As we all know, the Twins season has been a disaster almost immediately from the get go. The first seven games went as expected, and the Twins saw themselves with a 5-2 record through a weeks worth of games. However, they are now 2 months into the season, and through the entirety of last seasons total games played, and find themselves sitting 13 games below .500 at 24-37. I don't think anybody, even models that predict the bottoming out of a team, saw them playing at this pace. There are many different reasons for the Twins poor start, including the bullpen, injuries to key hitters when they are needed the most, and bounce-back candidates simply not rebounding like many had hoped. Another issue that has set the Twins back is the offseason acquisitions. On paper, the class of Alex Colome, Hansel Robles, J.A. Happ, and Matt Shoemaker on the pitching side appeared to do a sufficient job. However, only Robles of this group has even returned moderate value, and Colome and Shoemaker should likely be DFA'd in the upcoming days. The hitting side didn't see the signings that the pitching side did, with only Andrelton Simmons being brought in to bolster the infield defense, and Kyle Garlick, who was claimed on the waiver wire, and may actually be the best move they made all winter. With that said, let me go down the alternate rode of myself being the GM, and taking a look at how things may be going if they made the moves I mapped out in my offseason blueprint.
SP Jose Berrios - 5.3M (Tender)
CF Byron Buxton - 4.4M (Tender)
RP Tyler Duffey - 1.7M (Tender)
C Mitch Garver - 1.8M (Tender)
RP Taylor Rogers - 5.5M (Tender)
LF Eddie Rosario - 10M (Non-Tender)
RP Matt Wisler - 1.4M (Tender)
The real life Twins' front office made very similar choices to myself, which all seemed pretty obvious. There was no world where any of the top 4 names on the list were going to become free agents, and although there was some questioning around Taylor Rogers, I never believed the Twins would let him walk. The first real decision came on fan favorite Eddie Rosario, who like the Thad Levine and Derek Falvey, I let walk away. I had no issues with it at the time, and in retrospect still have no issues with the move. Rosario is slashing .244/..294/.356 for an OPS+ of 79. The batting average and on base percentage are near career norms, but the slugging percentage is at a career low, and it isn't close. One bright spot to Eddie is that he's been aggressive on the base paths with Cleveland, totaling 7 steals in 56 games. The first differing decision I made was the decision to tender Matt Wisler, who was just waived by the San Fransisco Giants after signing a one year deal. Wisler was very, very bad this year, so that was a swing and a miss in this hypothetical offseason, but at just a projected 1.4 million dollars, it was a risk I was willing to take.
Following arbitration and the guaranteed salaries that we all knew were going to be on the book, I gave myself around 40 million dollars to spend to fill out the rest of the roster. So, how did I spend it? Let's take a look.
Robbie Ray - 1 year, 6M dollars
In the real universe of the MLB, Robbie Ray signed a 1 year, 8 million dollar deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Ray was an intriguing bounce back candidate who at the minimum could fill the back end of the rotation with higher upside. Even at 8 million dollars that he got in real life, it would be a risk that I would take. Ray was one of the first players to sign this winter, and it has paid off huge for the Toronto Blue Jays. Ray has made 11 starts and compiled 2 WAR on 81 strikeouts in only 64.1 innings pitched, and has an ERA of 3.36, a number he hasn't posted since he was an all-star with Arizona in 2017. Ray does have a FIP of nearly 4.40, and negative regression will likely come at some point, but Ray would've been a huge success for the 2021 Minnesota Twins.
Tyler Clippard - 1 year, 2.5M dollars
The Twins chose not to bring back Tyler Clippard in 2021, and it turns out that it was the correct move. Clippard pitched 26 innings of 2.77 ERA baseball for the Twins in the shortened 2020 season, and I thought he was perfect as the first or second guy out of the bullpen in the 5th or 6th inning. However, he's been dealing with an injury that will likely keep him out for the rest of the year. Obviously he isn't to worthwhile to a bullpen when he's on the IL.
Joakim Soria - 1 year, 6.25M dollars
Soria only got half of the money I was willing to give him in my offseason blueprint, signing with the Oakland Athletics on a one year, 3.25 million dollar contract. Soria was an arm who I believed in as he's always posted great numbers, and has experience closing ball games. Things haven't gone as planned for Soria in Oakland, throwing 13 innings of 4.85 ERA baseball. The surface numbers are ugly, but Soria appears to being unlucky with a HR/9 innings of 2.5, a number which sits at 0.8 throughout his career. The strikeouts are in line with where they've always been for the 37 year old, and he still rarely gives up the free pass. Would Soria have been a late inning weapon for the Twins in his current form? Probably not. Would he have been better than Alexander Colome? Absolutely.
Ehire Adrianza - 1 year, 1.5M dollars
The second re-signing that I mapped out for the Twins was bringing back utility infielder Ehire Adrianza. In this universe, Jorge Polanco was given the ability to stay as the shortstop because I believed the bounceback year was coming at the dish, and I simply didn't care as much about the defense as the real life Twins front office did. Adrianza would serve as the 6th infielder and fill in once a week, and provide late inning defense. The real life Adrianza signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves, but has been on the major league ballclub the entire year. He still isn't hitting with an OPS+ of 78, which is just a few points lower than his career norms, but that isn't what I resigned him to do. We know he can field wherever you put him, and that is where the value is. The Twins chose to bring in Andrelton Simmons, and that was a fine move too. This role was never filled for the Twins by Falvey and Levine.
