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Where Can the Twins Add the Most Value?

Spring training is scheduled to start in less than a month and the Twins have done minimal this winter. So, where can the Twins add the most value before the team reports to Florida?
Image courtesy of © Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
There holes left to fill on the Twins roster, but luckily for Twins fans, there are plenty of options still available. Here’s a look at three positions where Minnesota could add the most value. WAR total comparisons are from FanGraphs ZiPS projections for the 2021 season.

Designated Hitter
It’s ridiculous that the National League still doesn’t know if they will have a designated hitter in 2021. Teams are supposed to proceed as if there won’t be a NL DH, but it makes it tough for free agents like Nelson Cruz to know their market. Cruz and the Twins have been in contact throughout the off-season and the two parties seem like a natural match with the current DH market. However, there are other options for the Twins to consider.

If the Twins choose not to sign a DH, the organization’s options to fill the role are Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff. Rooker had an impactful debut before being hit with a pitch that ended his season. Kirilloff seems more likely to take over Rosario’s role in the outfield, but he could still get at-bats as the DH.

Marcell Ozuna represents Minnesota’s best chance to add the most value at DH. He’s a decade younger than Cruz and he is coming off a tremendous season in Atlanta. Obviously, his price tag is going to include a longer commitment and more money than Cruz. Michael Brantley is a different style hitter than Cruz and Ozuna, but he also offers more defensive flexibility than some of the other DH options.

Current DH Options: Rooker (0.5 WAR), Kirilloff (1.5 WAR)
Free Agent DH: Ozuna (3.6 WAR), Cruz (3.1 WAR), Brantley (2.9 WAR)

Back-End Starting Pitching
Minnesota’s top three starters are already penciled in with Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, and Michael Pineda. This means the club is looking for other options to fill out the back half of the rotation. In-house options like Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, and Jhoan Duran could eat innings in the fifth starter spot. However, the team likely doesn’t want to rely on those arms filling in back-end roles.

Minnesota isn’t going to spend the money it takes to sign Trevor Bauer, so the Twins are likely looking at the other names at the top of the free agent list. This includes Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Jake Odorizzi, Taijuan Walker, and Jose Quintana. ZiPS loves Dobnak so only the first three free agent pitchers would be an upgrade over him to the Twins rotation.

Current 4/5 Starters: Dobnak (1.5 WAR), Smeltzer (0.8 WAR), Thorpe (0.5 WAR), Duran (0.8 WAR)
Free Agent Starters: Paxton (2.7 WAR), Tanaka (2.3 WAR), Odorizzi (1.8 WAR), Walker (1.2 WAR), Quintana (1.3 WAR)

Infield Depth
The Twins need to add infield depth with Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianaza both becoming free agents. Throughout the offseason, there has been talk about moving Jorge Polanco to a super utility role and the Twins acquiring a better defensive shortstop. One option would be to trade for a shortstop with an expiring contract like Javier Baez or Trevor Story, but there are plenty of good free agent options still available that would allow the team to keep prospects.

If the Twins want a starting shortstop, there are clearly three players at the top of the free agent market. Andrelton Simmons, Didi Gregorius, and Marcus Semien are all very intriguing options and the idea of having Simmons and Donaldson on the same side of the infield is a defensive dream. Semien is projected is the only player projected for a higher WAR than Polanco. Other utility options include Jurickson Profar, Enrique Hernandez, and Tommy La Stella, but none of them are considered everyday shortstops.

Current SS/Utility Infielders: Polanco (2.8 WAR), Gordon (1.1 WAR), Miranda (0.8 WAR), Blankenhorn (-0.2 WAR)
Free Agent SS/Utility Players: Semien (3.9 WAR), Simmons (2.7 WAR), Gregorius (2.3 WAR), Profar (1.6 WAR), La Stella (0.7 WAR), Hernandez (0.6 WAR)

If the Twins want to add the most value, it looks like they should turn to Ozuna, Paxton, and Semien. That trio of players would likely come with a hefty price tag, so the Twins might have to be creative as they complete their roster.

Where do you think the Twins can add the most value? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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1] DH: I wouldn't be disappointed in Ozuna, but I really don't like the 4yr commitment. Part of the reason I like Cruz is the short term investment while Krilloff, Rooker and Larnach get their feet wet.

No Cruz? I like Brantley for 2yrs because he HITS, gets OB, has 20 HR and 40 Dbls power and can play a legitimate OF. He could hit 1-3 in this lineup and be very valuable.

2] SP: I like Paxton. I like that he's been very good when healthy. I like that he's LH.

I like Odorizzi better. Still can't understand what's so terrible about a really good and sometimes great #3/4 SP even if he is only good for 5-6 IP.

