Since Joe Mauer has decided to hang up his cleats and the organization could choose to move on from Robbie Grossman, the starting lineup is lacking some on-base prowess. On top of that reality, a feared slugger to anchor the middle of the order is essential for Rocco Baldelli’s group. Checking off both of those boxes in the form of one player would be the most optimal way to go about it, and that leads me to believe in the following necessity: A successful offseason for the organization almost must include the acquisition of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, or Daniel Murphy.
The names above are not all created equal, and there’re warts that come with each of them. However, given the mix of power and on-base skills, along with the plausible acquisition costs, each profile seems like too good of a match to pass up. Suggesting that any of the four-some are true superstars may be a stretch, but in terms of incoming talent to a Minnesota squad, they all present the opportunity to grab both an impact name and impact ability.
Diving into them individually, here’s how they break down and rank for me:
At 33 Donaldson is arguably the most complete mix of perfection in this group. He’d push Miguel Sano over to first base, but the infield would be better because of it. Obviously, there’s significant injury concern here, as he hasn’t played more than 115 games either of the past two seasons. If the bill of health is good though, he was a model of consistency from 2013-2016. A career .367 OBP guy with a .507 SLG, Donaldson would be a surefire superstar in the heart of the Twins lineup. He’s mashed at Target Field (albeit off Twins pitching) and would certainly elevate the overall ability of the starting nine. A high AAV on a one-year deal, or something a bit more conservative on a three-year deal needs to be something Minnesota jumps at.
Despite being the elder statesmen of this group, Cruz is appealing as he’s aged incredibly well. He’s going to be 38 this upcoming season, and even in his “down year” last season, an .850 OPS was still posted. The Twins would need to be certain that it’s not the beginning of the end, but a guy who posted a .925 OPS with 126 HR’s from 2015-2017 is someone to take a serious look at. With a career .342 OBP, Cruz has surpassed that mark each of the past four years, and he’s still a perennial All-Star. This is not a guy who can do anything but DH for you, but that’s a need for Minnesota and his presence should be welcomed on a one or two-year pact.
If it’s not Donaldson to shore up some of the infield situation then Santana makes an incredible amount of sense. The only caveat here is that he’s a trade target, but the choice can be made to include lesser prospects and pay more, or increase the return and have the Phillies kick in. Philadelphia is a motivated seller in this case, and the Falvey connection is certainly there. The catcher-turned-first-basemen still posted a .352 OBP during his first sub-.800 OPS season since 2015 last year. He provides a strong bat from both sides of the plate (being even better as a lefty) and plays average defense as well. Taking on the finals two years of his current deal (and the 2021 option) would be a nice fit for Minnesota.
Of this group it’s Murphy who really profiles the most difficult to fit. He’s a second basemen by trade but is terrible or worse in the field. He’s never played much more than a fill-in role at first but would likely be much better suited there. In 2019 Murphy will be 34 and looking for what should be his last payday. You can expect him to provide a high .700 OPS, but the .900-plus marks in two full seasons with Washington may be wishful thinking. Murphy is a high average, high on-base guy, with more gap power than anything. He’ll launch about 20 long balls a year, but it’s the doubles that will really come in bunches. Coming off injury last season he got into just 91 games, and that could help to suppress his price some in this market. I’d prefer not to see him play up the middle with Jorge Polanco, but inking him to a three-year deal isn’t a bad idea either.
When the dust settles on this offseason, I think it’s a pretty fair expectation to assume the Twins will have at least two new infielders (2B/SS and 1B/3B), as well as at least one new reliever. Adding in a top-three starter would be a bonus, and a designated hitter could be addressed as well. Given what’s out there however, none of the necessary additions can simply be band-aids. Whether or not the front-office goes for it in 2019 or beginning in 2020 doesn’t much matter. This club needs an impact bat in the worst way and skimping on that should draw ire from the fan base.
Buckle up as things are about to get interesting.
