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The Grand "Re-Tool" Experiment


Tim

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The conversation on this site as of late has been centered around should we trade player X, should we keep player Y, etc.

We don’t have much else to talk about.

If we are talking about trading assets, especially ones that are controllable and add value to your club next year and beyond, it raises the question – are you re-tooling or are you re-building?

Now I know that a lot of people might say its too early to even think about what next years team might look like, it might be. But if your argument is “re-tool” then we need to look at what that might look like.

We all are aware that Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and Taylor Rogers are set to become free agents following next season.

Contract extensions for both Buxton and Berrios seems incredibly unlikely at this point. Both players have their flaws but are absolutely pieces you can build around. Taylor Rogers is one of the best relievers in the game, but is set to become a free agent, is going on age 32, and the front office has never paid more than 6.5 million for a reliever aside from two occasions (Reed and Colome)

But throw all that out the window.

 What if they decide to give next year a go with Buxton, Berrios, and Rogers?

What does a retool look like?  

I am ignoring the return that the pending free agents might be able to get you at the upcoming deadline, mostly because It’s not a given that can contribute next year. It could be a few low A prospects for all we know.

I will also be using John Bonnes’s article on how much the Twins might have to potentially spend next year, that you can read here, as reference for my spending – 45 million dollars.

The lineup, bench, and pitching staff I have put together is just a projection and very well could be different then what the Twins or you think it might look like. Please don’t roast me too harshly in the comments.

 

Lineup

Byron Buxton

CF

Max Kepler

RF

Trevor Larnach

LF

Josh Donaldson

3rd

 

SS

Jorge Polanco

2nd

Alex Kirilloff

1st

Mitch Garver

C

 

DH

Andrelton Simmons SS

Nelson Cruz DH

Bench

Luis Arraez

UTI.

Ryan Jeffers

C

Miguel Sano

1st/DH

Nick Gordon

UTI

 

Rotation

José Berríos

SP

Kenta Maeda

SP

 

SP

 

SP

Bailey Ober

SP

Michael Pineda

JA Happ

 

Bullpen

Taylor Rogers

Closer

Jorge Alcala

Set up

 

Set up

Tyler Duffey

Set up

Caleb Thielbar

Mid

 

Mid

 

Mid

 

Long

Alex Colome

Hansel Robles

 

Here are the holes the Twins are going to need to fill entering 2022 season.

  • Shortstop
  • Designated Hitter
  • Starter x2
  • Bullpen x4

__________

I am spending most of my 45 million dollar budget I have available on the rotation, as I view that as the biggest need the Twins have if they hope to compete in 2022. So, forgive me for slightly skimming over DH and Shortstop.

Let’s start with how the Twins can round out the empty spots in the rotation and bullpen with what they presently have in the organization and who they could potentially add from outside the organization.

Internal Options

Name

AGE

LVL

ERA

GS

W/L

IP

K’s

BB’s

Jhoan Duran *

23

AAA

5.06

4

0-3

16.0

22

13

Josh Winder

24

AAA

1.94

11

4-0

60.1

73

12

Jordan Balazovic

22

AA

4.44

6

1-1

24.1

33

8

Matt Canterino *

23

A+

1.00

4

1-0

18.0

35

3

Blayne Enlow *

22

A+

1.84

3

1-1

14.1

23

6

These are the Twins top 5 pitching prospects

Duran is currently on the shelf with elbow soreness, something you never want to hear. The Twins shut him down for 6 weeks and we have 4 weeks remaining. To this point control has been a huge issue at AAA for him. Josh Winder has been fantastic. One of the lone bright spots for the Twins pitching prospects this season and I think you could expect him to contribute on some level in 2022. Balazovic has only made 6 starts this season working back from injury. Currently at AA, he has yet to make it through 6ip in any start this season. Canterino has not pitched since May but was having a great year at A+. I have not seen any reports on what a timetable looks like for his return. Enlow was off to a great start as well, but elbow soreness led to Tommy John so he’s out for the foreseeable future.

It is only July, so things can change. But the top pitching prospects the Twins have are all dealing with stunted development timelines due to injuries. Duran is not coming back till August and has the dreaded elbow soreness so who knows what that means long term. He has not pitched more than 16 innings at AAA. Balazovic is still at AA and has only thrown 24 innings. Canterino has not pitched since May and Enlow is done for 2022 and 2023.

Josh Winder is the only prospect you have of the 5 that has pitched well above the AA level in 2021.

