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Article: 5 Things the Twins Absolutely Must Accomplish This Offseason

byron buxton jose berrios
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 08:26 PM

A little over one week remains in the 2018 campaign. I think we're all about ready to move on and forget about this one. So let's look ahead to the coming pivotal offseason, with a breakdown of five imperatives lying before the front office.In a little over a month, Twins Daily will be putting out its annual Offseason Handbook. I'm really excited about this edition because the coming winter is as ripe for discussion and dissection as any in memory.

We'll be featuring plenty of stories here as we build up to the Handbook's release, but today I thought we'd kick things off with a high-level look at some critical priorities. If the Twins don't check all five of these boxes before spring training 2019 gets underway, it's gonna be hard to view their offseason as a real success.

1. Overpay Byron Buxton in arbitration

Regardless of your feelings on the matter, there's no doubt about this: The Twins damaged their relationship with Buxton by sending him home after the minor-league season ended. His year was clearly a disaster but Buxton remains a centerpiece of the franchise's vision going forward. Creating ill will with such a player is suboptimal, to say the least.

General manager Thad Levine acknowledged as much at the time. "From this day forward," he said, "I think we recognize a responsibility to make amends and that we’re going to need to invest in the relationship with Byron Buxton."

Well, they'll get their chance to start on that almost immediately.

Although the decision not to recall Buxton pushed his free agency back to 2022, he's still eligible for arbitration this offseason as a "Super 2." For the first time, he and his agent will be able to negotiate his salary. The Twins would be wise to ease up a bit.

Given his complete lack of output this year (.383 OPS in 94 plate appearances), Minnesota is technically justified in giving Buxton a minimal raise from his $580,000 salary. Doing so would be standard operating procedure. But this might be a time to deviate.

When the two sides submit numbers, the Twins should make sure theirs is fairly generous, and as long as Buxton's request is within reason, they should quickly accept it. No pushback. He's surely feeling as though they robbed him of millions by delaying his big payday, and while they can't fully make it up to him at this point, they can at least make a showing of good faith.

It's a first step toward mending what will hopefully still be a tight long-term relationship. And given the relative dollars involved, it's a no-brainer.

2. Sign or trade for a top three starter in the rotation

While some other areas of the roster are riddled with uncertainty, Minnesota's starting rotation is looking pretty solid. Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda are essentially locked in, leaving one vacancy. The Twins could theoretically fill that spot internally, holding a spring competition between the likes of Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell and others.

But given the uncertainty surrounding Pineda and his perpetual ailments, the club is probably wise to reserve as much minor-league depth as it can. With their considerable stockpile of both available funds and tradable assets, the Twins should be looking to make a bold move on the pitching market.

There are some premium names in free agency, as well as some intriguing trade scenarios. You'll find plenty covered in the Handbook. The Twins need to aim high here. It's an opportunity for Levine and Derek Falvey to make a signature splash after smartly bowing out of last year's Darvish Derby.

3. Extend Jose Berrios

There is zero reason not to do this. Berrios is the player this organization has long been waiting for: a young, dominant, starter with an amazingly clean bill of health. After thoroughly dominating the minor leagues, he has improved in each of his three turns at the majors, and was named an All-Star at age 24 in July.

The right-hander has four years of team control remaining, and will be eligible for arbitration next winter. This is the ideal time to strike an extension, leveraging that team control to score a relative bargain on his first years of free agency, and maybe even a team option or two. It's the blueprint Falvey helped execute in Cleveland multiple times.

Given his age and almost spotless track record, Berrios will be able to command a hefty sum. But I can't see any reason why the Twins would be reluctant to do whatever it takes to lock him up through 2024 or beyond. He is the definition of a building block.

The longer they wait, the more their leverage dissipates.

4. Build corner infield depth

Joe Mauer's contract is up, and he seems likely to retire. Logan Morrison will be a free agent and probably won't return return. Eduardo Escobar was traded in July. Miguel Sano... well, it's gonna be tough to really count on him in any capacity next year.