- Nov 15 2018 08:02 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox and the Yankees are setting up for quite the battle in the AL East. FanGraphs is projecting both teams to finish with more than 90 wins. Boston has claimed back-to-back AL East titles but this might be the year for them to fall a little short. David Price might be the team’s biggest question mark after his 2017 campaign was shrouded with elbow issues. Dustin Pedroia is coming off of off-season knee surgery and isn’t expected to be back until the end of May. JD Martinez could add some offensive pop to a lineup that includes young hitters like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts.
Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout might be the best player of this generation and the Angels have only been to the playoffs one time during his career. The club’s last win in the playoffs was in 2009. Los Angeles added multiple pieces this off-season with the addition of Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and two-way Japanese star Shohoei Ohtani. Ohtani has struggled this spring but he wasn’t brought in to help the Angles to win pre-season games. Andrelton Simmons and Kinsler make-up the best defensive middle infield in the AL. Some computer models also think the Angels are set-up for failure this season. Houston should run away with the AL West so LA might be forced to fight for a Wild Card spot.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto should be in the playoff hunt but the division might be out of reach with the Yankees and the Red Sox fighting at the top. In 2017, the Blue Jays missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Toronto’s rotation will start the season without their ace, Marcus Stroman, sidelined with shoulder inflammation. Other pitchers like JA Happ, Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez help to complete a strong rotation but playing the rest of the AL East could hurt any starting staff. Offensively last season, the Blue Jays scored the fewest runs and Toronto’s lineup isn’t getting any younger.
Twins fans might think they’ve had it rough but the Mariners haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2001. Felix Hernandez hasn’t been the King over the last couple of seasons as his fastball dropped to barely over 90 miles an hour. Only three current starters (CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Justin Verlander) have more innings pitched than Hernandez. Adding Dee Gordon should help the top of the lineup but his shift to center field comes with some questions. Some of the key offensive pieces are getting older as well. Robinson Cano will be 35, Nelson Cruz will be 37, and Kyle Seager will be 30. With a top-heavy American League, it looks like the Mariners playoff drought might continue.
I was on 670 The Score out of Chicago this week to preview the AL Central. Take a listen here: https://670thescore....central-preview
Who is the biggest threat to Minnesota taking a Wild Card spot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Mar 21 2018 05:26 PM
- by Cody Christie
After reviewing the National League teams last week, Nick reviewed the AL West teams yesterday.
Boston Red Sox 56-47
New York Yankees 53-46 1.0 GB
Tampa Bay Rays 53-49 2.5 GB
Baltimore Orioles 48-53 7.0 GB
Toronto Blue Jays 47-54 8.0 GB
The Yankees are currently sitting in the first of two wild card positions, a half-game ahead of the Royals. The Rays are a half-game out of the second wild card spot. The Orioles are 4.5 games back, and the Blue Jays are 6.5 games back.
Unlike other divisions that we have highlighted, the AL East has three of their five teams which could fit into the buyers’ category.
The Red Sox are already making moves. They released Pablo Sandoval, eating millions upon millions of dollars in salary. They called up top prospect Rafael Devers, and they traded a couple of prospects for former Twins infielder Eduardo Nunez.
Last week, the Yankees made a big move, adding third baseman Todd Frazier and closer David Robertson from the White Sox. They are believed to be in serious talks with the A’s regarding Sonny Gray.
The Rays don’t have the economic means to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees for high-priced talent, but they’ll certainly be on the phone a lot over the rest of the week. Also noteworthy, any rumors (real or imagined) a few weeks ago that Chris Archer might be available are certainly untrue now.
As the Twins continue to fall behind Cleveland and Kansas City and are further out of the wild card race, the Twins could find interest in the likes of Ervin Santana, Brandon Kintzler and even Jaime Garcia in the AL East.
That leaves two teams that should fit into the sellers category, the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays.
That the Orioles are only a handful of games under .500 is pretty impressive when you consider their starting pitching.
- Kevin Gausman is 7-7 with a 5.79 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP.