That's 1/5 of your top 5 pitching prospects you can truly count on to make some sort of impact in 2022 for the Twins. I do want to say that I believe in this group a lot, I think they all will be assets the Twins can count on for years to come. But is that in 2022? Don’t bank on it.

 

Name

AGE

ERA

GS

W/L

IP

K’s

BB’s

Lewis Thrope

25

5.59

6 (23g)

0-2

14.0

46

24

Devin Smeltzer

25

4.26

7 (19g)

4-2

69.2

56

18

Griffin Jax

26

8.66

1 (5g)

1-1

17.2

14

8

Randy Dobnak

26

4.85

20 (32g)

9-11

118.2

75

30

"candidates"

This was worse than I thought. Not really prospects, more so “candidates” to fill out spots for the 2022 Twins pitching staff. Anyways, I just went with their career numbers because all 4 players have been hurt throughout the 2021 season. I don’t even want to write out the numbers they have posted thus far, it’s painful.

If you confidently think one of these guys will help you win games during the 2022 season, I’d love to hear why in the comments below. Anyways, moving on.

 

Here is a look at what the Twins could bring in from outside the organization for pitching help.

External Options

The old fellas (37+)

  • Max Scherzer
  • Zach Greinke
  • Justin Verlander
  • Charlie Morton

Highly, highly doubt any of these guys have interest in signing with the Twins. Aside from Scherzer, do you want the Twins to make a run at them? Pass, and they all say no thanks too.

Tier 1

  • Lance Lynn
  • Marcus Stroman
  • Kevin Gausman
  • Carlos Rondon

Tier 1 does not make much sense to me. None of them are better than Berrios and if you are not going to pay him the 5 / 115mil we all expect him to get, why would you pay Marcus Stroman or Kevin Gausman somewhere in the range of 5 / 90mil? I think the sox can and will retain both Rondon and Lynn as well.

Tier 2

  • Jon Gray
  • Michael Pineda
  • Robbie Ray
  • Martin Perez
  • Danny Duffy
  • Zach Davies

Not super inspiring. Jon Gray and Robbie Ray are probably the most appealing options. Pineda’s recent arm injury puts things up in the air for his future.

We can skip the Martin Perez option as I cannot imagine the Twins getting back into that.

Danny Duffy would be nice, but do you really want to commit something like 3 / 40mil to a guy going on 35?

Tier 3

  • Noah Syndergaard
  • Chris Archer
  • Corey Kluber

None of them are currently healthy, nor have they been the past 2 years. Syndergaard is interesting but even he is a question mark going into next year as he’s on the IL right now after issues following TJ.

Trade Targets?

  • German Marquez
  • John Means
  • Zach Gallen

The Rockies, Orioles, and Diamondbacks are all rebuilding. They are not moving assets for someone like Max Kepler or Jorge Polanco. So, what can you offer up?

Royce Lewis? Then your selling low on your best prospect. Balazovic or Duran? Welp, that would be, um, something when your desperate for pitching. Arraez? Jose Miranda? One of Jeffers / Garver? Not sure that moves the needle, nor are they prospects teams would covet…. After that, nothing is getting you a Marquez, Means, or Gallen.

Now how about one of Trevor Larnach or Alex Kirilloff for pitching? It is an interesting idea and could dramatically change the Twins long term question mark at the position. You would have to be really sold on Max Kepler bouncing back.

_____

Let’s fill out the rotation with 2 players from each tier 1 & 2 of starting pitchers.

  • Gausman/Stroman/Lynn/Rondon
  • Gray/ /Ray/ /Duffy

Ok that realistically will command something in the range of 28 million. Take your pick of who that may be.

I do want to point this out, you are not going to be able to sign anyone from Tier 1 to a 1-year deal. You will have to sign them to multiyear commitments with real money involved.

Even Tier 2, id imagine most players will take no less than 2-year deals.

You could sign 3 players from tier 2. Go a similar direction as they have in the past bargain shopping (Happ, Lynn, Shoemaker, etc.)

Though that has not really worked out, so I am switching things up in my scenario.

_____

As for the bullpen. It is anyone’s best guess. They are not signing Craig Kimbrel and after that its just a bunch of names to be quite honest. You can check out the list here.

______

For the sake of the “re-tool” argument

I am committing 3 million to signing 2 no name relievers like the front office has done every year.

We have now committed something in the ballpark of 31 million to revamp the pitching staff, with 2 new starters and 2 no name relievers (it’s anyone’s guess).

_______

They now have 14 million remaining to fill the holes at Shortstop and DH.

Designated Hitter

The Designated Hitter class, surprise, is also poor.