The Twins find themselves shallow at the infield corners. Tyler Austin looks like he'll be a factor but outside of him and Sano there won't be any incumbency at first or third on next year's roster. The closest legitimate impact help is Brent Rooker in Double-A.

Acquiring a starting-caliber corner infielder – whether at first, or at third with Sano going to first or DH – should be a given. The team might even want to think about getting creative to increase its flexibility and options. Max Kepler started 38 games at first base in the minors...

5. Clear 40-man flotsam

The decisions coming up in late November, as the Winter Meetings and Rule 5 draft approach, are among the toughest of the year for a front office. They'll have to take a hard look at their 40-man roster and decide who's really worth protecting – who they absolutely can't afford to lose.

Making room for a new wave of additions, and also hopefully a number of external pickups, will require the Twins to take a hard look at who they need to keep. Some members of the 40-man are already on their way out (Mauer, Chris Gimenez, Logan Forsythe) and others make are fairly obvious cut candidates, but there will be some difficult calls to make.

Is there room for Aaron Slegers or Adalberto Mejia anymore? Has Matt Magill shown enough to merit keeping around? What about Oliver Drake? Does it really make sense to keep dedicating spots to John Curtiss or Tyler Duffey or Alan Busenitz?

This year's team appears a long way from where it needs to be. A fairly extensive overhaul would be warranted and I suspect we'll see one.

Stay tuned for more details on the 2019 Offseason Handbook and, of course, more daily wall-to-wall coverage of your favorite team.

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#2 ND-Fan

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 08:55 PM

I don't expect the Twins to sign many free agent players except for one year deals for the coming year they have glaring needs at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base. This front office is not going to sign any quality free agents in the next years business I believe they are going to see where they are with this group of core players. I could see them signing Berios to longer term contract but I have feeling they will have hard time getting this done. The pitching depth will not be there unless they sign Gibson and Ordorizzi to longer contract is not that deep. I could see both being sold at the trading deadline next year for future prospects. I think were being said up to loose to get best higher pick in the draft.The twins are rebuilding and right now were on mission to have highest draft pick as possible for year after this next year to set up franchise with quality players. The problem with this how do excite people to come out and watch baseball. 

 

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#3 Darius

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 09:19 PM

I don’t really feel sorry for Buxton, like everyone seems to. He hasn’t really earned anything, and he’s been given ample opportunity.

Should he have been called up? Probably. Will this light a fire under his butt? Is he has a pulse, it sure should. Something tells me he’ll have a good spring.
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#4 The Wise One

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 10:25 PM

I don’t really feel sorry for Buxton, like everyone seems to. He hasn’t really earned anything, and he’s been given ample opportunity.
Should he have been called up? Probably. Will this light a fire under his butt? Is he has a pulse, it sure should. Something tells me he’ll have a good spring.

.
https://m.youtube.co...h?v=deB_u-to-IE Is that the kind of fire you meant.

#5 The Wise One

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 11:10 PM

Berrrios would follow the lead of other teammates and her on himself September is important to any player. From needing stats for arbitration to proving you belong this time is valuable . Stewart and Gonsalves are rising. Littell is sinking as is Busenitz and Duffey. There are way too many reliever on the 40 man roster. by the end of the month the FO will have enough data on Austin and Cave to know if the are a short term fix, part of the future, or just another bunch of replacement players. As they are the product of the FO talent acquisition team their ceiling might buy them more tome. Grossman may not be so lucky. His .750 ops should be good enough to keep, but maybe not. Adrianna should have a replacement I am not sure where the corner depth is going to come from. Has Stewart,or Gonsalves looked good against anyone with corner depth? A top 3 starter is on everyone ‘s wish list Buxton will get a raise to 2 million. He should also be traded for top of rotation help

#6 curt1965

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 12:08 AM

The Twins are not, repeat NOT, going to attract any major free agents. Sure, they might get guys like Lynn, Rodney, and Reed- basically players their original team did not want to keep- but when was the last time a real stud came to Minnesota? Butler, with the Wolves, is a great example. Major stars want the limelight of NewYork, Chicago, or LA., or a warm weather established franchise. Our team will always be comprised of a few of our homegrown guys, and castoffs from other teams. I loved your article, Nick, but the only way good players come to Minnesota will be via the trade route, with prospects nobody wants to trade being dealt the other way!