- Wade Miley is 4-9 with a 5.69 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP.
- Ubaldo Jimenez is 4-6 with a 7.19 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP.
- Chris Tillman is 1-5 with a 7.01 ERA and a 1.94 WHIP.
The Orioles do have a couple of intriguing relievers. 31-year-old Brad Brach has been very good in the late innings. In 43.1 innings, he has a 2.70 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He’s got 46 strikeouts over 43.1 innings. Side-winding Darren O’Day is also likely available. Though he’s posting a 4.67 ERA over 34.2 innings, he has 43 strikeouts. Zach Britton has missed most of the season. He was the best reliever in baseball a year ago, but he’s only had limited time since returning and hasn’t yet returned to dominance.
The Blue Jays
The Jays got off to a terrible start. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitski have missed significant time with injury. They lost Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland and Jose Bautista got off to a miserable start. Bautista might be of interest since he’s come on a bit and his contract is up after the season. The name that Toronto should be throwing out is 1B Justin Smoak who, frankly, hasn’t been very good until this year when he has become a huge power hitter. Sell high.
As it relates to the Twins and their need for pitching, the Jays probably aren’t a likely partner. They do, however, have Marcus Stroman who is one of those pitchers that has incredible talent and years of team control remaining. He’s the kind of guy that a team will be willing to give up a lot for, a couple of high-ranking prospects and more.
Francisco Liriano hasn’t been particularly good (5.99 ERA, 1.67 WHIP), but he’s rumored to be of interest for the Royals. Marco Estrada (4-7, 5.52 ERA, 1.49 WHIP) does have 118 strikeouts in 109.1 innings. He could be intriguing. J.A. Happ is 3-7 with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. He’s pretty Jaime Garcia-like.
As noted, the Twins have gone from buyer to we’ll-see, and there’s a chance they could be sellers by the deadline on Monday. That change likely means that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will not go overboard in terms of what they’d be willing to give up right now.
However, if they still are buyers, there are some players, particularly a few bullpen guys, who the Twins could have some interest in acquiring.
- Jul 27 2017 12:26 AM
- by Seth Stohs
By The Numbers
Dozier's 39 home runs as a second baseman (two have come as DH) have him tied for the all-time AL record by a second baseman. He is only three home runs behind Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby for the MLB record. Baseball Reference ranks Dozier as the fifth best player in the AL this season while FanGraphs ranks him as the sixth best AL player. He has more home runs than everyone in front of him and he is closing in on the century mark with RBIs (98) and runs (99).
When Dozier scores his next run, he will join Chuck Knoblach as the only Twins to ever score 100-plus runs in three straight seasons. Since June 18, Dozier has 34 home runs, the most in baseball, while his closest competitors have only managed 22 apiece. During his current 22-game hitting streak, he's slashing .351/.425/.766 with 11 home runs in 94 at-bats.
Voters tend to look at the best players on winning teams when handing out the top AL hardware. However, there is a historical precedent for MVPs playing for losing teams. The 1991 Baltimore Orioles finished in sixth place in the AL East with a 67-95 record. Cal Ripken Jr. cranked 34 home runs and drove in 114 on his way to the AL MVP.
The 2003 Texas Rangers finished the year with 91 losses but Alex Rodriguez still came away with the AL's top honor. Rodriguez had a historic season for a shortstop, hitting 47 home runs and drove in 118 RBIs. He combined for a 8.4 WAR, the seventh best total of his career.
It takes the right atmosphere in the baseball world but it is not unprecedented for a player on a losing team to win the MVP.
Candidates Catching A Cold
For much of the first half of the season, it looked like Jose Altuve could run away with the AL MVP. The Astros were playing well and he was putting up tremendous numbers. He hit .341/.413/.542 with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and 23 stolen bases. As the Astros have fallen further behind in the standings, Altuve has struggled at the plate. So far in September, he is hitting .222/.279/.365 with five extra-base hits.
Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, looked to join Miguel Cabrera as the only back-to-back MVP winner in the 2000's. Much like Altuve, he played very well in the first half by combining for a 1.017 OPS with 23 home runs and 20 doubles. A second half slide has seen his average dip to .253 with just 20 extra-base hits. Toronto is just four game out in the AL East so this could help Donaldson's candidacy.
Fishing For Trout
While other candidates might be falling by the wayside, Mike Trout might be emerging as a favorite. Like Dozier, Trout is on a bad team but his WAR total far outpaces the competition on both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. He entered play on Monday leading the AL in walks and OBP. He's also on pace to lead the AL in offensive WAR for the sixth consecutive season.
If the voters looked solely at WAR, Trout would have more MVPs in his trophy case. His lone MVP award came in 2014 when the Angels won the AL West by 10 games. If Altuve and Donaldson continue their recent cold streaks, the voters might look to a familiar name even if he is on a bad Angels squad. By many accounts, he is the best player in the game and he has only one MVP award.
When push comes to shove, Dozier will likely get some top-10 and even top-5 votes for the AL MVP. He would need to continue his blistering pace over the last few weeks to make his numbers truly stand apart from the crowd.
Unfortunately, there haven't been many eyes on Minnesota baseball this season and that will only hurt his MVP chances. It's been an historic season for the Twins Brian Dozier but it has been a small ripple in a very big MLB pond.
Where would Dozier be on your AL MVP Ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Sep 19 2016 09:40 PM
- by Cody Christie
So who is Alex Anthopoulos? What do Twins fans need to know about this potential candidate? He could be shaping the future of this organization for years to come and fans are hungry to see a winning team back on the field.
Blue Jays Rising
Anthopoulos served as the general manager and senior vice president of baseball operations with the Toronto Blue Jays from 2010-2015. Last season, he helped the Blue Jays end a 22-year playoff drought but he decided to leave after some changes to the team's front office. Mark Shapiro was brought in as president and CEO and it sounds like the Jays wanted to cut costs and stop trading away prospects. He currently works as the vice president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers which seems like a springboard job to other positions in the baseball.
Wheeling and Dealing
During his time in Toronto, the 39-year old Anthopoulos was not afraid to make moves. Some of his biggest trades included:
- Acquiring 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson from Oakland for Brett Lawrie
- Sending Noah Syndergaard to the Mets for RA Dickey
- Pushing to get Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies for Jose Reyes and other prospects
- Dealing a trio of left-handed pitchers to Detroit for David Price
Anthopoulos has a background in scouting and he made major additions to the scouting department in Toronto. He created regional cross-checker positions and nearly doubled the size of the scouting team from 28 to 54. In doing so, he was able to shrink each scout's coverage area so they could spend less time traveling and more time working. "We get to see players more often -- more innings pitched, more at-bats, Anthopoulos said. "We've added layers we didn't have before." It seems likely that he would do some major shake-ups throughout the Twins' scouting team including bringing in some scouts who have previously worked with him.
When the Twins let Terry Ryan go, they made it clear that they would like to have someone hired by season's end. The Dodgers are four games up in the NL West and posed to make a playoff run. This could mean Anthopoulos continues to work in his current position until deep into October. When the Dodgers hired him, they had to know he was destined to get other opportunities. Maybe they would be willing to let him out of his current position so he can start finding Minnesota's next general manager.
There're plenty of changes that still need to happen and hiring Anthopoulos might be just the first step.
What are your thoughts on Anthopoulos? Is he the right fit for the Twins organization? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Sep 07 2016 09:46 PM
- by Cody Christie
Leading: Salvador Perez, Royals
My Pick: Salvador Perez, Royals
Catching is in a rough spot in the American League especially with Joe Mauer no longer being an option behind the plate. Salvador Perez, the reigning World Series MVP, leads the league in fWAR during the last 365 days. Blake Swihart and Matt Wieters are tied for a distant second place. Perez is hitting close to .300 and getting on-base 33% of the time. He hit a career high 21 home runs last season and he already has 12 long balls so far this season. He's never posted a slugging percentage over .475 in his career and he's sitting at a .520 OPS in 2016.
