Today Major League Baseball Trade Rumors put out their numbers for projected arbitration salaries. While they aren’t going to be spot on, the website is often seen as the gold standard in this space. Minnesota has some big names to decide on.
The most notable eligible player here is also the one guy deserving of a long term extension. Byron Buxton will at worst be tendered a new deal, and his projected $7.3 million would be a steal. So too would a new long-term extension with Minnesota for anything less than $200 million. The only question here is whether a contract is agreed to with the Twins, and if they’ll wind up paying him for the duration of 2022.
Taylor Rogers gets the second biggest number on Minnesota’s bill after being named a first-time All-Star in 2021. His $6.7 million seems like a steal in terms of value and talent but coming off an injury that shut down his season, it’s worth wondering if the Twins front office will feel the same way. Rogers should be back if there’s belief he’ll be healthy. Trading him with injury uncertainty could be a tough path. Ultimately, I think he returns.
Both Tyler Duffey and Mitch Garver should be seen as favorable options to be back with the Twins. The former is a reliever with a high ceiling that lost his way at times during 2021. He could be dealt if Minnesota finds a willing partner, but the fit at the back end of the bullpen still remains great. Garver is arguably one of the best catchers in baseball, and although he could be coveted by the opposition in any deals Derek Falvey may try to swing, Minnesota will tender him a deal regardless.
It’s still surprising to me that J.A. Happ netted the Twins anything, and John Gant is certainly a few rungs up on that ladder. He wasn’t amazing by any means, but there’s plenty of usable ability there. The question for the Twins is what they see his path going forward being. If he’s a starter then the $3.7 million doesn’t seem egregious at all. If he’s a reliever, that’s a middle-relief arm that doesn’t possess a ton of upside. I’d lean towards keeping him, but also wouldn’t be shocked if the front office feels otherwise.
Minnesota will have easy decisions on Luis Arraez and Caleb Thielbar. At $2 million and under, both players provide well above that from a value perspective. The Twins may dangle Arraez this offseason on the trade market, but he’s also a strong candidate to remain an integral super-utility piece. Thielbar has made himself into a full-time big leaguer, and now he’ll get a payday for it. (An aside, both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs have Luis Aaraez pre-arb until 2023, so he shouldn't need more than the MLB minimum.)
The trio of lower options include Juan Minaya, Danny Coulombe, and Rob Refsnyder. The first was arguably the Twins best reliever down the stretch and has pitched his way into the 2022 bullpen. Coulombe isn’t anything to get excited about, but he’s a fine option to round out a group that will need some cheaper arms as well. Refsnyder is an interesting case as he turned into a pumpkin following his return from the Injured List. Maybe Minnesota keeps him around as a depth outfielder, but Buxton or not, he can’t be the fourth option on this Major League roster.
That leaves just two guys who I see as obvious DFA candidates. It makes no sense for Minnesota to retain the services of either Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo for more than $1 million each. To be frank, neither player fits the roster nor is worthy of a spot at the Major League minimum, but with arbitration eligibility, a non-tender is the way these have to go. Cave is no longer productive at the plate, at the novelty of Astudillo wore off a long time ago.
If this comes to fruition as outlined Minnesota would retain 10 of their 12 arbitration eligible players for a total of $60.4 million.