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Who Would Be on the Twins' Extended Roster and Taxi Squad?

Baseball's latest plan to return features a number of alterations designed to accommodate a shortened schedule and circumstances that are beyond unusual. Part of this reshaped framework (per CBS Sports): 30-man active rosters with a 20-man taxi squad for reinforcements.

What might an expanded short-season roster look like for the Minnesota Twins?
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Once we swim through the mountains of logistical hurdles involving health, safety, and finances, this is one of the practical matters I find most intriguing: Which players will be part of the 2020 season, either from the start or as readily available fill-ins?

We'll start with the obvious: the projected 26-man roster (per my final offseason status update, which was published approximately seven years ago).

Position Players: Mitch Garver, Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave, Alex Avila

Pitchers: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak.

Little has changed that would affect any of the above players' chances of making the team. But one new player might now be in the mix: Rich Hill, whose recovery from elbow surgery would've delayed a normal start. A season starting in July would line up with his expected return, and Hill believes he'll be ready to go.

Luckily, he doesn't need to supplant anyone else, since the Twins will have four extra active roster spots to work with. So presumably Hill gets one. As for the others, I would guess we'll see a couple more arms and one other position player. Something like Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Willians Astudillo.

The taxi squad is where things get interesting. First, with no minor-league seasons taking place, I'm wondering how these players stay sharp and ready for action. Regular scrimmages and sim games? Regardless, the makeup of such a player group will also be fascinating.

My initial thought was that the Twins start by carrying every spare piece on the 40-man roster. But that doesn't necessarily make sense. Are they really gonna want to dedicate spots to raw talents like Gilberto Celestino and Dakota Chalmers, who aren't especially close to getting big-league shots?

I would guess, at least, that these MLB-experienced or nearly-ready players from the 40-man will on the taxi squad: Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Sean Poppen, Fernando Romero, Lewis Thorpe, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade Jr.. That's eight.

Next, it is probably most instructive to look at the list of non-roster spring training invites from February. That list includes pitchers Charlie Barnes, Chacín (already in, per our projection), Sam Clay, Edwar Colina, Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Blaine Hardy (out for season), Griffin Jax, Jake Reed and Caleb Thielbar; and position players Juan Graterol, Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt, Tomás Telis, Royce Lewis, Jack Reinheimer, Wilfredo Tovar, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker.

The Twins will surely want at least a couple of extra catchers available, given the position's heightened injury risk and intensive physical toll. And of course they'll probably want to load up on pitchers to the extent they're able – especially with the likelihood of increased doubleheaders and decreased off days.

At this point it becomes very much a guessing game, but I'll wager the Twins want to lean mostly on experience and reliability at these positions, while mixing in a bit of prospect upside, so I'll go with...

Catchers: Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers

Pitchers: Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar

So now we're at 16 members of the 20-man taxi squad. Who fills those last four spots? Given that the Twins now have all their bases covered with multiple contingencies at every position, they might want to make a few of their very best prospects available as potential wild-cards for an all-in sprint. Then again, maybe not? This is where I really get stuck.

Do these prospects need to be added to the 40-man roster (or some expanded version) in order to feature on this taxi squad, thus starting their service clocks? If so, is it worth doing so just to keep them on hand as longshot possibilities to contribute? Is it even wise to push these crucial future talents into such an odd situation, as opposed to just letting them work out on their own and come back strong in 2021? But if that happens, do they not get paid at all? Is it a slap in the face?

There's also the matter of Michael Pineda. It seems he'll still be on suspension for the first part of the year. Does he require a "roster spot" on the taxi squad? Are those really even considered roster spots under any traditional definition? He's still occupying space and consuming the resources of any other player. (He's also not supposed to get paid during the suspension, so what happens with that? I assume he's not just gonna throw himself in harm's way for free.)

The litany of questions that begin to sprout up as you ponder these consequential factors is flat-out overwhelming, which is also true of MLB's daunting health-and-safety protocol at large. We'll need a lot more clarity before we can give serious credence to the very idea of a season happening, let alone how the Twins' roster will shake out.