Leading: Eric Hosmer, Royals
My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
There are plenty of candidates for this spot but it has become a two-man battle. The voting block in Kansas City has Eric Hosmer out to a 550,000 vote lead at the last check-in but he doesn't get my vote. Sometimes it's about putting a player in who is one of the best players in the generation. Cabrera's average has dipped a little this year from his normal standards but he is still hitting .295/.368/.529 with 17 home runs after only hitting 18 home runs last season. I'd put Chris Davis ahead of Hosmer on my ballot as well so the player likely to start wouldn't be in my top 2 for voting purposes.
Leading: Jose Altuve, Astros
My Pick: Jose Altuve, Astros
There are some bigger names on the ballot like Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia but Jose Altuve is in the midst of a historic season. Altuve has a career OPS of just over .780 and this season he is closing in on a 1.000 OPS. By the way, he's leading the American League in batting too. If the Astros keep playing well, Altuve will be in the discussion for the AL MVP and this would be his fourth All-Star Game in the last five seasons. Cano and Pedroia might be the big names but everyone needs to get familiar with Altuve because he might be in this position for years to come.
Leading: Manny Machado, Orioles
My Pick: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
This two-man battle features the defending AL MVP in Josh Donaldson versus the up-and-coming Manny Machado. Both players have been very good over the last calendar year. In fact, each of these players has been one of the top five players in the game this season. Look at the chart below to see how close the battle is between them even with Machado sliding over to play shortstop in the absence of JJ Hardy.
Donaldson has been slightly better so I will give him the nod but they should both be playing in San Diego.
Leading: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
My Pick: Francisco Lindor, Indians
We might be living in the "Golden Age of Shortstops" in the American League. Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa are all young and dominating at one of the toughest defensive positions in the field. Lindor has dominated on both sides of the ball, being an offensive threat while playing some of the best defense in the game at shortstop. His 8.2 fWAR over the last calendar year is 1.5 points higher than Bogaerts and 3.6 points higher than Correa. Lindor plays in Cleveland where he isn't getting much attention but he is showing that he is one of the top overall players in the game.
Leading: Mike Trout, Angels; Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox; Mookie Betts, Red Sox
My Picks: Mike Trout, Angels; Lorenzo Cain, Royals, Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Mike Trout is another easy pick as he has helped the AL win the last two All-Star Games on his way to earning back-to-back All-Star Game MVPs. Even though he was just injured, Lorenzo Cain gets a big jump from his defensive numbers while holding his own on the offensive side of the ball. He also helped the Royals to their first World Series Championship since the 1980s. The last spot is a toss up between Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. so I gave my vote to Betts. I like his ability to steal bases and that can be a handy addition to the roster of an All-Star squad.
Leading: David Ortiz, Red Sox
My Pick: David Ortiz, Red Sox
Probably the easiest pick on the board. David Ortiz will retire at season's end and ride off into the sunset of what is likely a Hall-of-Fame career. It helps that Ortiz is also having a very strong season at the plate. This is nothing against Edwin Encarnacion and the season he is having, but Ortiz is a legend. The 2016 All-Star Game might turn into an honoring for Ortiz much like the 2014 All-Star Game in Minnesota honored Derek Jeter. Ortiz will bow out and let other players take his place in the years to come.
So there's my ballot with a few picks that were tough to make. Who would make your AL All-Star team? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Jun 29 2016 06:25 PM
- by Cody Christie
Major League Baseball's drafting process is a very different animal compared to other major sports leagues like the NFL and the NBA. In the other leagues, the players being drafted can be playing the very next season and making a major contribution. In the baseball world, this isn't the case as it can take years for talent from a specific draft pool to make their big league debuts.
Here are a few ground rules for this post:
- I was limited to taking players selected after the Twins drafted their player.