#7 nytwinsfan

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 05:02 AM

Two words: Patrick Corbin.

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#8 rdehring

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 06:13 AM

Point on, Nick, thanks.

 

One move you didn't mention is extending Kyle Gibson.I would put that right up there with Berrios as 3b.  

 

Don't know what to think about Buxton.And something no one has mentioned, when he was approached for an extension last winter he turned it down.So his lack of performance and time of service would be a non issue had he negotiated last year.But the bigger question is whether he will ever be more than a defensive/speed guy?

 

Sano is another question.To be honest, I don't know how the Twins prepare for next year with both of these guys.They are likely untradeable and must be penciled into any starting lineup.Unfortunately, both could be all-stars or busts in 2019.Can we at least hope for one of each?

 

And as I stated in another article this morning, I have a feeling we are going to see a fairly major trade for a starting pitcher over the winter.


#9 Cory Engelhardt

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 06:20 AM

1) Maybe a deal with the Rockies for Jon Gray and Ryan Mcmahon (3B/1B) ?

2) I'd also love the extensions you mention, as well as potentially a strong glove/defensive shortstop. I'll say Jose Iglesias would look great here.

3) Sign a reliever to a 2 year deal (like Reed's contract) and some 1 year minor league contracts for the bullpen and see what plays out.

4) Get everyone healthy and ready to roll. Let's go!

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#10 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 06:48 AM

It will be interesting. I think number 4 should be number 1. They need to bring in a guy like Cruz to DH, and I wouldn't mind a guy that can play 1B/3B/DH on top of that to keep Austin, Sano, and the new guy fresh. I'd add that they need a 2B and more flexibility in the IF as well. 

 

They actually do have a surplus of young pitching, and not enough places to put them all.. esepcially if they go out and get someone. I think to some extent, they may have to trade some of it off. I'd consider Romero, Thrope, and Graterol practically untouchable (note, I'd send one of them off, but I'd better be getting someone really good)

 

The other problem is the pen. Lots of options, and a manager that doesn't trust any of them. My biggest disappointment from this season is really not seeing any of those guys truly emerge, and the FO trading off the one guy that did. Don't get me wrong, I liked those prospects, but that trade is the only one that negatively impacted 2019, and we didn't see enough to make me think that the guys we have can step up. 

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#11 mikelink45

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 07:09 AM

I suspect the team expects Tyler Austin to be at 1B and Sano at 3B next year.I have my doubts and the number of Ks will drive me crazy.If we go back to Buxton,Rosario,Kepler in the OF does that make Cave the DH when he is not in the field?I am not seeing that as a contending lineup.But right now 2B and SS are the real questions - have they had enough of Forsythe for them to believe in him for next year?And if they do can Polanco improve his fielding to go with his bat?Is there a good SS out there or are we waiting for Lewis and Rooker and Kiriloff to answer all these needs?

 

Yes sign Berrios, use caution with Gibson, at his age he can go down as quick as he came up.Do not trust Pineda to make it through the season, put Romero in the rotation no matter what else happens.I would also question an extension for Odorizzi, but he would be part of this five man rotation.

 

The BP is number one in terms of needs.We are in the BP era of baseball, it has become the most important part of most rosters now and we do not have the shutdown guys that teams crave.That needs to be addressed. 

