Twins Offseason Status Update: Slow Going
After signing reliever Hansel Robles for $2 million on Tuesday (more on that shortly) here's a snapshot of Minnesota's projected 2021 roster and payroll:
This accounting does not include the $5+ million that Kenta Maeda is likely to make in incentives, but even still, the Twins are a long way from the $138.3 million mark I had them pegged for in the final update last winter. (They ended up spending a prorated portion of that in the 60-game season.)
While it's generally believed that 2021 payroll will be down a shade, there have been no indications the Twins intend to scale back dramatically. They might not have $50 million to spend, but they've got absolutely got the means to make some noise.
They haven't yet. And that's hardly unique among major-league teams. But with spring training (ostensibly) less than two months away, and with the San Diego Padres lighting the Hot Stove afire this week, it's time to start getting serious.
Here's a rundown on the Twins, and where they stand on several fronts at year's end.
Hansel Robles Joins Back End of Bullpen
After non-tendering Matt Wisler and letting three key veteran right-handed relievers walk via free agency, the Twins finally made an offsetting addition on Tuesday, signing former Angels closer Hansel Robles to a one-year, $2 million deal plus incentives.
The nature of those incentives probably tells us something about how they plan (or hope) to use him.
Robles can earn bonuses based on how many games he finishes, all the way up to 40. This suggests the Twins will open a path for the 30-year-old to do so – presumably, by filling a role similar to Sergio Romo, and splitting closer duties with Taylor Rogers situationally.
That's not a bad bet for the Twins if they're confident Robles' abbreviated 2020 season was an anomaly, and he can get back to the form he showed in 2019 as an All-Star caliber bullpen weapon for the Angels. Robles has the stuff, headlined by an upper-90s fastball, and the Twins have a recent track record that inspires confidence. But this is hardly the kind of slam-dunk move that screams "ALL IN!" for a club seemingly on the cusp.
Is that yet to come?
Rumblings of a Shortstop Splash
Where there's smoke, there's often fire, and the flumes surrounding Minnesota's pursuit of an impact addition at shortstop are hard to ignore. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, who's as plugged in as any reporter covering the game, wrote recently about the possibility of a Twins trade for Francisco Lindor or Trevor Story (both those possibilities were discussed in our Trade Targets episode of Offseason Live).
Rosenthal mentioned another shortstop target for Minnesota: free agent Marcus Semien. More recently, KSTP's Darren Wolfson reported over the weekend of the Twins having "real interest" in Semien.
In the event they were to acquire a Semien or Story, it's unclear how the Twins would shift their existing pieces of accommodate. The simplest answer is moving Polanco into the utility role formerly occupied by Marwin Gonzalez. But Rosenthal also hinted at the idea of Minnesota trading Luis Arráez and moving Polanco to second. Something tells me this would be a tough sell for the fan base.
All Quiet on the Nelson Cruz Front
In many ways, Minnesota's offseason strategy appears to hinge on the Cruz decision. So far, there's been little known movement. He wants to wait to sign until MLB provides clarity on the DH rule for next year, but there's no sign of getting any in the immediate future. How long can the Twins wait, with their offseason plans mired in limbo?
Baldelli made his pitch to the free agent slugger during a media Zoom session earlier this month. "Nelson, if you're watching, which I know you're not, we'd love to see you in spring training, and I'll talk to you soon," he said into the camera with a grin.
Goofing around? Sure. But it felt like there was almost a knowingness to Baldelli's casual advance. I'm not saying the Twins and Cruz have a handshake agreement in place that any competing offer on a one-year contract will be matched ... but it wouldn't shock me if they did.
We'll keep covering the news here at Twins Daily as it arises. I hope everyone has a happy, safe and healthy New Year.
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