Twins Mailbag: Extensions, 2020 Line-Up, Darvish, Ohtani
Image courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA Today SportsQuestion 1
Here at Twins Daily, some of the writers ran through the gamut of extension options. Young players like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano or Jose Berrios could be offered deals that buy out some of their free agent years. Veteran players like Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier will see their contracts expire at the end of 2018. This puts the Twins in an interesting spot.
Dozier has clearly become the heart and soul of the team over the last couple of seasons. I think the new front office values his veteran leadership. For the Twins to find success, there needs to be the right combination of young and veteran players. This is similar to the model followed by Houston this year.
If I were the Twins front office, I start with a Dozier deal. Much like Seth discussed, I would shoot for a four-year, $65 million deal with an option that could make it a five-year, $73 million deal. Buxton is the other player with whom I would try and start extension talks. I think his value is going to boom over the next couple of seasons. Getting out in front of that could be a wise decision even with his wall-crashing antics.
Nick Gordon seems to be well on his way to making his big league debut. He spent all of 2017 at Double-A and helped the Lookouts claim a share of the Southern League Championship. Gordon has to be added to the 40-man roster before the 2018 Rule 5 Draft. If he plays like he did this season, he will be a September call-up in 2018.
Tyler Jay is a more interesting case. After being drafted with the intention of turning him into a starter, Jay is focusing on being a relief pitcher. He made only eight appearances in 2017 after being evaluated for, but not officially diagnosed with, thoracic outlet syndrome. This is the same type of condition that plagued Phil Hughes in 2017. If Jay is healthy, I would expect to see him at the big league level in 2018.
Alex Kirilloff missed all of 2017 following Tommy John surgery. This put a little damper on his path to the big leagues. In last year’s prospect handbook, we pegged him for a mid-season 2019 debut. Following a missed season, I will push that back and look for an early 2020 debut. Royce Lewis is good and I think he will take the fast track to the big leagues. It wouldn’t surprise me if he beat Kirilloff to Target Field.
With free agency and other factors, it’s hard to project out to 2020. If I’m using internal options, here are my projected 2020 Twins Opening Day starters:
C: Mitch Garver, 1B: Miguel Sano, 2B: Nick Gordon, SS: Royce Lewis, OF: Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, DH: Brian Dozier
If you look at my answer above, I would sign a deal with Dozier to keep him in Minnesota through at least 2022. There would be an option for 2023 when he would be entering his age-36 season. If he stays healthy this entire season and hits free agency, he might be able to get more money on the open market. I think he likes Minnesota and he has quickly become a fan favorite. He will be entering free agency as a 32-year old so he isn’t likely to get more than a four year contract offer.
Minnesota doesn’t have much money committed beyond the 2019 season and a lot of the team’s young core will be due raises in the coming years. I like Dozier to be the veteran presence in a developing line-up. He should start and finish his career in a Minnesota Twins uniform.
Now this is a loaded question. Right-handed pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jake Odorizzi both come with two years of team control remaining. Both pitchers are coming off down years which could be good from the Twins perspective. The Pirates might not be openly shopping Cole but there’s nothing to say they wouldn’t listen to a good offer. The Rays might be pushed up against their payroll and they could be looking for some flexibility. This could make Tampa more willing to deal.
I feel like there are few untouchable prospects in the Twins farm system. Royce Lewis might be the lone player I would categorize as untouchable. That being said, I think Nick Gordon would have to be at the center of a package for these pitchers. A top level pitcher would also likely be needed to add to the mix. Some names could be Fernando Romero or Lewis Thorpe. Eddie Rosario is another name I would throw into a potential deal.
It's going to take more prospects than fans will be happy about but the Twins front office has an opportunity in front of them. With last year’s playoff appearance, the team’s timeline was pushed up. Sano, Buxton and Berrios have a small window of team control and it could be time to pounce.
Minnesota’s front office has made it clear that they will be aggressive this off-season. Yu Darvish is at the top of their free agent list. It’s no secret that he is going to command quite the contract. The Twins need pitching but I don’t know if Darvish will be worth the total he is going to command. It might be in the Twins best interest to find more cost-effective options with some upside. That being said, I think the front office wants to make a splash and that could mean spending big on Darvish.
Shohei Otani is another intriguing name. The Twins also have more money in their international spending pool after voiding the contract of Jelfrey Marte. However, Otani doesn’t seem to care exclusively about money. He could wait until next off-season and be a free agent which would mean a lot more money in his pocket. My guess is that he ends up on the West Coast or in a bigger market on the East Coast.
I think the Twins will attempt to go after both Darvish and Otani. I think the chances are better of landing Darvish because of his connections to Thad Levine’s time in Texas. Some think a team could find a way to land both players as a package deal. However, I don’t think the likelihood of landing either is very high.
Thanks to all those that submitted questions. Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion on any of the topics mentioned above.