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#12 hybridbear

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 07:26 AM

Positional flexibility is key. Kepler could play some 1B, although I feel like his defense is more valuable in the outfield. Rosario used to play 2B in the minors and his OF defense seems to have declined substantially. Would it be a good fit to look at moving him back to the infield? Does he have the athleticism to play other IF positions like 3B or SS on occasion? And what about Astudillo? It sure is fun to watch him play!

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#13 rdehring

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 07:30 AM

The above comments got me thinking about the middle infield.Do they need to get a second baseman?Maybe the best move is to move Polanco to second and pencil Adrianza in as the shortstop.Although we haven't seen him there a lot, he is supposed to be a defensive first shortstop.And he has hit better than expected.That would mean they could go out and sign a utility guy who plays good defense at both spots. 

 

Although none of us knows if Gordon will make it, they would have Gordon and Arraez knocking on the door from AAA.Then they have Lewis, who could arrive as soon as next September, penciled in as the starting shortstop beginning in 2020. 

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#14 Rosterman

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 07:55 AM

Let's go backwards here. The 40-man. The Twins need to add Jake Reed, Nick Gordon and Lamonte Wade, according to MLB Trade Rumors. They also need to think about adding Tyler Jay and Luis Arraez, although both performed okay at AA ball, I wouldn't expect anyone to take a flyer on keeping them on a 40-man all season. They should probably think about Nick Anderson. They could also consider if they want to kep names like Brian Navaretto, Luke Bard, D.J. Baxendale and Ryan Eades in the organization. All have the ability to walk. None are probably necessary to add to the 40-man. Except Navaretto if you want future catching depth, but....

 

Free Agents: Belisle, Santana, Gimenez, Mauer,Morrison, Forsythe. On the Bubble: Granite, Slegers, Field, Petit, Duffey, Busenitz, Magill, Drake. I think Curtiss does have a bit longer lease for the moment. Adrianza is still inexpensive. Grossman is still inexpensive and now adds a veteran feel to the young team. Reed is owed $8 million. Mejia is still a young lefty and did well in his limited time. But that is like 19 names (holy moley) and picture the need to keep NONE of them in 2020. 

 

Remember, you do need names to drop IF you add a free agent. Or a Rule 5 grab (at this point is such a player better than anyone in your high minors). So the Twins only need to lose 4-5 right away and maybe a couple by the first of the year.

 

Corner infield depth. Infield, period. Polanco is still at shortstop. Wasn't he supposed to be better at second? Adrianza and Petit are in the mix as backups, although that doesn't thrill you. Austin can play first. Sano can play third, but wouldn't it be nice to have him rotate, instead, with Austin at 1B/DH instead of keeping Grossman in the DH mix? But then we need someone on third. Escobar is doing okay at Arizona. Could you get him for 3 years at $20-25 million? Would you do it? So if the Twins truly have to add Nick Gordon to the 40-man, then why didn't they bring him up for September and play him. I guess if push comes to shove, they might be able to grab Forsythe for a one year, or better yet look at Dozier again for a one-year rebuild his worth contract, if those bridges haven't been burned. The Twins are a mess in the infield period. And, of course, Joe Mauer could come back.

 

Contracts. The Twins need to see what it would take to keep Jose Berrios for at least five seasons with an option or two. The Twins need to see what it would take to keep Eddie Rosario for the same, although that is a gamble, but you might be lucky to get him to sign a Span-like contract (in today's dollars) and have him continue production and trade him at some point. The Twins also have to look at bullpen arms and decide if May or Hildenberger can be closer material and is it worthwhile to dangle an extension to either.

 

The rotation. Odorizzi has actually pitched well to end the season (think Gibson in 2017). Did you see enough to think of an extension? How much are you going to pay Kyle Gibson? Or do you just play them, trade them in mid-season, and elevate more of the promising arms towards a 2021 success story. No need to buy an arm unless you feel comfortable offering multi-years to some 28-year-old free agent not named Yu.

