Last week Tom presented a trade-heavy changing of course, while Seth envisioned an internally focused rebuild. Today we'll have some fun and draw up a scenario in which the Twins really open up the wallet and push payroll to new (not totally implausible) heights.
Join the fun by downloading your copy of the 2019 Offseason Handbook and creating a blueprint in the forum.The Minnesota Twins opened the 2018 season with a $129.5 million payroll. It was the highest figure in franchise history, but still ranked just 16th among MLB teams. This tells you all you need to know about where the league currently stands with spending, even after a conspicuously splurge-averse 2017-18 offseason.
The Twins probably won't spend more in 2019 than they did in 2018. But there's not much reason they couldn't. Pushing payroll into the $150 million range would still place Minnesota comfortably among baseball's mid-tier spenders. And if they actually were working under such a cap, they'd have about $80 million in available funds for next year.
How to spend all that money?! I'll see if I can find a way while adhering to the model of sustainable, long-term thinking.
Step 1 | Sign two building-block players to extensions: RHP Jose Berrios (4 years, $45M + two team options) and OF Byron Buxton (5 years, $54M + team option)
Berrios and Buxton are both four years away from free agency. Neither has made big money yet, and each has motivation to lock up long-term financial security. This is the perfect time to strike, and with their financial flexibility, the Twins can offer upfront bonuses to incentivize.
I'm envisioning a Berrios deal similar to the ones signed by Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in Cleveland, with team options on the back end in exchange for guaranteed money now (pitching is a dangerous profession). Meanwhile, Buxton gets locked up for his prime years, reasonably if he's a solid contributor and ultra-reasonably if he's a star. Both can still hit the open market around age 30.
The terms might not exactly align with what I've laid out above, but you get the idea. For the purposes of this blueprint and its payroll calculus, I'm carving out $4 million for each in 2019 (several times what either would otherwise stand to make).
Step 2 | Grab your frontline starter by signing free agent LHP Patrick Corbin (5 years, $120M)
In the Offseason Handbook, we deemed Corbin the best starting pitcher on the free agent market. Last year, the Twins pursued Yu Darvish late into the offseason but ultimately came up short. This time around they get their guy, reeling in the stud southpaw Corbin coming off a career year. He joins Berrios as entrenched rotation cornerstones for the next half-decade.
It's not an investment without risk (we all saw what happened with Darvish), but I feel good about Corbin, who posted stellar numbers in hitter-friendly Arizona and only seems to be hitting his stride at age 29.
Step 3 | Enlist two free agent relievers: RHP Kelvin Herrera (3 years, $25M) and LHP Jerry Blevins (1 year, $6 million)
Power bullpens are the name of the game. The Addison Reed signing didn't work out, but I'm biting the bullet and spending on Herrera, aiming high but not quite at the Craig Kimbrel/Jeurys Familia tier. Herrera can step in as closer, or as top setup man with Trevor May keeping the ninth; either situation sounds great with Taylor Rogers also around as a proven late-inning arm.
As lefty specialist, I'm enlisting one of the best in Blevins (585 career OPS vs LHB) on a short-term deal.
Step 4 | Add another power relief arm by trading LHP Stephen Gonsalves and OF Jake Cave to Cincinnati for RHP Raisel Iglesias (2 years, $11.4M remaining on contract)
I wasn't kidding about the power bullpen thing. Iglesias is a stud reliever with two years left on his contract, and the Reds are going nowhere at present. Flip them a couple young MLB-ready assets and weaponize Iglesias as a strategic fireman of the new era. Having Iglesias on hand in addition to Herrera, May, Rogers, Reed, Blevins and Trevor Hildenberger would enable Rocco Baldelli to stack relievers behind (or in front of, whatever floats your boat) the starters in the back half of the rotation.
(By the way, the back half of my rotation includes Fernando Romero, because I think he's ready and I had to nontender or trade Jake Odorizzi, whose estimated $10 million via arbitration couldn't be justified in this scenario.)