Nelson Cruz is going to probably be too expensive and may even retire. Id love him back though. But we have more pressing needs.

After that, we can choose between Jorge Soler or Khris Davis. But why sign either of those guys when you have Miguel Sano on the roster?

Brent Rooker? You could let em duke it out in Spring Training.

Lets scratch signing a DH.

_____

Shortstop

On to Shortstop. They could move Jorge Polanco from 2nd base back to short and slide Luis Arraez in at 2nd. But I am not sure they want that defensive plan up the middle again.

Nick Gordon, who was drafted as a shortstop, does not seem to be viewed as shortstop anymore. Other than Royce Lewis, who has question marks already staying at short long-term, has never played above AA, and coming off an ACL injury, the Twins lack internal options.

We do not have the money to sign one of the crown jewels of the class so you can forget about Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Brandon Crawford.

I do think Javier Baez is a notch below those guys and he probably would be open to a shorter-term deal. Maybe something like 1 / 14 mil? He has a .282 OBP to this point, though slugging .778. It will be interesting to see what the market is for him.

The 2nd Tier in the SS class consists of Freddy Galvis, Alcides Escobar, Andrelton Simmons and Jose Iglesias.

As for trade options, Dansby Swanson could be available if the Braves decide to go after a big name. Other than that, I do not see a ton being available or frankly anything that intriguing.

I am rolling with Javy Baez on the 1yr / 14 mil deal. Twins get lucky, sign Berrios’s brother in-law, and see how it plays out. It is a nice bridge while we wait for Royce Lewis.

______

We have run through the options, lets look at what we got to compete in 2022.

Lineup

Byron Buxton

CF

Max Kepler

RF

Trevor Larnach

LF

Josh Donaldson

3rd

Javier Baez

SS

Jorge Polanco

2nd

Alex Kirlloff

1st

Mitch Garver

C

Miguel Sano

DH

 

Bench

Luis Arraez

UTI.

Ryan Jeffers

C

Jose Miranda

3rd/DH

Nick Gordon

UTI

 

Rotation

Jose Berrios

SP

Kenta Maeda

SP

Gausman/Stroman/Lynn/Rondon

SP

Gray/Ray/Duffy

SP

Bailey Ober

SP

 

Bullpen

Taylor Rogers

Closer

Jorge Alcala

Set up

No Name #1

Set up

Tyler Duffey

Set up

Caleb Thielbar

Mid

No Name #2

Mid

Randy Dobnak

Mid

Devin Smeltzer

Long

 

Again, this is in no way what the Twins are going to do, merely an idea of what a “re-tool” might look like. So, before you rip me in the comments for signing the wrong guys or not doing what you think they should or should not do, this exercise gives you a glimpse into the options the Twins have both internally and externally to build a competitive team in 2022 for one last run with Buxton, Berrios, and Rogers all together.

So now you can ask yourself the questions that matter.

  • Does that team win the central? Does it win a wild card berth?
  • Are you putting the organization in the best possible to position to compete with the White Sox the next 4-5 years?
  • Do we have a pipeline of pitching prospects we are confident in?

I think that this team can be competitive. 85-88 wins? thats barring everyone being healthy. This is all hinging on Polanco continuing to swing the bat well, Kepler being more consistent, Maeda returning somewhat to his old self, Bailey Ober continuing to pitch as well as he has, Thielbar, Duffey, and Alcala continue being trusted options, etc.

There's a lot of question marks. My concerns mainly start with depth of the minor league system, specifically pitching.

Where do they stand with Berrios and Buxton on extensions? If I'm either player, im a year away from free agency, why would I take an extension now? If you sign the players to help you compete in 2022, do you even have enough money left to try and pay them?

At the end of the day the front office’s job is to do what’s best for the organization. The last thing any GM wants to do is plays catch up because they were not proactive. If you have doubts about any of those questions you need to shift your focus to 2023 and beyond.

That might mean moving Jose Berrios and Taylor Rogers at the deadline.

Which is a hard pill to swallow for some fans, but it is the smart thing and the right thing to do.

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Wow - well done with this comprehensive breakdown of a re-tool scenario. I may be seeing things in a cloudy, subjective manner, but the Twins have just enough good players to think in terms of a re-tool and be competitive in 2022.

If the Twins can: 

1. Hold on to the following core guys: Kirilloff, Larnach, Buxton, Arraez, Polanco, Jeffers/Garver, Maeda, Berrios and Alcala.