 

Buxton? If he plays well, he will be richly rewarded. You don't overpay in arbitration because you feel it might be a nice thing to do. All it does is drive up the price you have to pay for the following seasons. You overpay if you wish to extend (or get a good deal if the player themselves wants security over dreams of riches). You can dangle something longterm out there, too. But the question might be...why? If Buxton has a breakout year, you still control him. You have a better look at what is coming up in the system (Krilloff, Larnach). If he has a breakout 2019, you also have a viable player to flip to another team, under control for three more seasons, if he doesn't fit into your long term plans for...well, heaven knows why.

 

Sadly, the team is what we see right now. There is a lot of roster fluff that can be replaced by rookies NOT quite ready for the team, or other roster fluff from other teams.

 

We have Castro coming back. A vet behind-the-plate. Not much with the bat, but a nice mix with Garver. Astudillo is interesting and can be that bench guy who can play 1B/3B/OF and also catch. Deserves another season. Cave will start in center if Buxton doesn't, or work with Kepler in right and be a bench bat, which puts Grossman in limbo. The infield is a total mess. Are future fulltime replacements one or two seasons away is the question there?

 

 

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#15 Winston Smith

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 08:23 AM

Find a SS and move Polanco to 2B, he is not a SS.

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#16 Tomj14

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 08:30 AM

I think the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this off season is does FO think that 2019 is even worth trying or is it just another lost year.

 


#17 mattjc1983

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 08:35 AM

I'm not 100% convinced on Gibson, at least not unless we can extend pretty cheap.It's easy to get excited that we're finally seeing some ok value 9 years after he was drafted, but that's just it.He's going to be 31 years old next month, and his best seasons have been ERAs in the high 3's.After 160 career starts he's sitting at a 4.51 career ERA.

 

His age and career #'s are actually alarmingly similar to what Ricky Nolasco was when the Twins signed him to that ridiculous contract.In fact, in most respects Nolasco was statistically better through age 30 than Gibson has been. 

 

Would you do the Nolasco contract again?

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#18 Nick Nelson

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 08:42 AM

 

Positional flexibility is key. Kepler could play some 1B, although I feel like his defense is more valuable in the outfield. Rosario used to play 2B in the minors and his OF defense seems to have declined substantially. 

Rosario actually had his best season defensively by most accounts. UZR liked his range and I believe he's among the MLB leaders in OF assists. This matches the eye test for me — I think he's mostly been terrific out there. Kepler's solid but not as much of a difference-maker from my view.

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#19 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 09:06 AM

 

Two words: Patrick Corbin.

I'll see your two words and make it eight - Patrick Corbin, Eduardo Escobar, Jose Iglesias, Kelvim Herrera.  

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#20 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 21 September 2018 - 09:20 AM

We add Patrick Cobin to the top of the rotation, Kelvin Herrera to the back of the bullpen, Eduardo Escobar as part of a 1B/3B/DH rotation with Sano., Austin and Mauer (Kepler if no Mauer, Cave starts in the OF regardless, Kepler is the 4th OF), and Jose Iglesias to play SS with Polanco moving to 2B or a trade for Starlin Castro to play 2B with Polanco staying at SS.Better pitching, better defense, slightly better hitting. Still requires someone to step up and be a middle of the order bat to go with Rosario - Polanco, Austin, Cave or Sano -for the offense to work. Could be a contending group IF the young guys advance. 

 

Reagrdless of who we add, the key to next year is better play from what we hope will be the young core. That means we will go as far as the Polanco, Sano, Kepler, Cave, Buxton, Austin, and Garver group can take us. We will contend if 5 or more really step up, might contend if 3-4 step up, will stink if only one or two step up or the majority regress.Right now the only real decent bets to move up to the solid to better level are Polanco, Cave and Garver. Sano and Buxton are complete crapshoots and enigmas, Kepler looks more an more like a journeyman 4th OF (low avg., decent but not great power), and Austin is interesting but might be Dave Kingman.  

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