Take on money, free up money, or pony up a top prospect.
What might each model look like in practice?On Thursday night's episode of Offseason Live, I was joined by Tom Froemming and Nash Walker as we exchanged and dissected Twins trade proposals that we view as plausible and sensible. You can watch that below to see the specific ideas and discussions:
I won't relitigate the debates. Each Armchair GM can speak for himself above (also available via podcast). But what I will do is lay out the three different high-level categories that all of our proposals – or any realistic Twins trade to be made this offseason – fall into.
MODEL 1: TWINS TAKE ON MONEYI think this route is probably the odds-on favorite heading in. Ken Rosenthal reported recently that rival executives expect Minnesota to be aggressive in a market where many are scaling back. If the ownership and front office are ready to keep pushing, they stand to gain a very real advantage.
This could manifest in free agency, with the Twins outbidding other lukewarm suitors for top talent. But a willingness to spend might be even more valuable on the trade market. Certain clubs will be desperate to unload burdensome contracts, under a mandate to get leaner for the economic uncertainty to come.
In our Offseason Live episode, we looked at a couple such examples. Francisco Lindor is essentially a lock to be traded by Cleveland, and while an intra-division trade is unlikely, I gave my pitch for what might get it done. Nash stumped for Trevor Story of the Rockies on a similar basis.
None of these superstar players are coming for free, but with a lack of aggressive contenders to pit against one another, teams like Cleveland and Colorado will be limited in their ability to drive up returns for expensive one-year rentals. At the same time, their front offices are likely feeling unique pressure to get SOMETHING done.
It's not often you have opportunities to pry loose top-tier talents in their prime, much less without giving up a painful haul. The Twins are very much in a position to do so – IF ownership is prepared to capitalize on a winning window by taking a bold financial risk.
MODEL 2: TWINS FREE UP MONEYThen again, maybe the Pohlads are much like the vast majority of ownership groups: prepared to take a conservative wait-and-see approach this offseason. To be honest, I couldn't fault them for it, so long as they're not making extreme cuts with baffling implications.
There aren't many guaranteed contracts on the 2021 books that could be viewed as unfavorable for the Twins, even in this environment. Their highest-paid player Josh Donaldson would qualify, but there's nothing to be done about his $21 million commitment. The next-biggest guaranteed salary belongs to Miguel Sanó, at $11 million. Here the Twins may have a viable trade chip.
The downsides of Sanó's game go without saying, and he's relatively replaceable in the scope of Minnesota's organizational depth. An argument could be made that the $11 million he's owed could better spent elsewhere. But this is a 27-year-old former top prospect with elite power, controlled for two more years. The Twins aren't giving him up for nothing, or even close.
For those reasons, they wouldn't need to. It's tricky, but not impossible, to envision a Sanó trade that works for both sides, with the Twins saving a bit of money and getting back immediate impact talent. Tom took a shot at actualizing such this with his seven-player, three-way hypothetical trade shared on Offseason Live. I'm not even gonna try to explain it.
MODEL 3: PONY UP A TOP PROSPECTWith Model 1, the Twins would likely need to relinquish at least one very good prospect. Nash and I had them surrendering Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic, respectively, to acquire Lindor or Story. Those are the best arms in Minnesota's system. But I don't think either could objectively be described as a "top prospect" in the big picture.
In this sense, the Twins have exactly three players in their system who – based on aggregated rankings across industry publications – could be considered true top prospects: Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach. In an offseason environment where high-upside, cost-controlled, near-ready talent will be coveted like perhaps never before, the Twins have an opportunity to make hay.
This third model – not ENTIRELY distinct from the first one – is represented by Tom's suggestion in Offseason Live of trading Kirilloff for Rays ace Blake Snell, or by Nash posing a Larnach-led package for Milwaukee's two best pitchers. Such give-and-get scenarios invoke a veritable cocktail of emotions: exhilarating energy mixed with nauseating FOMO.
It's a scenario, and feeling, that Twins fans know all too well. Because we literally just experienced it.
In February, Minnesota gave up Brusdar Graterol – a bona fide "TOP PROSPECT" by anyone's definition (other than Boston) – in order to acquire Kenta Maeda. It was the epitome of a trade that, at least so far, has worked out brilliantly for both sides.
Maeda leveled up in Minnesota and instantly became the Twins' most valuable player (in our eyes), and a Cy Young runner-up. He was the ace this franchise has long coveted. Meanwhile, Graterol was every bit the late inning weapon Los Angeles envisioned. He helped propel the Dodgers to a long-awaited championship, and remains under their control for five more years – a cost-effective successor for Kenley Jansen.
Hey, it hurts to lose Graterol. It'd hurt to lose Lewis, or Kirilloff, or Larnach too. But Maeda has been a transformative difference-maker for the Twins. And his presence only bolsters their position as a front-running pennant contender in 2021, furthering the case for another move in the Model 3 vein. The time is now.
Let us know in the comments which model(s) you'd prefer to adopt this winter. And by all means, share your own outlandish trade in the comments section. In the meantime, check out previous episodes of Offseason Live and be ready for the final planned installment:
- Ep 1: Twins Offseason Jeopardy! (Thurs, 10/8)
- Ep 2: Projecting the Twins’ 2021 Payroll (Tues, 10/13)
- Ep 3: Stay or Go? Twins Impending Free Agents (Thurs, 10/15)
- Ep 4: Twins Arbitration Decisions (Tues, 10/20)
- Ep 5: Free Agency – Catchers & Infield (Thurs, 10/22)
- Ep 6: Free Agency – Outfield & DH (Tues, 10/27)
- Ep 7: Free Agency – Starting Pitchers (Thurs, 10/29)
- Ep 8: Free Agency – Relief Pitchers (Thurs, 11/5)
- Ep 9: Twins Trade Targets (Thurs, 11/12)
- Ep 10: Offseason Blueprints (Coming Soon)
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