2. Get some help internally from the system and leftover (non-core) current players.

3. Trade some of the assets from this year's squad for a few meaningful players. 

4. Sign some decent, proven ML starters / relievers like many teams do.

They can be a .500+ team in 2022...

Yes, Buxton and Berrios may well walk, but the Twins can make a run at them. Plus, that's an issue for 2023...

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Interesting, but not the way I would go.  You have ignored a couple of items.  Shortly the Twins should know if they can extend Buxton/Berrios (have more hope for Buxton), Berrios you will have to meet his price (all it will take is one crazy team to do that). If you can extend neither then you have to go into rebuild (painful as it might be).  Farm system is decent, you have many more pitchers than listed as possible (Sands, Vallimont, etc).  Plus any top line prospects berrios and buxton bring in (and they should bring at least 1 each).  Then you have to unload Donaldson(and retain a fair amount of money). At that point I might also move Kepler for more pitching and just hope to fill with either prospects or FA.   Not impossible, depending on pitching we might be able to contend in 2023 or 2024 at the latest.  If that fails you fire everyone and start over. 

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3 hours ago, beckmt said:

Interesting, but not the way I would go.  You have ignored a couple of items.  Shortly the Twins should know if they can extend Buxton/Berrios (have more hope for Buxton), Berrios you will have to meet his price (all it will take is one crazy team to do that). If you can extend neither then you have to go into rebuild (painful as it might be).  Farm system is decent, you have many more pitchers than listed as possible (Sands, Vallimont, etc).  Plus any top line prospects berrios and buxton bring in (and they should bring at least 1 each).  Then you have to unload Donaldson(and retain a fair amount of money). At that point I might also move Kepler for more pitching and just hope to fill with either prospects or FA.   Not impossible, depending on pitching we might be able to contend in 2023 or 2024 at the latest.  If that fails you fire everyone and start over. 

I think the Twins absolutely know where they stand with both Berrios and Buxton right now. Think of it from the players perspective. If im Berrios why would I sign an extension right now? I'm having a career year, I can hit the open market in a season and a half, and might even get better between that period. If im Buxton, I was on pace for an MVP prior to getting hurt, what if I stay healthy all of next year and win an mvp... There's also the case he wants completely out because of the service time manipulation a few years ago.. They've both bet on themselves to this point, why settle now?

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Larnach is to slow and has too weak an arm for left field.

Jim Kaat said a fast left fielder is very important.

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54 minutes ago, Tim said:

I think the Twins absolutely know where they stand with both Berrios and Buxton right now. Think of it from the players perspective. If im Berrios why would I sign an extension right now? I'm having a career year, I can hit the open market in a season and a half, and might even get better between that period. If im Buxton, I was on pace for an MVP prior to getting hurt, what if I stay healthy all of next year and win an mvp.. There is an argument that with injuries, maybe you can extend him in case he gets hurt again. There's also the case he wants completely out because of the service time manipulation a few years ago.. They've both bet on themselves to this point, why settle now?

Then you are saying they should rebuild, I am not at that point unless I know I can't sign one or the other. But you have to sell them this summer.  By next year they are looked as a one year rental and you will not get full value.

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21 minutes ago, beckmt said:

Then you are saying they should rebuild, I am not at that point unless I know I can't sign one or the other. But you have to sell them this summer.  By next year they are looked as a one year rental and you will not get full value.

Yea I mean I kinda leaned toward that being my preference throughout the entire piece.

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3 hours ago, Tim said:

I think the Twins absolutely know where they stand with both Berrios and Buxton right now. Think of it from the players perspective. If im Berrios why would I sign an extension right now? I'm having a career year, I can hit the open market in a season and a half, and might even get better between that period. If im Buxton, I was on pace for an MVP prior to getting hurt, what if I stay healthy all of next year and win an mvp... There's also the case he wants completely out because of the service time manipulation a few years ago.. They've both bet on themselves to this point, why settle now?

I am sure both Buxton, Berrios and their agents know where their price point is.  If they are totally committed to testing the market, then you must rebuild.  If you can keep  one (Berrios is the more important) then a retool is a possibility, but you must have the extension in place or the parameters of the deal by sometime this month.  You cannot let either walk for nothing.