But the specificity around roster sizes at least gives us the ability to speculate a little, which is more than welcome after weeks of being completely in the dark. Given our limited information, I'm gonna guess the Twins choose to preserve their three best prospects – Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach – but carry Rooker, along with the minor-league vets Tovar and Reinheimer. I'll also assume Pineda gets a taxi spot.

So here it is, my shot-in-the-dark guess at what a Twins 2020 roster and taxi squad might look like under the altered format. Feel free to air your quibbles and make your own guesses in the comments. (Active-roster players in bold.)

CATCHERS: Mitch Garver, Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo, Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers

INFIELDERS: Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, Wilfredo Tovar, Jack Reinheimer

OUTFIELDERS: Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave, LaMonte Wade Jr., Brent Rooker

PITCHERS: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Rich Hill, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Michael Pineda, Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Fernando Romero, Sean Poppen, Lewis Thorpe, Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar

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16 Comments

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ToddlerHarmon
May 20 2020 06:32 PM
If the taxi squad doesn't count for service time, Celestino, or Lewis, might be a good plan for an injury replacement for defensive center fielder. Cave and Wade can, but shouldn't. Kepler can, but then right field suffers. Similarly, Javier might be a consideration for shortstop defense.
    • mikelink45 likes this

Service time is a big consideration.But I also wonder where your top prospects will develop if they are not on the taxi squad.I think you have to include them so you do not lose a year development from Balazovich, Lewis, Larnach and Kiriloff

    • USNMCPO, mikelink45, Doctor Gast and 1 other like this

This is such an interesting topic. I had actually gone through this exercise a couple of nights ago for a possible article... I assumed a 29-man active roster, in part because that's what we've heard in the past, however, also because that is the number of players that the Twins kept on their active roster when they made their final demotions before leaving Ft. Myers. 

 

 

I also don't know how big a taxi squad would be. It could be 20 players, but then simulated games are more likely than any sort of games. If there are going to be games of some sort, maybe 25 or 30. But service time and injuries all factor in.

 

So, here's what I had:

 

Active:

Pitchers: Bailey, Berrios, Maeda, Odorizzi, Hill (IL) Duffey, Clippard, Littell, May, Rogers, Romo, Stashak, Wisler, Dobnak, Smeltzer, Chacin (16 + Hill)

Hitters: Garver, Avila, Astudillo, Sano, Arraez, Donaldson, Polanco, Adrianza, Rosario, Gonzalez, Buxton, Cave, Kepler, Cruz (14)

 

I think two things need to be considered: 1.) what if there is an injury, who would capablyfill the need best, and 2.) do you keep top prospects to keep them developing or keep veterans that can certainly help now.

 

So, if there's a limit, I start with the top prospects that are closest to MLB ready (40 man or not):

 

That's Jeffers, Blankenhorn, Gordon, Larnach, Lewis, Kirilloff, Wade, Rooker, Poppen, Alcala, Colina, Thorpe, Duran, Chalmers (14)

 

I think that all of them could be close enough to MLB ready to be a fine fall back. For instance, if they need a shortstop, would it be better to keep Royce Lewis of Jack Reinheimer? Well, first, Adrianza can play there. Second, Nick Gordon is pretty much at the point where it's make or break.If you need to go one level further, Lewis is going to be close and in a month or two might be ready. You can play that game with each of those 13 players. 

 

Now if you've got 7 spots left, what do you need to fill injury concerns? Well, arms are always good, and you have to have plenty of coverage. 

 

6 more spots: I add one more catcher, probably Tomas Telis over Juan Graterol or Ben Rortvedt). I think I'd include Ryan Garton, Cory Gearrin and Caleb Thielbar, and I'd put Jake Reed there too.

 

One more spot goes to..Jordan Balazovic. Why? Hey, he fits the 'prospect' status, for sure. He reached AA for a playoff start last year, and who knows, maybe the Twins will have a need in October, like Graterol was in 2019. 

    • mikelink45, DocBauer, gagu and 2 others like this

Maybe every team's taxi squad can play each other in Arizona. A few games a week, not too strenuous, no crowds...

