Twins Face 2 Pivotal Decisions in Arbitration
On Tuesday night's episode of Offseason Live, I talked through each of the Twins' arbitration-eligible players with Matt Braun and Matthew Trueblood. You can watch it below, or keep scrolling for a written breakdown.
We know for sure that these seven players are eligible for arbitration:
- Mitch Garver, C (1st year of of 3)
- Tyler Duffey (2 of 3)
- Matt Wisler (2 of 3)
- Jose Berrios (2 of 3)
- Taylor Rogers (3 of 4)
- Byron Buxton (3 of 4)
- Eddie Rosario (3 of 3)
We're not sure about Caleb Thielbar. His service time puts him right on the border of Super 2 status, but that's a murky line as is, made only cloudier by this shortened season. If he is arbitration-eligible for the first time, he is in line for about $1 million, and a no-brainer to bring back.
Here's a look at the respective situations of the other seven players (2020 salaries based on full season, 2021 salary estimates via Twins Daily's guesses and those posted at MLB Trade Rumors):
Mitch Garver, C
1st year of 3 in Arbitration
2020 Salary: $600K
Key Stat: Career .275/.371/.522 hitter versus left-handed pitchers.
Arbitration Salary Estimates: Twins Daily: $2M | MLBTR: $1.9M
The Lowdown: As he enters arbitration for the first time, Garver's price will be kept in check coming off a lost season. Despite his discouraging campaign, keeping the 2019 Silver Slugger around next year is clearly a no-brainer at this price point, barring a trade. His ability to hit southpaws (which endured through his struggles in 2020, as he stilled slashed .304/.385/.435 vs. LHP) is particularly valuable. At this point it seems likely he'll head into next season slated for a 50/50 timeshare with Ryan Jeffers at catcher.
Tyler Duffey, RP
2nd Year of 3 in Arbitration
2020 Salary: $1.2M
Key Stat: Ranks 4th among MLB relievers in fWAR since 2019 All-Star break.
Arbitration Salary Estimates: TD: $2.5M | MLBTR: $2.6M
The Lowdown: Duffey was the Twins' best reliever and one of the best relievers in the American League, so he should at least double his 2020 salary in arbitration. Still, at somewhere in the range of $2.5 to $3 million, he'll be a tremendous bargain. With free agency only two years away, this might be an opportune time for the Twins to pitch his agent on an extension.
Matt Wisler, RP
2nd Year of 3 in Arbitration
2020 Salary: $725K
Key Stat: 1.07 ERA and 12.4 K/9 in first year with Twins (25.1 IP)
Arbitration Salary Estimates: TD: $1.5M | MLBTR: $1.8M
The Lowdown: The Twins claimed Wisler off waivers last offseason, seeing promise in his slider, and were rewarded to the fullest. He threw that pitch a career-high 83% of the time in his first season as a Twin, and completely dominated with it, holding opponents to a .143/.141/.221 slash line. It was the nastiest pitch on the Twins and one of the nastiest in baseball. Due to his lack of a track record prior to 2020, Wisler will still be quite cheap – likely under $2 million. Obviously he's back, though it's worth wondering how highly the Twins are prepared to slot him in the bullpen hierarchy.
José Berríos, SP
Year 2 of 3 in Arbitration
2020 Salary: $4.025M
Key Stat: Since his debut on April 27th, 2016, only 11 MLB pitchers have logged more innings than Berríos.
Arbitration Salary Estimates: TD: $7.5M | MLBTR: $7.5M
The Lowdown: Durability has been Berríos' calling card as an MLB starter, and it shined through again in 2020 as he made a team-leading 12 starts. He took a bit of a step backward performance-wise (4.00 ERA and 1.32 WHIP were both the highest since his rookie year in 2016), but not enough to prevent him from getting a hefty raise. With free agency approaching at the end of 2022, the Twins are running out of leverage in extension talks, but they've had a hard time finding traction in those discussions during the past couple winters.
Byron Buxton, CF
Year 3 of 4 in Arbitration
2020 Salary: $3.075M
Key Stat: Since start of 2018, Twins are 102-52 (.662) with Buxton, and 113-117 (.491) without.
Arbitration Salary Estimates: TD: $6M | MLBTR: $5.9M
The Lowdown: Durability has ... not been Buxton's calling card. He's been one of the biggest difference-makers in the game when on the field over the past three years, but has missed about 60% of the team's games during that span. The 2020 season, like most others, ended with Buxton injured and unable to play. This both diminishes his earning power in arbitration, and complicates the long-term picture. Can the Twins afford to go all-in on him when he has so consistently proven unable to stay healthy? Will his injury history make him more open to the security of a contract extension?
Taylor Rogers, RP
Year 3 of 4 in Arbitration
2020 Salary: $4.45M
Key Stat: In 2018 & 2019, ranked 4th among MLB relievers in fWAR and 6th in WPA. In 2020, ranked 33rd and 169th (out of 173).
Arbitration Salary Estimates: TD: $7M | MLBTR: $6.9M
The Lowdown: For several years, Rogers was as good as it gets. He was a shutdown bullpen reliever, and essentially match-up proof, consistently coming through in the clutch to rank as one of the game's best high-leverage performers. In late 2019, that started to change, and this year the negative trend continued. His 2020 numbers weren't all that bad, on the surface – 4.05 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 6.00 K/BB ratio, just two home runs allowed – but Rogers was not a dependable back-end arm. And while there's a good chance he bounces back, the pricetag of around $7 million is quite high, especially with the Twins (probably) scaling back payroll and looking for cost savings.
Eddie Rosario, LF
Year 3 of 3 in Arbitration
2020 Salary: $7.75M
Key Stat: Ranks 98th out of 128 qualified MLB players in fWAR since start of 2019.
Arbitration Salary Estimates: TD: $10M | MLBTR: $12.9M
The Lowdown: We were a little more conservative on Rosario's salary estimate than MLBTR, who foresees him making nearly $13 million in his final year of arbitration. At either number, it's going to be tough to justify keeping Rosario around. While he's been a reliable source of home runs and RBIs, he rates as a roughly average player overall, with poor defense and declining speed offsetting much of the (checkered) value he offers at the plate. Given the presence of multiple cheap replacement options – including Alex Kirilloff, who successfully debuted in the playoffs – it's tough to imagine the Twins keeping Rosario around ... unless they can non-tender him and reach agreement on a lower number.
Would you keep Rosario and/or Rogers around at the heightened price tags? Where do you stand with the other arbitration-eligible players and contract extension candidates? Weigh in below.
You can tune into the next Offseason Live broadcast via Twins Daily's Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube page. It'll be an interactive show where viewers help steer the conversation via comments and questions. You'll also be able to watch the replay tomorrow here on the site, or via audio by subscribing to our podcast.
In the meantime, check out previous episodes of Offseason Live and see what's upcoming:
- Ep 1: Twins Offseason Jeopardy! (Thurs, 10/8)
- Ep 2: Projecting the Twins’ 2021 Payroll (Tues, 10/13)
- Ep 3: Stay or Go? Twins Impending Free Agents (Thurs, 10/15)
- Ep 4: Twins Arbitration Decisions (Tues, 10/20)
- Ep 5: Free Agency – Catchers & Infield (Thurs, 10/22)
- Ep 6: Free Agency – Outfield & DH (Tues, 10/27)
- Ep 7: Free Agency – Starting Pitchers (Thurs, 10/29)
- Ep 8: Free Agency – Relief Pitchers (Thurs, 11/5)
- Ep 9: Twins Trade Targets (Tues, 11/10)
- Ep 10: Offseason Blueprints (Thurs, 11/12)
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