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Interesting analysis. While I think you’re probably pretty close regarding the lineup, I think you miss on the bullpen and the rotation. You allocate $3 million to two bullpen signings without discussing whether any of the group including Hamilton, Vazquez, Cano or Moran can fill one or both of those slots. I think we can replenish the bullpen to a decent level internally and really only need one bullpen signing at a higher level. In other words, I would take $5 million and sign a quality bullpen pitcher knowing that my mid-level bullpen people can be from Internal sources. Hopefully there will be promotions in August that will give these guys a chance to see where they can fill those slots. Similarly, I do think there’s a chance at least that Winder or Barnes (or Dobnak for that matter) can fill the number 4 and  number 5 slots along with Ober. If they can, then we can allocate $20-$25 million and sign one quality starter and one quality reliever, thereby raising both groups.

In the lineup, your analysis shows how dependent we are on a bounce back/improvement from at least two of Kepler, Garver and Sano, AND both Kirilofff and Larnach bring the real deal in their second full seasons. Both those things need to happen to have a top 10 lineup, otherwise it’s pretty average at best.

I could squint hard and see a 90 win  team next year if the young guys work out. If they don’t, it’s an 80 win team. That’s why you need to promote aggressively for the last two months of the season to give guys experience and see what you have. I don’t think you can make a decision on a retool versus rebuild until you have done that and have at least some MLB experience to go on.

 


 

 

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10 hours ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

Interesting analysis. While I think you’re probably pretty close regarding the lineup, I think you miss on the bullpen and the rotation. You allocate $3 million to two bullpen signings without discussing whether any of the group including Hamilton, Vazquez, Cano or Moran can fill one or both of those slots. I think we can replenish the bullpen to a decent level internally and really only need one bullpen signing at a higher level. In other words, I would take $5 million and sign a quality bullpen pitcher knowing that my mid-level bullpen people can be from Internal sources. Hopefully there will be promotions in August that will give these guys a chance to see where they can fill those slots. Similarly, I do think there’s a chance at least that Winder or Barnes (or Dobnak for that matter) can fill the number 4 and  number 5 slots along with Ober. If they can, then we can allocate $20-$25 million and sign one quality starter and one quality reliever, thereby raising both groups.

In the lineup, your analysis shows how dependent we are on a bounce back/improvement from at least two of Kepler, Garver and Sano, AND both Kirilofff and Larnach bring the real deal in their second full seasons. Both those things need to happen to have a top 10 lineup, otherwise it’s pretty average at best.

I could squint hard and see a 90 win  team next year if the young guys work out. If they don’t, it’s an 80 win team. That’s why you need to promote aggressively for the last two months of the season to give guys experience and see what you have. I don’t think you can make a decision on a retool versus rebuild until you have done that and have at least some MLB experience to go on.

 


 

 

Thanks for bringing that point up about the potential minor leaguer relievers that could fill a spot next year. Hamilton, Cano, and Vazquez will all be going into next season as 27 year old's with either little MLB experience or none. While they all have posted solid numbers to this point in the season, specifically Hamilton, its hard to count on a guy like that for next year and say yep lets pencil him in. But to your point, the callups over the next 2 months will be important to evaluate who they are. As for Moran, he definitely is intriguing, But with the shoulder injuries and never having pitching above AA, its a crapshoot. I hope one of them can step in and give the Twins that boost.

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Thanks. I guess my point really is that it’s just too soon to make that retool versus rebuild decision because we haven’t evaluated what we have in the upper minors in really the only way and evaluation should matter: putting them on the MLB roster and seeing how they perform. It may be that we bring up the four relievers, two starters, Miranda and Rooker as I suggest and they all fall flat on their faces. Then I think a bigger rebuild is probably necessary. On the other hand, we give them all an opportunity and find one starter, a couple of bullpen pieces, and that Miranda is for real, and then I think we’re in retooling mode because we don’t have as many holes.

That’s why I would advocate a relatively quiet deadline of trading expiring contracts for prospects to open up playing opportunities for our high minors guys. One exception would be trading Donaldson but only if that money is used to sign Berrios. Pineda, Robles, Happ, Colome, and Simmons are not likely to be on the 2022 Twins team, and Cruz is at best a 50/50 shot. Let’s at least move these guys even if the return is less than inspiring to create opportunities for others so we can really evaluate where we are and not just be guessing in the off-season.

 

 

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1 hour ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

Thanks. I guess my point really is that it’s just too soon to make that retool versus rebuild decision because we haven’t evaluated what we have in the upper minors in really the only way and evaluation should matter: putting them on the MLB roster and seeing how they perform. It may be that we bring up the four relievers, two starters, Miranda and Rooker as I suggest and they all fall flat on their faces. Then I think a bigger rebuild is probably necessary. On the other hand, we give them all an opportunity and find one starter, a couple of bullpen pieces, and that Miranda is for real, and then I think we’re in retooling mode because we don’t have as many holes.

