Recently I was on Twins Daily’s Offseason Live with John Bonnes and Ted Schwerzler and discussed the Minnesota Twins payroll outlook for 2021. Most years it has been relatively easy to make an estimation on the team’s payroll but a year of COVID-19 has made it anything but easy.
While having payroll conversations, it became a quick reality that if the Twins need to at all cut payroll from a 2020 payroll just shy of 140 million, the dollars will be spent quickly. As that realization hit, I began to form my own list of priorities for the Twins this offseason and wanted to share those thoughts here.
Find a 4th/5th Starter
While the Twins farm system is better stocked with high level arms than in previous eras, it would seem foolish to go into 2021 assuming they would be ready to perform on a World Series contending team. With two starting rotation spots open next to Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Michael Pineda, the Twins need to sign another starter.
That would leave a spot still open to someone like Randy Dobnak to fill for the duration of the season. Everyone is going to clamor for Trevor Bauer. While that would be great he will almost definitely cost too much for the Twins this offseason. If the Twins can bring in a starter somewhere in the $8-12 million range that would help raise the talent level of that group which will be important moving into 2021. A trade is also very possible here!
Utility player with the ability to play shortstop
I recently wrote in more detail about this move over at Twins Daily. With both Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza hitting free agency, this will be an important role to fill. Especially with the injury question marks surrounding both Jorge Polanco and Josh Donaldson.
I am on board with Adrianza returning to the Twins because of his ability to play shortstop. Other possibilities if they become available would be the likes of Kike Hernandez, Jurickson Profar, and Jose Iglesias. An even more drastic shuffling of the deck would be trying to supplant Polanco as the starting shortstop and move him into a utility role.
I really doubt that the Twins would move Polanco into a utility role unless Royce Lewis is ready to make the jump to the big leagues. Today I think the most likely scenario for the Twins would be to make Travis Blankenhorn one of the utility players and then either resign Adrianza or trade for a somewhat blocked player on another roster.
A trade scenario could be someone like Mason McCoy who finds himself somewhat blocked on the Baltimore Orioles organizational depth chart. He has made it to Triple-A but has two shortstop considered bigger prospects than him ahead of him in the organization. McCoy likely lacks the MLB experience the Twins may want if they bring someone in from outside the organization, but the situation fits the sort of player the Twins could pursue.
Bullpen arm, preferably with some power.
The Twins will be watching Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, and potentially Sergio Romo hit the free agent market. The Twins should try and bring in one more bullpen arm and preferably a power arm like May.
If the Twins tender Matt Wisler and Caleb Thielbar in theory they will have an arm like Romo’s. That in mind gives freedom to the Twins to let Romo walk and not pick up his option. Bringing May back may be the most ideal, but if he gets too expensive there will be other routes to bolster the pen.
Re-sign Nelson Cruz
To be clear, I really want Cruz back in a Twins uniform. As the money slips away from the payroll it simply becomes hard to commit to. The Twins are also in theory much better prepared to replace a DH bat with Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker getting the MLB experience they did this season then they are to replace a spot in the rotation.
Cruz was the steadying force in the lineup for much of the 2020 season. The reality is, even with Cruz, if the other Twins core players like Donaldson, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Polanco, etc don’t perform the team isn’t going to win the World Series anyways. This team will go as that core goes at the plate.
I don’t mention Eddie Rosario in my priorities, because I really think the approximately $10 million that will be owed to him in arbitration will cause him to be non-tendered. With Jake Cave and Lamonte Wade already on the bench, Rooker and Kirilloff ready to challenge them for a spot, and money being a prime asset it will be time to non-tender Rosario. He has been a fun and integral part of this team so it will be hard to say good-bye.
I will most definitely at a later date put together a more complete offseason blueprint, but that is the framework I will be working through. Would love to hear where you are ranking some of these moves as a priority for the Twins this offseason.
Post can also be found at Left Field Gap