently had to add him to the 40-man roster young. Circumstances dictated that the Twins basically needed to make a decision on him already at 23, and with so little experience above the high minors, they couldn't afford to wait him out anymore.
The talent is there, and not hard to see, but he's too raw and uncertain to hold off a more usable piece. It wouldn't be surprising if he eventually became a late-inning weapon for Chicago.
O.R.T.I.Z. Score: 3
Michael Tonkin (signed with Nippon Ham Fighters of NPB)
The big flame-thrower got his chances in Minnesota. No one can deny him that. He made 141 appearances over three seasons and just never came close to replicating his mastery of Triple-A. Tonkin's two-year, $2.1 million deal in Japan is a wise move, and not just because he'll be earning twice what he'd expect here (and that's IF he made a 25-man roster).
A guy with 97-MPH heat to go along with a 9.2 K/9 rate in the majors and decent enough control is going to flat-out dominate as a closer in that league. We've seen plenty of embattled big-leaguers raise their stock overseas and that could very well happen here. Maybe he'll even come back to Minnesota in a couple of years, though I suspect that bridge is burned.
O.R.T.I.Z. Score: 2
Niko Goodrum (outrighted, signed with Tigers)
Gardy influence? Goodrum was snapped up quickly by Detroit after the Twins dropped him, and there is zero doubt that the new Tigers manager (along with his partially reassembled staff from Minnesota) had a say in it. Ron Gardenhire saw him plenty as a youngster around camp prior to departing, and his new QA coach Joe Vavra has more recent experience. But the upside here is extremely minimal; Goodrum has a .712 career OPS in the minors and struck out in 10 of 18 appearances with the Twins. The good-not-great versatile glove doesn't make up for the 25-year-old's shortcomings at the plate.
O.R.T.I.Z. Score: 1
Ryan O'Rourke (outrighted, signed with Orioles)
I have little doubt that O'Rourke has a future as a quality MLB reliever. He has reliably decimated left-handed hitters everywhere he's pitched, including the majors, and there's no reason to think he won't continue doing so after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the end of April.
He'll probably turn 30 (April 30th next year) before he pitches in the majors again, but likely has a lengthy career ahead of him in a game of increasingly specialized bullpens. One can argue that O'Rourke was worth keeping ahead of Buddy Boshers, but both are well behind the likes of Taylor Rogers and Gabriel Moya, and only one's healthy.
O.R.T.I.Z. Score: 2
Nik Turley (claimed by Pirates)
There's an enticing aura around Turley so it's not hard to see why the Pirates are taking a look at him. He last pitched with the Red Sox in 2016 before taking a detour through independent ball and then catching on with the Twins. During his time with Boston's Double-A affiliate, the big southpaw showed crazy stuff but was all over the place (48 K and 28 BB in 35 IP).
Turley's mind-bending curveball was back on display during his time in Chattanooga and Rochester this summer, helping him procure a 2.05 ERA and 124-to-29 K/BB in 92 innings, but he looked utterly overmatched in 10 appearances with the Twins.
I can see why they ran out of patience, but I do think there's something there. In an era where the curveball is becoming king, the 28-year-old has a future. I'm not going to say he's the best player on this list, but to me, he has the most O.R.T.I.Z. pain potential.
O.R.T.I.Z. Score: 4
Daniel Palka (claimed by White Sox)
In some ways, Palka resembles a young David Ortiz. He's a lefty slugger with immense power anyone can see, but he lacks a defensive position. Here's the thing, though: When the Twins released Ortiz at age 26 he had 58 homers and an .800 OPS in the big leagues. Palka, now 26, has yet to dominate Triple-A pitching.
In today's MLB, Palka's profile is simply not a commodity – evidenced enough by Oswaldo Arcia (ALSO 26) posting a 1.000 OPS in 100 games for Arizona's Class-AAA affiliate without ever getting a call-up. To become a long-term asset out of this mold, you've got to basically hit at an Ortiz-like level (or close to it) and well, that just doesn't happen.
The nothing-to-lose White Sox can afford to gamble on Palka figuring it out at the plate enough to harness his high-end pop, but the Twins have many more promising bats to vie for his vacant spot.
O.R.T.I.Z. Score: 2
To summarize, none of these Lost Ones seem likely to be Superstars. But we haven't heard the last of any of them.
- Cory Engelhardt, h2oface, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this