That’s why I would advocate a relatively quiet deadline of trading expiring contracts for prospects to open up playing opportunities for our high minors guys. One exception would be trading Donaldson but only if that money is used to sign Berrios. Pineda, Robles, Happ, Colome, and Simmons are not likely to be on the 2022 Twins team, and Cruz is at best a 50/50 shot. Let’s at least move these guys even if the return is less than inspiring to create opportunities for others so we can really evaluate where we are and not just be guessing in the off-season.

 

 

In a nutshell, its actually not too soon to make the decision of retool vs rebuild.

They don't have the option or time to see if these prospects can perform at the major league level. Truly, aside from real prospects in Miranda and Winder, not sure who else we might be taking other than a handful of 28 year old relievers. Don't worry we'll see those guys soon enough.

They will never, ever, get more back in a trade of Berrios or Rogers then if they decide to trade either in the next 3 weeks. its 1.5 season of control vs. 1 season if its the winter, or .5 if is next summer at the deadline.

I agree with unloading expiring contracts, that is a given. But in Donaldson's case, no team is taking on that contract, you are eating a significant amount of remaining money. He also playing pretty damn well with a .837 ops .. it's not like you need to dump him cause he's underperforming.

With that said, you are advocating for competing in 2022. Jose Miranda, who I assume you are referring to as one of the prospects being blocked, has played a grand total of 8 games at AAA and was barley cracking the top 20 in the organization after being here for 5 years. Yes he's been great, fantastic really. 

But what if Jose Miranda struggles in those final 2 months? Then you've created another hole at 3rd, paying another team to play Donaldson, with no true back up options, and the plan to compete in 2022.

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I disagree. I don't think the return at this trade deadline for Berrios will significantly differ than it would over the winter. Past history doesn't show that when it comes to high end starters. Moreover, I don't think the Twins are trading him until they are absolutely sure they can't re-sign him unless someone will significantly overpay.  You're probably right about Rogers; over paying for relievers is more common at the deadline. Again, I think the Twins should re-sign him and relievers aren't huge financial investments, at least compared to starters. By the way, I don't advocate for trading Donaldson UNLESS the savings is immediately invested in a long term contract for Berrios. Otherwise, let's keep him. Also, his replacement isn't Miranda, at least not yet, it's an every day position for Arraez. Polanco will stay at 2B and we'll need another short term SS until Lewis or Speer is ready. I think Donaldson stays for now unless we get someone to take the contract and give value. I don't think that's in the cards. .

The place where we really need to evaluate before deciding is on the pitching side. Is there a MLB ready starter between Winder, Barnes and Duran? Is Ober good enough to be the #4 or #5 guy next year?  If they are, one solid #3 FA starter in the offseason could really make a difference in the rotation.  Are any of Hamilton, Vasquez, Cano or even Moran ready to be meaningful contributors in the bullpen? If one or two of them are, then all we need is a high end FA reliever next year. Conversely, if the answer to all of these questions is "No", then we should go for a tear down and re-build and trade everyone we have with value for prospects and hope we hit on some of them. That means a 2-5 year rebuilding window, but that may be what's necessary to build a contending pitching staff.  

I think we differ in our evaluation of where the team is now. I think the core lineup when healthy is good enough to contend. That means Buxton and Garver back making meaningful contributions. Our pitching is not, and not close. However, if we can find a starter plus Ober to competently man the #4 and #5 spots with ERAs below 5, and we find 2 good relief arms from the "group of 28 year old relievers" (Hamilton is 26, Cano just turned 27, and Vasquez turns 28 in Sept., all a not uncommon time for relievers to show their worth), then I think we aren't too far from a contending team - a solid #3 FA starter and a late inning relief FA and we're in good shape.  It sounds like you think we are farther away than that and/or that we already know that we won't be able to re-sign Berrios or Rogers. If you're right, let's tear down and re-build. If I'm right, let's re-tool. My point is we don't  enough data yet to make that call and we have 2 months of MLB baseball to get that data. Let's go out and get it. If the cost is the lesser return for Berrios and Rogers over the winter. that's a cost I'm willing to pay. Sounds like you aren't. 

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Wow.  Excellent article and great comments by all.  The biggest take away I get from this is the next couple of years for the Twins seems very bleak no matter which way they go.  They dug themselves a deep hole by signing bargain basement pitchers that are washed up.  That's the Twins way.  Until that philosophy changed I don't see us being contenders but pretenders.