I also think there's going to be a TON of low cost fliers available late looking for an opportunity. Choose the right flier and you might find a #5 steal.

3] INF: With 3 excellent choices as a new SS, I don't see a trade for one. The question simply is, do the Twins want to make this move?

If they do, then make your choice, shuffle Polanco or Arraez around and then one of several cheap options that are still out there for an 11th man role. Example: Cabrera for $2-3M.

If you aren't going to make the big SS move, then make your choice for the 10th man role amongst the top choices, and then STILL sign that 11th man.

But make a decision!

4] BP: Rosenthal has a big arm and might be had for $7M. Yates might be as good or better and come cheaper at $5M. Soria and Clippard and a few others are still available for $2.5-3M. Just because the Twins aren't going to sign a $10M relief arm doesn't mean there isn't some quality and real value out there.
    • specialiststeve and Minny505 like this
Jan 19 2021 07:57 AM

Nice article Cody. I like Cruz for 2 years, Odorizzi for 3 years and Simmons for DEFENSE ( which will help our pitching) for 1 year.Hopefully the powers that be will then give SS to the # 1 draft pick and let him learn and sink or swim with Lewis. 

Jan 19 2021 08:25 AM

My choices would be to get Didi for a 2 year deal... very good defense and good offense... Simion "could" be a good bat but his defense is suspect. Simmons defense is great but offensively is not much to write home about. split the difference. Polanco goes to utility guy and has a better shot at staying healthy and productive. 


Cruz likely would like to come back ... if can figure it out fine. If not Brantley would be a great second choice and can step in - in the OF occasionally if needed. 


Pitching is the key here. Am still holding out for Gray out of Cincy but may settle for Gray out of Colorado in a trade. If going FA I would still like T. Walker as still fairly young and still has some good upside. At the 4/5 starter would be a good bet. 


We have been tied to several bigger name FA relievers and am still thinking the Twins will spend here as the value of a good bullpen in the modern game is huge. Hoping for one of Rosenthal or Colome. Others are out there and this "may" be the most important "get" .. Not sexy but huge in importance.... probably should have noted in the article.... 



It is an interesting winter ritual - check TD, see which pitchers and players off the best fit for the team have been signed or traded to another team.Adjust the lists and wait for the next move.  

Jan 19 2021 09:13 AM

I don't want Ozuna for four years if he's already going to be penciled in as the full time DH; I don't think it's wise to commit to that position for so long, you need some year-to-year flexibility there. Besides, it's likely that Sano and/or Donaldson are going to need that spot shortly.


Brantley is interesting because while people talk about him as a DH, he's still been primarily an outfielder and a capable one at that. It would be nice to be able to rotate some big bats through the DH spot regularly or as injury requires throughout the season.


I'll take just about any lotto ticket pitcher on a 1-2 year deal. Anyone who wants three or more can take a hike. I'm looking at you Odorizzi. I don't see any pitchers outside of Bauer that don't fall into that lotto ticket category.


I'm all for getting a utility infielder, or a full time SS to make Polanco a utility infielder. While conventional wisdom (well last century wisdom) says this spot is for a glove first player, I'm not interested in that. This team has shown it can put together some stout offenses, I'm not looking to take a step back by putting a weak bat into the lineup regularly. So Gregorius would probably be my first choice.

    • DocBauer likes this


My choices would be to get Didi for a 2 year deal... very good defense and good offense... Simion "could" be a good bat but his defense is suspect. Simmons defense is great but offensively is not much to write home about.  

Interesting perspective. I feel you've got it backward though. According to Statcast Outs-Above-Average, Gregorius and Polanco are exactly even over the last two seasons and they are poor defenders in the same way as well.

Using UZR to tip the scales, I'd actually prefer Polanco playing SS over Gregorius, providing their numbers stay consistent. Polanco is also 3 years younger, something that probably matters more at SS than any other position. 

Semien's mediocre defensive numbers are largely skewed by poor "to his right" numbers. Seeing as he has had the best defensive 3B alive playing to his right during that time, I can excuse him not making plays that are converted to outs by Chapman.

And of course, Simmons is probably the best fielding SS MLB has seen since Ozzie Smith. He hits LHP well and that is something the Twins need.

All contracts being equal, Semien is likely the best of the group and is a great fit, improving both the lineup and the defense. 

Simmons improves the defense the most and, while he struggles against RHP (Polanco can start 30% of those games), his bat against LHP will still be an asset.

Gregorius just seems redundant with Polanco in the field and in a lineup with plentiful LHB in Polanco(see splits), Arraez, Kepler, Kiriloff, Cave, and even Gordon, Blankenhorn, and Wade. 


Also, fantastic article Cody.

Good write up....

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