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Patching Holes: How the Twins can still fix their roster (SS/Utility Edition)


Andrew Luedtke

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blog-0553857001611168363.jpegIt was quite impressive how inept the Twins middle infield was as a whole offensively in 2020. Twins 2B combined to produce a .708 OPS while Twins SS combined for an even worse, .616 OPS. The majority of the at bats at these spots went to Arraez, Polanco, Gonzalez, and Adrianza.

 

Polanco and Arraez were never fully healthy and there is concern for both of them entering this season. For this reason, it makes sense that even after an All-Star game appearance in 2019 for Polanco, the Twins are rumored to be looking at SS.

 

This blog is part of a collection of other blogs in the "Patching Holes" series. Also check out my thoughts on the DH, Starting Pitching, and Reliever positions.

 

Currently, the Twins SS position ranks 17th in MLB. There are a two ways the Twins could go in improving their team:

 

1) They could keep Polanco as the everyday SS and acquire a utilityman to replace Marwin/Adrianza

2) They could acquire a SS and shift Polanco/Arraez to the utility spot

Here is how the Twins SS and 2B project to perform in 2021 based on Fangraphs Depth Charts.

 

2B SS

 

The Twins can do better.

Here are some SS and utility options for the Twins. I noted both how the Twins would benefit in “net WAR” as well as the 2021 estimated salary of each player (via Fangraphs).

“Net WAR” in this scenario is the difference between the Fangraphs Depth Chart projection for each player below and the least valuable options for the 2B/SS positions on the Twins currently.

For this purpose, we will use the combined WAR for the non-starters at each position as the “baseline” since adding any player below will raise the floor of the team. So in this case we are using the projected WAR for Royce Lewis (.1) and Luis Arraez (.2) at SS, and Nick Gordon at 2B (.1) for a total of .4 WAR.

For example: Jurickson Profar’s Depth Chart projection is 1.6 WAR. So to calculate “net WAR” you subtract 1.6 from .4 and are left with +1.2 wins.

*All WAR projections use Fangraphs Depth Charts

Free Agent SS Options:

Marcus Semien: +2.7 WAR ($17M)

Andrelton Simmons: +2.3 WAR ($14M)

Didi Gregorius: + 2.1 WAR ($15M)

Freddy Galvis: +.4 WAR ($6M)

SS Trade Options:

Javier Baez: +2.2 WAR ($11.65M)

Trevor Story: +3.5 WAR ($17.5M)

Free Agent Utilityman Options:

Jurickson Profar: +1.2 WAR ($7.5M)

Tommy LaStella: +1.1 WAR($7M)

Enrique Hernandez: +.5 WAR ($6M)

Marwin Gonzalez: +.4 WAR ($5M)

Asdrubal Cabrera: +.3 WAR ($3M)

This is not a perfect formula. There are a lot of moving parts in each of these instances due to how each player would impact the rest of the team. For example, a SS signing would move the projections for both Arraez and Polanco based on new splits in playing time. The current projections for the utility players like Profar and LaStella assume almost a full-time role. If their role is less than that with the Twins, it obviously hinders some of their overall value.

In any case, the additions above would improve the Twins.

My take:

I think a SS signing makes a ton of sense, especially if the front office believes there is a chance the Arraez, Polanco, or even Donaldson injuries linger into this season. I feel like a guy like Didi or Simmons elevates the floor of this team much higher than a utilityman signing. Polanco can shift to 2B and platoon with Didi or Simmons depending on the matchup. I also view Arraez as the most versatile utility guy since he played 2B, 3B, and even LF in 2019.

Also of note, I am dreaming of watching Simmons and Buxton play on the same team. If Baseball Tonight still did nightly “Web Gems”, the Twins would be frequent participants.

Matthew Trueblood made a compelling argument for Didi the other day.

Here’s how the lineup could look any given day:

2B: Arraez/Polanco

SS: Didi or Simmons/Polanco

3B: Arraez/Donaldson

LF: Kirilloff/Arraez

The other option is to hope Polanco returns close to 2019 form and sign a utilityman that can give you more production than Marwin/Adrianza did in 2020. A very logical path that would be more cost effective, but as you can see, not as impactful as adding a SS.

In the comments below, let me know who you think the Twins should sign and why!

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I like Simmons because of the glove.  I like a trade for Story or Baez because of Glove and Bat.

I do not like our current situation.

And now with rumors of Marwan and the Twins talking I'm even less enthused.  

There are better options than Marwan who would be more cost-efficient.  

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I think it's pretty clear that biggest way to upgrade this team is to acquiure a SS. I think I'd rather pay Didi/Simmons/Semien on a 1-2 year deal than trade. Marwin makes sense for this team if he is the 2nd UTIL guy, not the 1st guy off the bench like his role was in 2019-2020.

 

A combination of Polanco, Arraez, Marwin, and Simmons/Didi/Semien gives your lineup a lot of flexibility and depth. I'd prefer this route over acquiring a guy like Hernandez, Profar, or LaStella. 

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