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Nice analysis Tim, especially if your assumption of the FO having $45 MM left in budget for offseason additions is likely. That is simply insufficient to fill all the holes needed to return to contention in '22.  But I do have some comments on your thoughts on next season's 26 man roster:

1. The Lineup

    -I like the fact you are keeping Buxton and Donaldson.  Our hit or miss offense would be even worse next year without them.  I would also keep Sano or Cruz(preferably the latter because he is one of only 3 or 4 professional batters in this lineup, has shown little signs of falloff, and most importantly, would fetch little value in return).  To expect Larnach/Kirillof to both improve significantly in their sophomore seasons is a real stretch, so 3 of the 4 veteran bats would be needed.

     -Forget about signing Baez for one year. Ain't going to happen.  If that's best he can do on the market, the Cubs would resign him in a heartbeat.   Besides, as an extreme go-for-the-fences hitter, he would not be a great fit for a team too reliant on the long ball already.  

     -Arraez is too good a hitter to play in a utility role.  He must be penned in to 2B and kept there.  Play Polanco at SS and hope Lewis is ready in '23.  Despite his defensive deficiencies, Twins did ok with him at SS in '19 and '20.  Sure the defense will suffer somewhat but it beats spending big $$ on one  of the FA SSs.

2.  The bullpen

      - Still way too weak.  This is a tough one to predict, but I shudder at the thought of Alcala and his HR ball as a setup man, Thielbar, Dobnak, and Smeltzer do not belong in a contender's bullpen.  Their upside is very limited.  And Duffey has regressed(as seen by his inherited runner's scored % of over 50%) to the point where you don't know what you'll get.  It is unfortunate we have so many injuries in the minor leagues, as that severely limits trials on the big league club this season.  But this FO must bring up those healthy arms who they think have potential as relievers.  I would even bring up Duran if healthy for spot bullpen usage.  So bottom line:  the Twins are going to have to spend a lot more than $3MM on FA relievers.  Go for one big closer(it worked for the Sox!) and one established setup man.  Yes, relievers are a crap shoot, but this season's disaster shows dumpster diving is no way to build an effective pen.

3.  The Rotation

      - Totally agree that it is unlikely the Twins can bolster it next year with prospects.  Ober and/or Winder are the two likeliest and thus, should be pitching in the rotation for the rest of the season.  Don't think Ober's ceiling is higher than a #5, Winder's maybe a #3, but just can't expect both to contribute as early as next year, nor can any of their top prospects be counted on next year, either.  That would leave us with Berrios, Maeda, and as you say, 2 FAs to fill out the rotation.  I have little hope this organization will go for any of the top FA pitchers you list.  The top tier will either be resigned by their current team or be priced out of the Twins' meager budget.  Gray and Ray are the only ones who appeal in the 2nd tier and again, I don't think its in this FO's DNA to take the plunge.  They are going to stick with their plan to develop internally, no matter where it takes this org.

     -Trades are another route and I would love to get Gallen(who the Twins could have picked up cheaply a few years ago), but why would the rebuilding Dbacks(or O's or Rocks) trade their best pitcher?  As you said we'd have to give up one or two of our top prospects - a move this FO has failed to do in the last 4 years other than Graterol)..  My best stab at improvement would be to go hard after Thor, but this risk-averse FO is unlikely to go out on a limb like that.  

So where does that leave us?  Looks like in your scenario there are too many holes to fill to realistically contend next year, unless Pohlad issues a mandate to spend big and backs it up with an enlarged budget.   So perhaps the conclusion is we should use our best trade pieces(Berrios and Rogers) to acquire almost major-league pitching prospects to accelerate our return to contention in '23 or '24.  But by all means, keep Buxton.  He is our only remaining star, even if he is a bit flawed.  Unfortunately, I have little faith in Falvine to make the right moves to bring about the necessary right additions.  Hope I'm wrong, but if we see no progress next year, time for a regime change.

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"This year has been a complete disaster" is the dominant narrative. I don't completely disagree, but here's a few tidbits I found for perspective:

  • While the team is 38-50 with today's win, it's interesting to split that in half. In the first half of the games so far, they were 16-28, followed by 22-22. 
  • In my admittedly cherry-picked sample size, they are 12-9 over the last 21 games. That's not awesome, but it's still 92-win pace for that sample.
  • Buxton has played a little over two games in the last 58. We don't know how much better they would have done, but my hunch is that there's general agreement among us that the record over the last 44 would have been better than 22-22. 
  • A friend is a Sox fan (He'd be a good friend if he wasn't a Sox fan. He claims that this is their worst year for injuries that he's even seen. No doubt it's because they've only had two lineups that they've used more than twice. They have used each five times. However, the only difference between the two is the CF, so for 10 games they have had the same lineup EXCEPT for the CF. In total, they have had 69 different lineups in their 87 games going into today.
  • That's pretty tough. However, the Twins have had 79 different lineups in their 87 games going into today. They have had the same lineup three times and six other lineups have been used twice. To my mind, that's worse.
  • The Sox have missed Robert, but Anderson, Moncada and Abreu have each started at least 72, all in the top four spots in the order. 

