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Will Twins Double Down on Extension Excellence?

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 12 November 2019 · 881 views

minnesota twins max kepler jorge polanco jose berrios miguel sano
It hasn’t quite been a year, and unfortunately, we aren’t yet to the point of embarking upon Fort Myers for Spring Training, but the Minnesota Twins signed Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco to contract extensions last offseason. Both deals felt incredibly team friendly at the time, but Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. already had preconditioned us for those feelings. Now after the first season into their extensions with the Twins, Kepler and Polanco have already paid for themselves.

For two straight seasons the Twins were looking for Kepler to take the next step forward. First, he didn’t hit lefties, and then he didn’t hit righties. After toiling to the tune of a low .700 OPS for his first three big league seasons, the German native broke out with an .855 OPS in 2019. His 36 home runs nearly surpassed the previous two seasons combined, and he took on a bigger role than one may have ever predicted.

Like his teammate and extension partner, Jorge Polanco finally arrived as well. There were glimpses of the bat, and that was always his calling card, but inconsistent playing time over his first three years didn’t result in ideal production. Getting into 153 games during 2019, Polanco parlayed the exposure into an .841 OPS that was only watered down by some late season slumping. He finished with a .295 average and was in contention for a batting title through June.

When the dust settled Kepler had accumulated 4.4 fWAR which Fangraphs estimates being worth $35.3 million. Polanco posted a 4.0 fWAR, valuing his production at $32.3 million. Both players, in the first years of their $35 and $25 million extensions respectively, outproduced the total contract valuation. It’s that sort of performance that Minnesota was undoubtedly hoping for when offering up both deals, and although Polanco’s sagged in part because of a previous suspension, the reward was an immediate payday in exchange for belief of future production.

This offseason the Twins opportunities are less certain. Miguel Sano looks the part of a star slugger, but his defensive acumen leaves much to be desired. Derek Falvey could instead choose to go year-to-year on that type of player, leaving the flexibility to move on if and when things hit the skids. Eddie Rosario is a power hitter that does little else at the plate, and he looks more destined to be jettisoned than act as a future cog in this wheel. It’s Jose Berrios that’s most desirable to lock down, but does a guy knocking on the door of the upper tier really want to give away his earning potential?

Then there’s the case of Byron Buxton, a transcendent talent that only remains in the way of himself. Injury has cost him time on the field, and that’s really been the only downfall over the course of his career. Even when the offense lagged behind the exceptional fielding, he was so good in center that it allowed for his lackluster production at the plate to be overlooked. If there’s any sort of belief in keeping him on the field consistently, then 2019 was the embodiment of a turned corner and complete player ready to blast off. Like Berrios, Buxton has plenty of future earnings at stake here, but the injury situation could cloud the future before it ever arrives.

Minnesota’s front office made conscious decisions when it came to wrapping up foundational pieces last offseason, and they nailed both. They’ll have similar opportunities this time around, and being flush with cash, there’s little reason for them not to support the belief in their own assessments. These things take two sides to consummate any action, but the Twins certainly would love to come up on the winnings side in year one for the second season in a row.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • Oldgoat_MN likes this



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SgtSchmidt11
Nov 14 2019 03:25 PM

I like the argument, but the Fangraphs $$$'s are laughable.WAR isn't worth 8 MM a year.Mike Trout is going to make 36 MM next year. 

 

Max Kepler is a great player, but he isn't worth Mike Trout money.

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Kelly Vance
Nov 15 2019 07:40 PM

WAR and other stats, like BABIP or BARISP need to be understood for what they are.They don't define a player. They are just tools that show a measurable fact in a certain very limited situation. WAR, over a season tells you a guy got some hits, but the stat doesn't say when he got them.

 

BARISP is better for that. It tells you what a guys production is with runners on second and third. But that doesn't tell you what his slugging percentage is. 

 

And so on and so on.

 

For me, how a guy plays in those moments where you hold your breath matter a lot too. But we don't have a stats that says "MONEY"

 

Don't worry. There is a baseball nerd on every corner.Someone will come up with a stat that spells GAMER.

 

Until then, I want Falvine to use the eye tests, and see lots of games, or game film,themselves. 

 

To me, the eye test is the best yardstick

 

 

 

 

 

Polanco and Kepler are both like Span, decent contracts that could easily be moved, no matter their production, if the future pushes forward.

 

Buxton isn't a superstar. He could be another Carlos Gomez or Aaron Hicks. Or maybe Ben Revere. Contracts are always give-and-take. The player has age on their side in this case, as well as in the case of Sano.

 

Rosario reminds me of Delmon Young. You should trade when he shows value rather than roll the dice that producton will continue. If he produces at the same rate, you can at least say you aren't overpaying for that rate.

 

Berrios reminds me of Liriano. Maybe thinking too much about the future. (Remember Frank Rodriguez, similar thought - or Matt Garza). You aren't a sueprstar until you are a superstar. Berrios will be good. He may even be great. But I don't see the Twins hitting $200 million for a pitcher in the next decade, even if home grown, sadly. 

 

In the game of baseball, you use and discard. Hopfully you have a good pipeline, trading savy, or can attract suitable free agents. The Twins have long been hit-and-miss in trades, free agents aren't lining up to come here, and I think of all those pitchers the Twins drafted high, as well as getting in the trades of Revere and Span, and shudder.

 

I do wish the Twins would advance players sooner rather than late, as 20-21 year-olds (shades of Brusdal Graterol). Are Kirilloff and Lewis the real deals? Or Larnach. Yet unless youa re willing to get a good 10-year deal with the guys right out of the box, truth be told they will leave once they reach free agency, and slowly moving them up, playing for a couple of half years, might get you 7-8 years of play with only a modest highend expense at the end.

 

What would you do on a Sano contract today? Or a Buxton? Netter yet, Berrios? Would you sign Rosario for $75 million today? Could you get him for $45, or even $60 mil and would you want to?