I know, I know, the non-waiver trade deadline has not even passed and I am already talking about the offseason. Even with the hot stretch to end the first half, I don’t see the Twins making a run at the playoffs this season, especially after Cleveland’s addition of relief pitchers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Minnesota has yet to make a move, but I believe its best bet is to sell some (or maybe all) of their upcoming free agents.
Both infielders Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar are set to be free agents at season’s end, but could be in different uniforms by the end of the month. If they are not, they both could accept the qualifying offer from the Twins, and Minnesota could get draft compensation. But if they like a deal for them, they should absolutely be moved. The same can be said about other players, such as pitchers Fernando Rodney, Ryan Pressly, Zach Duke and Lance Lynn. But you’d be better off reading Jeremy Nygaard’s great pieces on who could be targeted in a trade for these guys when it comes to deadline talk.
I am here to talk about the offseason. Out of the above six players, I see only Rodney and Pressly as possible players who would come back in 2019. Dozier just turned 31 and I don’t see him getting much of a contract offer from the Twins, especially when Nick Gordon is about ready to take over the position. Gordon has been less than spectacular in his time with Triple-A Rochester, but he has been solid recently, hitting .306 in his last 10 games with the Red Wings. Escobar has had a terrific season, but I don’t see him as a starter next year with Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano as the left side infielders. I would think Escobar would want to go to a place where he can start, if he is not traded before the deadline.
In the rotation, there could be a sizeable shakeup. Lynn will not be back in 2019, even if he is not traded this year. There was a reason he was only signed for one year. Minnesota has some good, young starting prospects they’d like to see more of. Stephen Gonsalves, who has pitched great recently after a poor few starts, could be in the mix, as well as Fernando Romero and Zack Littell, who have both seen action in 2018. Romero got off to a strong start with the Twins, but then he was figured out and hit a wall. In seven games with the Wings, Romero is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.04. Littell has yet to have success with the Twins, but has a 3.38 ERA in 11 games with Rochester. He had a rough last start, but Adalberto Mejia has pitched really well in Rochester as well. All four of those players will fight for a spot in the rotation.
That brings me to Ervin Santana, who has yet to appear in a game for the Twins in 2018. Santana has a $14 million club option for next season, so he will need to impress in the final two months in order for the Twins to think about picking up his option. He had a tremendous 2017 season, going 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA, but he will be 36 by the time the next season starts, so Derek Falvey and Thad Levine could look to go younger. They also have Michael Pineda signed for next year as well, so he will likely take up one of the rotation spots.
There may be a shuffling of the relievers as well. I don’t think Pressly will be traded, but if a team offered a good deal for him, I’d move him. I could see Rodney traded as well, and Duke is the one who is most likely to be traded. Down in Rochester, there are a number of relievers who are just waiting their turn to either make the big leagues or a return trip to the bigs. If Rodney were traded, I would probably give Pressly the first shot at closing games, but if both are traded, I would see what Trevor Hildenberger can do at the back end of the pen.
In Rochester, Luke Bard, who played with the Angels earlier in the season after being drafted in the Rule 5 Draft, could be an option. Even after struggling with the Twins this season, Tyler Duffey and John Curtiss, could be back up. Trevor May is still with the Wings, and could fight for a spot. Gabriel Moya had a rough first month of the season, but struck out four in two perfect innings against Milwaukee earlier this month. His biggest problem is keeping the ball in the park. Despite having a career .212 batting average against, he has a career ERA of 6.08. Moya has allowed just 11 hits in his 13.1 career innings, but an incredible five of them have left the yard. Interestingly, he has just allowed two homers in 40.2 innings in Triple-A this season. And then there is Jake Reed, who has been lights out at every level. He has an ERA of 2.54 with the Red Wings after having just a 2.05 ERA in Rochester last season. Reed is also promotion-worthy.
That leaves us with Joe Mauer. The ‘Face of the Franchise’ has only hit above .280 once in the last four seasons (and could be five this year) after not having a batting average under that in any of his first 10 seasons. He still is a great defensive first baseman who helps the Twins in other areas. Mauer is in the last year of his $184 million contract he signed following his 2009 MVP season. I have a hard time seeing the hometown boy in any other uniform. He won’t re-sign at his current $23 million salary, but somewhere in the $7-10 million range on a one-year deal will bring him back to the Twin Cities.
If you thought this past offseason was interesting for the Twins, just wait until this upcoming offseason. If the team lets Dozier, Escobar, Lynn, Santana and Mauer hit free agency and trades Rodney and Duke, that is nearly $70 million off the books. It would be even more if they decline the 2019 option on the disappointing Logan Morrison. They’ll have plenty of room to look around if they want to jump into free agency once again.
Obviously, it would be awesome to get into the Bryce Harper Sweepstakes, but that is not a Twins-like move, and there is no chance Harper wants to come here anyway. But, if the Twins have Gordon at second and bring back Mauer to play first for one more season until Brent Rooker is ready, the field would look like this: 1B: Mauer, 2B: Gordon, 3B: Sano, SS: Polanco, OF: Rosario, Buxton, Kepler. That would still be a good lineup, especially if they can get one more power bat. I would love the recently-traded Manny Machado, but only if he would move back to third base and I don’t see that happening. I don’t see him wanting to come here anyway. Maybe a one-year contract to Adrian Beltre, if he is willing to come to the Twin Cities. Third base would be nice if you can get a well-rounded one and have Sano be the designated hitter. If I were the Twins, this may be a pipe dream as well, but I would go after Mike Moustakas if he were to become a free agent. He turns 30 in September, but a three-year deal or so averaging between $15-20 million per year would be a good deal to round out the lineup.
If the Twins were to try to find an “ace” type pitcher, the pickings are slim, but I would go after Dallas Keuchel. The current Astro has had a bit of a down year, only going 7-8 with a 3.75 ERA before the All-Star break. But three of his previous four seasons ended with him having an ERA of under three. But he turns 31 before the start of the 2019 season, and I am always hesitant to want the Twins to give big deals to players on the wrong side of 30. If they can lock him up to a short-term deal like the one I proposed for Moustakas, I would do it, but if he wants a deal like the one Yu Darvish received last offseason, forget it. Other pitchers who they could have interest in are Trevor Cahill and Garrett Richards, but they could very easily just roll with a couple of the young starters currently in Rochester.
As always, trades are a possibility too. Minnesota has one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, and could trade a big prospect or two in order to get another top of rotation type starter to pair Jose Berrios with. That might be the only way they are able to get a front of the rotation type of player. Maybe they try to look at Chris Archer again, who is in the midst of his third consecutive season with an ERA north of four.
It will be an interesting offseason once again in Minneapolis, and I don’t think anything will be out of the question. I do think the biggest needs going into the offseason will be to find a third baseman and another starter. If they are able to get players like Moustakas and Archer, the offseason will have been a success. I am not too concerned about the bullpen, as you can find successful ones anywhere. Just look at Brad Hand for example. The Marlins lost him on waivers in April 2016. Now look at him....one of the best relievers in the game and was traded for the No. 15 prospect in all of baseball. Like I said, the Twins have a number of relievers in Triple-A ready to make the jump. Buckle up, Twins fans, it could be an exciting ride once again.