- This was assuming every pick before the Twins followed the same order.
- I start with the 2011 draft because most players from the 2012 draft, like Byron Buxton, are just beginning their MLB careers.
- In a true redraft, the players on this list would obviously be gone long before the Twins made their pick
Minnesota's Pick: Levi Michael, SS (30th overall)
Redraft Pick: Jackie Bradley, Boston Red Sox (40th overall)
The Twins hoped Michael's college success could translate to a strong professional career but he has developed into an organizational depth player. He might get a cup of coffee at the big league level but that would probably be the end of it. Bradley is developing into a core member of a young Red Sox squad that is trending upwards. Minnesota has other young prospects playing in the outfield like Max Kepler and Miguel Sano but Bradley would be another piece to add to the mix.
Minnesota's Pick: Alex Wimmers, RHP (21st overall)
Redraft Pick: Noah Syndergaard, Toronto Blue Jays (38th overall)
Minnesota missed out in this draft as the team took a college starter for the second straight year. Wimmers has never panned out in the minors and there were some other strong names left on the board. Christian Yelich was taken by the Marlins two picks after Wimmers. Taijuan Walker was selected at the end of the first round by the Mariners. However, the player the Twins missed out on was Noah Syndergaard as he dropped all the way to the Blue Jays with the 38th overall pick. Syndergaard looks more and more like he will develop into a very strong piece of the Mets rotation. Young pitching is valuable and Minnesota swung and missed, like most players do, on a Syndergaard fastball.
Minnesota's Pick: Kyle Gibson, RHP (22nd overall)
Redraft Pick: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (25th overall)
Almost every MLB team wishes they had a shot to redraft this first round. Mike Trout, one of the top players in the game, fell to the Angels with the 25th pick. Stephen Strasburg was a solid number one pick but any team would give up a lot to have Trout in the line-up on a daily basis. Gibson fell to the Twins after an injury late in college scared some teams away. He was also on the fast track to the big leagues before Tommy John surgery put him on the sidelines. Gibson could end up being a middle of the rotation starter but he definitely wouldn't be worth a Trout trade.
Minnesota's Pick: Aaron Hicks, OF (14th overall)
Redraft Pick: Jake Odorizzi, Milwaukee Brewers (32nd overall)
At the time, Hicks was a strong pick with plenty of upside. However, his flaws as a player have come to the surface during his big league career. His defense can be amazing but it doesn't look like he will be a consistent hitter at baseball's highest level. Minnesota took three players (Hicks, Carlos Gutierrez, and Shooter Hunter) before Jake Odorizzi came off the board at pick number 32. Odorizzi has turned into a solid starter for the Rays and he would be a welcome addition in the Twins current rotation. Overall, the 2008 first round has been rough with Buster Posey being the lone star.
Minnesota's Pick: Ben Revere, OF (28th overall)
Redraft Pick: Josh Donaldson, Chicago Cubs (48th overall)
The Twins liked Revere's athleticism and speed so they took him one pick after the Tigers selected Rick Porcello. Todd Frazier was taken five picks after Revere but the biggest miss might have been passing on last year's American League MVP. Donaldson's career WAR only trails David Price, Madison Bumgarner, and Jason Heyward from the 2007 first round. There are plenty of other teams that passed on Donaldson but he could be a difference maker at third base for the Twins.
Here's how Minnesota's line-up could look with the moves made above:
1. Jackie Bradley Jr.- LF
2. Joe Mauer- 1B
3. Mike Trout- CF
4. Josh Donaldson- 3B
5. Miguel Sano- RF
6. Eduardo Nunez- SS
7. Brian Dozier- 2B
8. Byung Ho Park- DH
9. Kurt Suzuki- C
1. Noah Syndergaard
2. Jake Odorizzi
3. Ervin Santana
4. Tyler Duffey
5. Pat Dean
What are your thoughts? Who would you have taken? How could Byron Buxton fit into this crowded line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Jun 10 2016 09:17 PM
- by Cody Christie