Jonathan Schoop - 1 year, 6M dollars
I already signed one backup infielder for my hypothetical squad, but still felt like I needed another as I wasn't a huge believer of Luis Arraez defense at second base, and knew that the Twins needed a right handed bat to face off with southpaws. Schoop got a 1 year, 4.5 million dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers. Our old friend has had a solid year manning second and first for the Tigers, with an OPS+ of 104, which is 4 percent higher than league average, and has also batted 9 balls over the wall in a stadium where it isn't easy to do so. On my 2021 Twins team, Schoop would primarily hit against left handed pitchers only, but also have the ability to fill in with injuries to Luis Arraez, Miguel Sano, or Josh Donaldson. Schoop has 59 at bats against left handed pitchers, and has 7 extra base hits including 3 homers for an OPS of .840. This would give him an OPS+ of 130 if he were to only hit against lefties, while filling the role that Willians Astudillo currently finds himself in. I think this is an easy upgrade that the Twins executives missed out on.
Kevin Pillar - 2 year, 12.5M dollars
The last signing in my hypothetical offseason was outfielder Kevin Pillar, who was the only player I was willing to give 2 years to. However, I went way higher on the money than was really needed, as he signed a 2 year deal totaling 6M dollars with the New York Mets, but that doesn't really matter here in La-La Land. Pillar wore a fastball off the face earlier this season, but with that non-withstanding, has been about as advertised for the Mets. Pillar plays good outfield defense, although he is a bit stretched in center field, and is a league average hitting with an OPS+ of 101. On my Twins team, Pillar would split time with Jake Cave in left field in a platoon until Trevor Larnach was ready to be called up, and then would be the fourth outfielder on the team. In real life, the Twins opted to claim Kyle Garlick for a similar role, and he has certainly worked out just fine. However, Garlick is nowhere near the defender that Pillar is, so we'll call this one a wash.
SP - Kenta Maeda
SP - Jose Berrios
SP - Michael Pineda
SP - Robbie Ray
SP - Randy Robnak
RP - Taylor Rodgers (L)
RP - Tyler Duffey
RP - Matt Wisler
RP - Jorge Alcala
RP - Cody Stashak
RP- Tyler Cippard
RP - Joakim Soria
RP - Caleb Thielbar (L)
Much like the real life Twins, I was counting on Kenta Maeda having a similar season that he had in 2020. Obviously I wasn't expecting a cy young season, but I thought he was a #2 starter, much like Berrios. We know Kenta has struggled, but Berrios has been about as advertised. Pineda has continued to stay consistent, and the presence of Robbie Ray in this rotation is gamechanging. The Twins are currently handing the ball to JA Happ every 5th day, who has been mediocre, when in this universe they're using a potential all-star. I also gave the 5th rotation spot to Randy Dobnak instead of signing a Matt Shoemaker type, which is an easy upgrade no matter who you give the ball to.
The bullpen would face similar struggles that they've seen in 2021, as the only real change here is Joakim Soria. We know that Matt Wisler has been bad, and Tyler Clippard hasn't even thrown a pitch. Much like the Twins brass, I was counting on Rogers, Duffey, and Soria to close out games with the rest of the guys being able to get me through the middle innings. I think the Twins addition of Hansel Robles puts their bullpen on par with the one I drew up here, which isn't good news for either of us.
C - Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers
1B - Miguel Sano
2B - Luis Arraez (L), Jonathan Schoop
SS - Jorge Polanco (S), Ehire Adrianza (S)
3B - Josh Donaldson
LF - Jake Cave (L)
CF - Byron Buxton, Kevin Pillar
RF - Max Kepler (L)
DH: Alex Kiriloff (L)
I opted to split catching time behind the dish much like the Twins planned on doing before Ryan Jeffers stumbled out of the gate and sent him down. We have seen Jeffers bounceback as he's been getting every day starts. The infield is the biggest difference on this team, with Jorge Polanco staying at shortstop, and Jonathan Schoop and Ehire Adrianza coming off the bench. Schoop fills in for Willians Astudillo, which I would consider an upgrade, and I think many others would as well. The Adrianza role wasn't filled in real life, and that's fine because they signed a defensive wizard in Andrelton Simmons and had the luxury of Jorge Polanco being the second string shortstop. Kevin Pillar fills the role of Kyle Garlick, which is a wash. The biggest change I made was not re-signing Nelson Cruz, as I had questions about him after seeing him struggle to end the 60 game season. Through nearly the same amount of games in 2021, Cruz has slowed down from his early years in Minnesota, and is potentially playing in his "swan song" season. I would've given the role to Alex Kiriloff from day one, and I think that would've been a potential upgrade over the 40 year old slugger if the wrist injury never came for AK.
Obviously it is hard to grade my offseason because there is no way of telling which players do or don't get hurt, but on paper I think that with the addition of Robbie Ray, the starting rotation is a lot deeper and a lot better. The lineup is largely the same with Alex Kiriloff instead of Nelson Cruz, and in retrospect the bullpen would face many of the same issues here that we've seen on the field in 2021.