So with all that, I'm going to upgrade my assessment from "complete disaster" to "massive disappointment, largely driven by injury." I didn't even address the effect of losing Buxton compared to losing Robert and the fact that the Sox have only needed five starts aside from their opening-day rotation compared to the Twins needing 10 different starters so far, with only Berrios not missing at least one start. 

So put me clearly in the "retool" category.

I completely agree with the lineup and bench in the OP, down to the SS and DH issues. Here's my short-term planning there: 

  1. Offer Simmons an extension at $10 million for next year. Do it now. Or better yet, $8M with an extra million each at 100, 115, 130, and 145 games. If he gets that many games, he was worth the extra $2-$4M. With the great class, Simmons probably doesn't want to go back on the market against them. I like that the SS issue is addressed early, relatively inexpensively, with great defense and resulting in potentially just one real offensive hole in the entire lineup. 
  2. IF messages from the front office point to an increase in budget, try to negotiate an extension to Cruz, at around this year's $13M. Again, if he likes it here, he may well go for the guarantee of an additional year given the uncertainty of last winter for him, and he effectively has gotten the 2/$26M he was looking for. If I can't get that, I indeed try to trade him, recognizing I won't get much. At that point, I'm probably assuming I'm going for an offseason signing a la Cron from a couple years ago to serve as an additional DH in the mix. And planning on more from Sano and rotations through the position.
  3. Since people have been talking about Donaldson, I'll say that I keep him unless there is an established major league 3B option included in the return. That's not likely, but I'll talk. I'm comfortable with a slight MLB downgrade if it saves money, but I'm not comfortable counting on the existing options in the system. If a trade does happen, I use the dollar savings to go harder after Cruz to ensure that we don't lose both bats.

In a nutshell, I'd love to have the 2022 position players relatively set by mid-August, allowing myself the ability for minor tinkering in the offseason if there is a deal that make an upgrade or free up a few bucks for pitching.

Good analysis on the rotation options. Given the health of current minor league guys, I'm not sure that you can trade both Pineda and Happ. There's just too many starts to cover the rest of the year to think of getting up to an additional 25 or so starts from the young guys between now and season's end. The likelihood of injuries points to at least some of the rookies getting some starts the rest from here to yearend, but even if two of them thrive and get 12-15 starts the rest of the way, that's not enough for a contending team to consider starting the rotation with two guys with less than 20 career starts in the majors. Sorry, but neither Jax nor Ober has guaranteed a spot yet, let alone by yearend.

I'm fine with trading one of them, however, to free up a certain number of starts for rookies, so I trade whichever of Pineda or Happ gets me a better return. That's probably going to be Pineda, but maybe a team is particularly looking for a lefty.  

In terms of bullpen, however, I'd try to trade both Colome and Robles, putting more effort into getting mid-level guys who have any hope of contributing in 2022 over stronger prospects who are further away. I'm playing for 2022. And realistically, unless you're talking stud starters, teams seem to pursue bullpen help more than starters anyway, since they have to give up too much for starters. 

For the rest of the year, I'm glad to use the traded Colome and Robles innings for young guys, including some of the young starting candidates listed above. The latter isn't with the view to making them relievers, but rather as a developmental tool for getting MLB innings at various leverage levels without wearing them out. 

Implied in here is that I don't trade Berrios. With a retool, there's no way you're going to get anything that helps for 2022 that is close to what he is going to do.

Similarly, I don't trade Rogers, even though he only has 1.5 years of control. Relievers are unpredictable, but he's been as predictable as about anyone over the last few years. I plan to ride him for the remaining 1.5 years, knowing that he's an affordable strong contributor for next year and still a trade chip (though less valuable, obviously) next July if 2022 doesn't play out as we wish.

This post is too long already. I won't address which starters I plan to target in the offseason, since that will be dependent on how the above plays out. But I think my moves set the course well. 

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Signing Javy Baez might be worth it to ingratiate the Twins with Berrios. The two are close and it could make him happier. 

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