    • DocBauer and Doctor Gast like this

Too many catchers - even for a position where more rest is needed they have Garver, Avila, Astudillo - add Jeffers and we are fine.  

 

The idea of having a large taxi squad is good if it provides enough for two teams and a couple intramural games a week for development and sharpness.So I would look at the make up of the squad to cover the positions and the pitching.If it is 20 players you have 16 position players and four arms.  

Will be interesting to see how many players will be on the 'taxi' squad and what they will be doing, presumably in Fort Myers. Could they scrimmage the Red Sox?

 

I don't see Lewis Thorpe not being on an expanded roster. As to who he replaces, I see either Chacin or Wisler.

 

Agree with Seth that the top prospects, Kirilloff, Larnach, Lewis and Balazovic will/should be on the Taxi squad. Also see Kirilloff as the player activated should Sano get banged up, which is likely to happen sometime during an 82-game season.

 

And speaking of baseball, isn't it interesting that other than the 67-page document of do's and don'ts, we have heard nothing about the negotiations. I assume they are ongoing and the fact there have been no leaks can only be good. Hopefully, we will soon hear that they have reached an agreement and it is going to a vote. If they are going to open spring training by June 10, they have to get it settled by the end of May which is ten days from today. 

    • Doctor Gast likes this
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Nick Nelson
May 21 2020 08:29 AM

 

Service time is a big consideration.But I also wonder where your top prospects will develop if they are not on the taxi squad.I think you have to include them so you do not lose a year development from Balazovich, Lewis, Larnach and Kiriloff

I see your point but ... is it really a "year of development"? I just have no idea what participation on this taxi squad is going to entail. 

    • DocBauer likes this
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Doctor Gast
May 21 2020 08:50 AM

I agree we have to have players that we need to continue to develop & also be available in a possible trade this year. So we need those players mentioned Balazovich, Lewis, Larnach and Kiriloffto be on that list.For extra catchers I`d go w/ Jeffers & maybe Rortvedt

For me, many of the questions about what the taxi squad is and how it works service time and transferring players needs to be answered before decisions can be made.I would agree having extra catcher or two.I would agree with load of pitchers.I would also think players that can play either premier defensive positions, CF and SS as well as utility players would serve best.I would shy away from offensive only players with limited defensive value, like Rooker.Unless Rooker shows he can rake at a level you are fine with negative defense, but when Buxton gets hurt, assuming he will, I would rather have someone that can defend center better than Kepler and let Kepler stay in RF.Even if this means a slightly less productive offense, we are pretty deep in that area losing our 9 hitter who is in for defense already we would want to replace for defense.  

    • DocBauer and Minny505 like this

Selfishly I prefer to have as many development minor leagues as possible and do without guys like Theilbar and Reinheimer. Only playing half a season I seriously doubt they would have an opportunity to hit the field. I also feel we are waiting our time with Romero and Jake Reed and would attempt to trade them. That would open up the roster for 4 more young players that we feel could one day make an impact. 

 

As for service time, can someone tell me what it take to start the clock. Does one or two games in the majors start the process. Will we be able to add a few in September like we used to and not start their clock?

 

I don't see Lewis Thorpe not being on an expanded roster. As to who he replaces, I see either Chacin or Wisler.

 

 

I think one question might be whether what happened in the original spring training matters at all or not. In Thorpe's case ,he was an obvious choice to send down, and he was sent down early, with the first group because he missed ten days and then had to almost restart. There was a dozen pitchers ahead of him at that time. Is all that just forgotten now and they use the very short proposed spring training 2 for trying out? I think they want to keep him extended, to make starts, so I think he's a taxi squad guy initially and kept building. I would think a guy like Poppen, or as I had guerrin, or as Nick had Garton, etc would be more likely a 16th or 17th pitcher. 

 

But, 40-man issues will need to be cleared up so that guys can be moved up and down. It could be confusing. 

    • rdehring likes this

 

Selfishly I prefer to have as many development minor leagues as possible and do without guys like Theilbar and Reinheimer. Only playing half a season I seriously doubt they would have an opportunity to hit the field. I also feel we are waiting our time with Romero and Jake Reed and would attempt to trade them. That would open up the roster for 4 more young players that we feel could one day make an impact. 

