The Twins are at a crossroads. 2017 provided fans with the promise of the future as they surprised many to make the Wild Card game and expectations were high for 2018. Needless to say, this past season did not end as many hoped, although at 78-84 they only finished 7 games behind 2017. They had a horrible 15 walk-off losses this past year and had to deal with what would kindly be called disappointing seasons from two supposed cornerstones for the future in Buxton and Sano. Improving their "luck" in late innings and improvement from Buxton and Sano could easily lead to a better than .500 record in 2019.
With that being said, I want nothing to do with a .500 record. The Twins either need to decide that they have the nucleus of a contender and supplement it with additional pieces or they need to retool for 2020/2021 when the next wave of prospects arrive. They certainly have the payroll flexibility to do so. I do not want to see them just fill holes with mediocre free agents and have a ceiling of 85 wins. While I felt the front office did a good job of adding pieces last offseason to potentially improve the squad, Falvey acknowledged that adding people on 1 and 2 year contracts does not necessarily get them to "buy in" to the team. If they are not going to invest significantly in the team, I would be for doing as Tom Froemming suggested:
With that in mind, here is my blueprint for the Twins front office in 2019. (Prices for arbitration eligible players is from MLBTR estimates and FA prices are estimated from TD Offseason handbook and John Heyman's article.)
The first move for the Twins involves upgrading the rotation. The Twins should attempt to entice the D-backs in to trading Zack Greinke for Jake Odorizzi, Nick Gordon and Stephen Gonsalves. The added salary would be somewhat offset with the departure of Odorizzi who is likely due 9-10M in arbitration. Adding Gio Gonzalez or J.A. Happ would be cheaper secondary options that would put a lefty in the rotation.
The are many question marks in the infield and I will start with the assumption that Joe Mauer is going to retire. The Twins will need to fill spots at 1B and either 2B or SS with Jorge Polanco filling the other role. I feel Polanco and the Twins would be better served with a move to 2B. As a result I propose signing Jose Iglesias (3yrs/24M) to improve their defense up the middle. To fill 1B and give the Twins a fallback option at 3B, they should sign Josh Donaldson (3yrs/60M). Playing more at 1B and DH (and subbing at 3B) would hopefully keep Donaldson's potent RH bat in the lineup. Tyler Austin would be the backup 1B and also serve as a DH.
Having a potent and deep bullpen seems to be a necessity these days. Riding his best bullpen arms to the point of overuse was one of my biggest criticisms of Paul Molitor. Baldelli needs to be provided with a deeper bullpen. I propose signing David Robertson (2 yrs, 22M) and Joe Kelly (3yrs, 24M). Along with the returning players, this would be the deepest pen they have had in years.
These changes would leave the Twins with the following roster:
C - Garver (0.6M), Castro (8M) I see this as a platoon favoring Garver.
1B - Donaldson (20M), Austin (0.6M)
2B - Polanco (0.6M)
SS - Iglesias (8M), Adrianza (1.8M)
3B - Sano (3.1M)
OF - Rosario (5M), Buxton (1.2M), Kepler (3.2M), Cave (0.6M)
SP - Greinke (35M), Berrios (0.6M), Gibson (7.9M), Pineda (8M), Romero/Mejia/Stewart/Littell (0.6M)
RP - Robertson (11M), Kelly (8M), Reed (8.5M), Rogers (1.6M), May (1.1M), Hildenberger, Moya and Magill (all at 0.6M)
They will owe buyouts of 7.95 M for Hughes, Santana and Morrison. That will put the Twins at approximately 145 M, which is just above the median (141M) and mean (139M) payrolls in MLB for 2018. They would have 24.5M coming off the books for 2020 to cover growing payroll for young players. I realize that this is not likely, but it also is not that much more than what they originally committed to 2018. If the Twins are not willing to commit to such a plan, I would much rather they trade players like Gibson and Odorizzi and add assets to build for 2020/2021. I do not want the front office to repeat their approach of 2018.