For as much as a buzzkill the Twins 2021 season was, Jorge Polanco gave many Twins fans a reason to watch.
Breaking out in 2019, Polanco hit 22 HRs and drove in 79 RBI with a slash line of .295/.356/.485. Polanco scuffled during the 2020 covid shortened season but was also playing with an ankle injury that required offseason surgery and ultimately a shift to second base.
The ankle clean up and position switch seemed to have paid off as Polanco had a career season in 2021. Overall he finished the season with a .269 AVG and an OPS of .826. Oh, and 33 bombs + 98 RBI. That's good for a WAR of 4.8 according to baseballrefrence.
One would think now would be a poor time for the Twins to move Jorge Polanco in a trade. The stacked free agent class includes Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, and Javier Baez. Teams looking for a shortstop or second basemen will have plenty of options to chose from.
But at what cost?
- Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are 1A and 1B in the class. Both are expected to receive contracts upwards of 260 million.
- Trevor Story had a down year offensively, but still grades out as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. He also is only 28 and teams will convince themselves he returns to form at the plate... 150-175 million sound right?
- Marcus Semien's fantastic 2021 campaign probably netted him a deal north of 115 million, as he was a top 5 hitter in baseball for much of the season.
- Javier Baez is a complete toss up for me. He is incredibly streaky at the plate, but got hot during his stint with the Mets and switched his approach at the plate. His ability to move around the diamond defensively and play a solid shortstop, second, and third is still a huge asset. You can't deny the flair and energy he brings to a team as well, star power means tickets... I'd guess a team buys in and pays close to 100 million.
While there are plenty of options teams can go on the open market, none will sign cheap. Aside from potentially Baez, you aren't bringing any of those players in for less than 100 mil, at the minimum. Fortunately, for the teams hesitant to commit that type of money, there is another option.
**Before I'm slandered below for suggesting the Twins should trade their 2021 MVP, consider the facts.**
- Contract - Jorge Polanco, currently 27, is signed through 2025 at what is essentially a 4 year 35.5 million dollar contract. When you stack that up against what the market is going to command for the available options, that deal is an absolute bargain.
- Internal Replacements - Second Base is really a position of strength for the Twins. Luis Arraez, still only 24 and under team control until 2026, has a career .313 AVG and .374 OBP over 275 games .. Yes, you are missing out on the power, but baseballreference had his 2021 WAR at 3.4, so by no means is it a massive downgrade. He isn't arb. eligible until 2023 as well.. Nick Gordon or the crown jewel in the Berrios deal, Austin Martin, could also be guys that could step into the position at some point next year.
- State of The Organization - The Twins need to look at this an opportunity to try and expedite the rebuilding process. Reality is 2022 is going to be a lost year, regardless of whether Polanco is on the roster or not. Is 2023 the year? Who knows, a lot will need to go right for the Twins between now and then .. But at that point you've only lost value on a player that will have 2 years remaining on his steal of a contract.
If you are hesitant to put Polanco in the same tier as the players in this upcoming FA class, Since 2019, here's where Polanco stacks up against the top middle infielders.
That's a 3 year sample size of productivity that puts him square in the discussion offensively as a top tier middle infielder.
Yes I am aware that some players on the list were injured, but that's apart of the game. Polanco was too.
Who might be interested?
The best fit for Polanco would be an organization that is entering their window to compete for a championship. Given how cheap his contract is, teams would have the ability to sign free agent starting pitching, which typically works out better, than say giving a position player like Javy Baez a 5 year / 100 million dollar deal. That model seems to have paid off for the Astros as well as the Dodgers to some extent.
What teams fit that bill? I highly doubt an organization will trade for Polanco with intentions of playing him at short. So i'll highlight just teams with a second base need, There's a few, here are my favorite options.
The Mariners, who received a 0.3 WAR from the second base position this past year, would be a great trade partner for the Twins. They don't really have a solidified plan at 2nd and on the prospect side it's slim. Ranked with Baseball Americas top farm system, they have plenty of intriguing pitching prospects to deal from. Emerson Hancock, Matt Brash, George Kirby, and Brandon Williamson all look to be be starters long-term.. (I believe Brash will be the best) .... What about Noelvi Marte? one can dream.
Miami has reportedly been getting pressure from ownership to win now and could be a possibility. This would mean they are comfortable moving Jazz Chisholm from 2nd to Short .. If they are, the Marlins hands down have the most pitching prospect depth to deal from in all of baseball. Max Meyer, Edward Cabrera, Eury Perez, and Jack Eder (though recovering from TJ) all could be in play ... (I'll take Perez of the 4 please).
If the Blue Jays prioritize Robbie Ray over Marcus Semien, count them in as a Polanco fit. Toronto is right in their go for it window and may lean toward having a proven veteran to replace the production rather than banking on a prospect. A package of Orlevis Martinez/Jordan Gorshans and Nate Pearson doesn't sound all too bad.
The Twins have a lot of work to do if they wanna get on back on track in the coming years.. This is all speculation, though I think it certainly is a route the Twins have to at least explore this winter.
Regardless, of what you want the Twins to do with Polanco, there is no denying he would bring back a haul. That might be the best thing for the Twins sustaining long-term success.
*Also, don't check Baseballtradevalues.com for the prospects I mentioned. It rarely is correct, as most of us learned with the deals that occurred at the deadline.