 

As for service time, can someone tell me what it take to start the clock. Does one or two games in the majors start the process. Will we be able to add a few in September like we used to and not start their clock?

 

Normally I agree, and in my comment above, I started with that premise as well because I do think they have to think long-term for the healthy of the organization. That said, they are also definitely in win now mode, and they should be. While I don't think that means Rheinheimer, I do think there is a place for a lefty-reliever who hits 94-95 and has a really good breaking ball... 

    • DocBauer likes this

 

For me, many of the questions about what the taxi squad is and how it works service time and transferring players needs to be answered before decisions can be made.I would agree having extra catcher or two.I would agree with load of pitchers.I would also think players that can play either premier defensive positions, CF and SS as well as utility players would serve best.I would shy away from offensive only players with limited defensive value, like Rooker.Unless Rooker shows he can rake at a level you are fine with negative defense, but when Buxton gets hurt, assuming he will, I would rather have someone that can defend center better than Kepler and let Kepler stay in RF.Even if this means a slightly less productive offense, we are pretty deep in that area losing our 9 hitter who is in for defense already we would want to replace for defense.  

 

I was really going back and forth about whether or not to have Celestino on the taxi squad. After reading this, I might. He's easily the #2 defensive CF in the organization. I don't know that he would hit at all... but that's the kind of guy that you really want to keep getting ABs for too. So, I might go Celestino too. 

    • Minny505 likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
May 21 2020 01:53 PM

 

I see your point but ... is it really a "year of development"? I just have no idea what participation on this taxi squad is going to entail. 

one would think they have to be playing games. I woudln't be surprised if west coast teams station their squads in AZ while East coast teams use the FL facilities... I could see them clustered in an area near a decent airport with a couple games a week via short bus rides.. 

    • DocBauer and gagu like this

Will we have an announcement tonight or in the morning, answering these questions and telling us they are putting the finishing touches on a deal and an announcement is imminent?Or do we have to wait another day?

 

 

Guess I'm going to end up echoing allot of things already pondered here. The Twins are absolutely in WIN NOW mode and they have to keep some AAA guys around who can "come up" from the taxi squad to fill in as needed, whether they are in Minnesota or Florida. And somehow,some way, those guys need to PLAY, scrimmages or whatnot. They can't just have bullpens and batting practice and stay sharp.

I'm still hoping for some sort of limited or very limited type of milb season/set up where they can play other teams, even if it has a but of a pickup game feel to it.

I would need to sit down with pen and paper to make a list as to who I might select for that taxi squad, but I think the original 30 man roster is easy to figure out. I don't think you necessarily need 3 reserve catchers, however, when you will already have 3 on the ML roster. Two probably works fine. But do you include Jeffers in that 2?

And to me that begins the biggest issue. Can the Twins, or anyone, really afford to have members of their top 10-ish prospects that are a season or potentially half a season away just sit for a year? If there really and truly is no form of milb season, no MLB version of a "Cape Cod" league or modified EST, etc, then how does that affect 2021 and beyond for all teams when guys lose an entire season?

It's debatable how much, if at all, Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach, Jeffers, etc, would be needed or able to contribute this year if they are placed on the taxi squad. But if they are, they could still get valuable developmental time. But then again, does that screw up their service time? Not to mention 40 man implications for next offseason.

What if you're a team like the Tigers...sorry to pick on your team Gardy...and you realistically have nothing to play for in 2020? You might as well load up your 50 man total roster with all the young talent you can to get them as much development and experience as you can to jump start 2021. Kind of an unfair advantage toward building your roster going forward.

40 man restrictions need to be thrown out the window with some sort of negated or prorated service time. Taxi squads need to play in some format. And the entire milb system needs to be addressed to SOME degree. Players need SOME sort of pay, losses be damned as they are part of each organization, and SOME sort of short season needs to be implemented later this summer or fall for ALL of milb just for development. Make some sort of Cactus/Grapefruit league work for a couple months at facilities even for a couple months. Considering the locations involved, you could even do so after the ML season. Call it an Americanized version of the winter leagues.

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