Step 5 | Alrighty, on to the offense: Sign 3B Josh Donaldson for 1 year, $15 million
That contract estimate would've been unthinkable a couple years ago, but things have changed for the former MVP. He took a step backward in 2017 and stumbled badly in 2018, playing only 52 games amidst recurring calf issues.
Admittedly this contract estimate (via the Handbook) might be a bit low, but it's feasible Donaldson could go for a one-year deal in that vicinity to rebuild value. He'd fit nicely with Minnesota, where there's flexibility to adjust to his new reality. If he can play still play third, great, Sano goes to first. If Donaldson is better off at first, then Sano gets another year to show what he can do at the hot corner.
Granted, each of these sluggers has his question marks, but I'm not committed to either beyond 2019. And the upside of this corner combination... whew.
Step 6 | Sprinkle in some versatility: Sign utilityman Marwin Gonzalez for 3 years, $33 million
The thing about rostering Sano and Donaldson along with Tyler Austin and Robbie Grossman (who I'm bringing back as DH/OF for a reliable dose of OBP) is that there are some major defensive limitations going on. To offset this, we add Gonzalez, who's played all over the field for the Astros while providing a steadily solid switch-hitting bat.
I'm actually plugging him in as the right field starter, with Buxton and Max Kepler rotating until at least one establishes himself as a clearly deserving full-time regular. And if both do (which I'm bullish on), Gonzalez can be used elsewhere. Crucially, he can play third, which helps reduce the risk of our previously stated Sano/Donaldson plan.
Step 7 | Shore up the D: Sign SS Jose Iglesias (2 years, $18 million)
He's not much of a hitter (.666 OPS the past three years), but Iglesias is among the best defensive shortstops in the league, and he's only 28, so I'm happy to pony up for him as my No. 9 hitter. Sliding Jorge Polanco to second while inserting Iglesias at short vastly improves my middle-infield defense, and this commitment is short enough to segue nicely to Royce Lewis in 2021.
Jose Berrios (4M)
Patrick Corbin (24M)
Kyle Gibson (8.5M)
Michael Pineda (8M)
Fernando Romero (0.5M)
Kelvin Herrera (8.3M)
Trevor May (1.5M)
Taylor Rogers (1.5M)
Raisel Iglesias (5.7M)
Addison Reed (8.5M)
Jerry Blevins (6M)
Trevor Hildenberger (0.5M)
C: Jason Castro (8M)
1B: Miguel Sano (3M)
2B: Jorge Polanco (0.5M)
SS: Jose Iglesias (9M)
3B: Josh Donaldson (15M)
LF: Eddie Rosario (4M)
CF: Byron Buxton (4M)
RF: Marwin Gonzalez (11M)
DH: Tyler Austin (0.5M)
C: Mitch Garver (0.5M)
MI: Ehire Adrianza (2M)
OF: Max Kepler (3M)
OF: Robbie Grossman (4M)
TOTAL: $141.5 millionOkay, granted, when you add in the money still owed to Phil Hughes, and the buyouts for Ervin Santana and Logan Morrison, it's up closer to $150 million. But such a number still would've ranked around the league median in 2018, and that's before the anticipated spending spree poised to take place this winter.
Plus, look at that beauty. This roster is built to win the division and boasts some staying power. With Chicago, Detroit and KC all rebuilding, and with Cleveland talking about trading away parts to trim payroll, one could argue the time is ripe for full-fledged investment.
I think we can safely say the Twins won't be quite as active and splashy as I've suggested above, but the point to take away here is this: right now we're looking at an almost completely fresh slate, with a wide-open horizon of roster-building opportunity.
You could pick and choose from the ambitious list above and arrive at a more realistic payroll figure while still upgrading with big names in several areas. High-profile free agents like Corbin, Gonzalez, Herrera and Donaldson are very much on the table, and Minnesota's front office should be seeking opportunities to acquire established difference-makers from rebuilding clubs.
If you were calling the shots, what would be your course of action this winter? Download the Offseason Handbook to see all the options at your fingertips.
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