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Roster, financial flexibility says no to Cruz reunion

South Dakota Tom



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Right now, I'd project the opening day lineup to consist of Sano at 1b, Polanco at 2b, Simmons at ss, Donaldson at 3b, Arraez in LF, Buxton in CF, Kepler in RF, and Garver catching. Assuming a 13-man position player active roster, that leaves 5 spots open. Ryan Jeffers is one. Jake Cave is another. At some point, sooner rather than later, Alex Kiriloff is a third. Brent Rooker is a fourth, leaving Lamonte Wade, Astudillo, Blankenhorn, Gordon to fill in (or rotate in) the final spot.


Once Kiriloff arrives, left field stops rotating, and while Cave is backup outfielder number one, having Rooker in the lineup (as well as Arraez, who is not great in LF, but his bat needs to stay in the lineup), tilts toward a second infield utility player being handiest. We can argue over who that should be (Astudillo as 3rd catcher, 3b, LF?; Blankenhorn or Gordon), but I'm sticking with my hopeful prediction of Gordon taking on that part-time skeleton key spot, offering some speed, flexibility, and reasonable pop.


The depth chart says that (after catcher), Rooker backs up 1B, or potentially Kiriloff or Kepler, with Cave getting an OF start; Arraez backs up 2b along with Gordon; Polanco backs up SS; Arraez or Polanco or Sano backs up 3b, depending on whether the team prefers keeping Jorge to a primary-2b, sometimes ss role or moves him around more.


Once Kiriloff arrives in LF, (or RF, if they want to shift Kepler to LF), there will be fewer ABs available for any outfield position reserves.


DH, then, rotates between a handful of players - Sano (Rooker plays 1b, or Kiriloff plays 1b with Cave/Arraez in LF), Donaldson (Arraez or Polanco plays 3b, the other plays 2b), Rooker, Cave, Arraez as DH with no substitutions needed, maybe Polanco with Arraez playing 2b.


While a Cruz reunion is favored by many, and for good reason (this is not to bash Nellie, who is a leader and great baseball player), none of the above is possible with a single, non-position-player taking on 500+ at-bats in the DH slot. There is a sound argument that Cruz's production would dwarf doling out 500 ABs between Rooker, Arraez, Cave, or whichever catcher isn't starting that day, but there's a logical argument that it wouldn't.


And then there's the money. I think the figures thrown around ($12M with incentives to $15-16) are a little light, and gobbles up all - or almost all - of the remaining budget. I don't pretend to know what that number is, and clearly the team isn't saying, but multiple reports indicate that the annual salary for Cruz would constitute the lion's share of it.


This team needs bullpen help and (in my opinion) one more starting pitcher for depth. We can hope against hope that Maeda, Berrios, Pineda, Happ and Dobnak all make 30 starts, but it never happens. We can hope against hope that Smeltzer, Thorpe, Duran and Balazovic can ably fill in, but that, too, walks a thin rope (and depending on how it shakes out, Thorpe could be lost from that depth chart if he doesn't make the relief corps). 8-9 starters is not enough, especially when two have never pitched a major league inning, and all are expected to throw 250% of their 2020 innings.


It is also noteworthy how close our top prospects are to reaching ML level - a glance at the MLB prospects list https://www.mlb.com/prospects/2020/twins/ reflects that no less than a dozen of the top 30 (those who haven't already appeared in a big league game) have "2021" as their anticipated date of arrival. I don't see a dozen spots opening up this year, but wouldn't it be nice that if Celestino pounds AAA, or Miranda or Larnach or Lewis, that we would have the ability to move pieces around to make that happen.


Our clearest open path to at-bats in 2021 is through the DH slot. The remaining 8 offensive starters seem pretty locked in (again, once AK moves to everyday play). The same dollars that bring us Cruz could fetch a couple of relievers (Colome, Rosenthal, Kennedy, Clippard?) and a starter (Brett Anderson, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Rodon, Cole Hamels?) who slip through the cracks.


One final point - I know the team will miss the homers from Eddie and Nelson, but this team too often sat around waiting for some player to hit a bomb. The playoffs the past two years only highlight that shortcoming. Improved flexibility throughout, better defense, room for promotion from prospects, and more reliance on 1-9 rather than solo homers, while beefing up pitching depth, seems a stronger formula for success in 2021 (and beyond).



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Tom, very articulate and well thought out. So well done, this could easily be a front page article. I agree with every point made in your arguement even if I don't feel it's going to turn out the way you state it.


While I love MLB going to a 26 man roster, I would prefer 27, and I thought the 28 man roster for 2020 was outstanding. I really wish they would bump the final number to one of those for the general good of the players as well as the game. I also want the roster bumped because if Cruz is back, SOMEONE has to be at AAA that I don't want there! LOL


I greatly prefer a 27 man roster split 13/13 with the final spot to be determined by the team as best need/fit.


It's been widely reported the Twins have TWO moves yet to make, though IMO, it should two major moves and two or three additional small moves. While we don't knkw what the FO has in mind I do believe Cruz is one of those. I believe another solid/quality BP is the other. You are correct that we simply don't know what the actual payroll projection is. What we DO KNOW is, INCLUDING projected bonus earnings for Maeda, we now sit just about spot on $112M with the Simons signing. We also can feel pretty certain Cruz will cost somewhere around $13-15M. That puts the Twins just about dead on for the speculated $125M tossed about. But we also know payroll has always escalated somewhat above projections with our current FO. They understand value when it comes their way. Ownership seems to agree. So while I would be extremely happy to see the power arm of Rosenthal brought on board for $7M, I speculate it will be something like Colome or Soria for $4-5M. (Though I hold out hope for Rosenthal).


These two moves still keep payroll right around the $130M mark. But I mentioned two or three smaller moves didn't I? I believe there will remain enough flexibility...plus FA depth opportunity...to add yet another RP, Clippard maybe, and another utility option and potential 5th SP option all at below market value. Maybe there's a milb deal/invite in there somewhere.


Great blog post!! I just think need and opportunity are going to see some additions, including Cruz.

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I agree, GREAT post So.Dak Tom.  I've been thinking this way for awhile now.

I mentioned in another post that here I was back in November stating that the Twins simply MUST bring Cruz back.  He's their BEST hitter !!


However   if I could sign Rosenthal and Paxton for what it would cost to sign Cruz I'm going for the pitching.

SP:  Maeda, Berrios, Paxton, Happ, Pineda (Dobnak)

There's 6 guys that would be talented and give you some leeway with guys missing a start here or there.

Rosenthal caps off a truly talented and deep Twins BP.

I'm worried Cruz only has one year (maybe a half a year) of mashing left.

But I agree with So.Dak Tom  the Twins seem to wait around for 3-run HR's too much.  


Pitch.  Play Defense.  Hit better.  

If Sano, Polanco, Kepler and Garver all don't improve greatly we're in trouble.

If Donaldson can't stay healthy...we're in trouble.

Why not pitch and play defense and let your offense come back around.

I predict Kiriloff is going to be a tough out hitting 6th or 7th.  A tougher out than Eddie was.  

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Good article but I will offer a counter argument. Signing Cruz will affect the playing time for some players including Rooker, Arreaz, Cave and maybe a few ABs from Killeroff. Cruz will also keep us from cycling players like Sano and Donaldson through DH. But if he hits the same as last year.... Being a 150% OPS is another level of hitting and greatly improves our lineup. Also our improved defense greatly helps Dobnak the most so I think he deserves a full opportunity. We do need another reliever if we can get at least Clippard back at 4 or 5 million we can afford Cruz, Clippard, and a SP on a minor league contract for depth.

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