The first two parts of this series have seen the Twins clear room on the 40 man for an active off-season in hopes of bouncing back to challenge the Chicago White Sox for a division title, and even farther if the Twins were to make it there. In part 2, we signed Eduardo Rodriguez from the Boston Red Sox, former Angel Alex Cobb, and journeymen Michael Wacha to varying sorts of deals. However, I promised that I was not happy with this rotation and that more would be done to finish it out. As promised, that's how we will kick off part 3 to the off-season blueprint.
Trade OF Max Kepler, C Ryan Jeffers, and RHP Drew Strotman to Miami for RHP Pablo Lopez
We still need another top of the rotation starter for this squad, and that is exactly what we add in Pablo Lopez from the Marlins. The Marlins are looking for outfield help, and they get a guy in Max Kepler who many Twins fans have soured on over the past few seasons. Kepler took off in 2019, but since then has struggled with super low batting averages in part because he pulls the ball on the ground much too frequently. However, with a move to Miami, Kepler has a chance to reconnect with former hitting coach James Rowson and can attempt to rekindle that magic. The Marlins are also reportedly looking for a catcher for the future as we've seen in talks with the Blue Jays, and we provide them that in Ryan Jeffers. This allows Mitch Garver to take a lions share of the catching duties behind the plate, but he can still split time with Ben Rortvedt against right handed pitchers. Drew Strotman, a DFA canidate for the Twins, is a lottery ticket for the Marlins who may be a decent reliever. Lopez, 26 years old next year, has steadily improved under Miami, and is coming off a year where he was worth 2.7 WAR in 102 innings. Lopez has steadily improved in his career, and struck out over 10 batters per 9 in 2021. Lopez features 5 pitches, with his changeup being the most effective. He also works a curveball off of his cutter/sinker/4-seam combination. Lopez may not be an ace, but he is a surefire #2 starter who I am comfortable starting in the playoffs. Lopez is under team control for a few more years, and becomes a free agent in 2025. This move sets us up for both the present and future, which is why I am comfortable trading both Kepler and Jeffers.
Following this move we have around 20-25 million to spend on the lineup.
Re-Sign SS Andrelton Simmons to a 1 year, 5M deal
Listen, I don't love this much more than anyone else. Simmons did absolutely nothing with his bat, had some controversial opinions about things off the field, and was a disappointing signing. However, Simmons still played very good shortstop defense which is exactly what we're paying him to do. Anything that he provides us at the plate is just a plus. I do think that there is more in the bat than we saw last year, but he isn't going to be a great hitter. Also, as much as some fans didn't like Simmons, he seemed to be held in high regard by both players and coaches in the clubhouse. That accounts for something.
Sign OF Mark Canha to a 1 year, 10M deal
I was all aboard the Michael Brantley train last year, and this year the outfielder that I would like to see the Twins target is former A Mark Canha. Canha isn't a great defender, so there will be a step back in right field with the loss of Kepler, but Canha is very, very underrated at the plate. In the past 3 seasons, Canha has had OBP's of .396, .387, and .358. We all know that the Twins lineup is filled with players who will crush the baseball, but outside of Luis Arraez, who I don't think you can rely as an everyday player, they don't have a prototypical leadoff hitter. Canha fits that bill. He can also swipe bags if you give him a chance. Canha is also capable of playing first base if Sano finds himself injured or just not playing well, and is a fine candidate to rotate through DH.
Sign OF Odubel Herrera to a 1 year, 5M deal
Herrera, once a top prospect, hasn't quite lived up to the hype in Philadelphia, but he is still a quality outfielder, and is an overqualified 4th outfielder. Herrera isn't the defensive wizard that he was when he first came up, but he is still capable of playing centerfield a few times a week, or weeks at a time if there is an unfortunate injury to Byron Buxton. Herrera has a lifetime OPS+ of 101, which is 1% better than league average, but paired with the defense is a perfect fit for our 4th outfielder. Yes, I would prefer to have a right hander in this role, but the lower tier of the CF market is pretty bleak.
Extend OF Byron Buxton to a 5 year, 90M deal + incentives
This deal would not kick in until the following year, but a decision needs to be made this off-season, because if Buxton isn't re-signing, he's getting traded. However, we aren't letting the most talented player to ever put on a Twins uniform to walk away. We give him 18 million dollars a year in base salary starting in the 2023 season, and we apply the incentives like this:
50 games played: 500K
75 games played: 750K
100 games played: 2.5M
130 games played: 6M
These incentives of course stack on each other, so if Buxton were to find himself playing 130 or more games in a year, the total year salary for Buxton would be 27.75M dollars. That may seem like a lot, but if Buxton is playing 130 games in a season, he's probably finishing top 5 in the MVP voting and is surely worth more money than that. However, if he is injured in a season, Buxton is still taking home a solid chunk of change, but it isn't absolutely breaking the bank on the Twins. If Buxton were to hit these incentives every year, the deal could be worth 138M dollars.
1. RHP Pablo Lopez
2. LHP Eduardo Rodreguiez
3. RHP Joe Ryan
4. RHP Alex Cobb
5. RHP Bailey Ober
Closer - RHP Corey Knebel
SU - LHP Taylor Rogers
SU - RHP Tyler Duffey
MR - RHP Adam Ottavino
MR - LHP Caleb Thielbar
MR - RHP Jorge Alcala
MR - RHP Jovani Moran
LR - RHP Michael Wacha
The rotation is vastly improved on last year with the additions of Pablo Lopez, Eduardo Rodreguiez, and Alex Cobb. All 3 arms are quality arms who I would feel comfortable starting in the playoffs. This also gives the ability for Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan to go through a little bit of a sophomore slump if it were to happen. Michael Wacha shifts to the bullpen with the addition of Pablo Lopez, but he's the 6th starter when it is inevitably needed. After that, you have various arms like Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Jordan Balazovic, Cole Sands, and a handful of others signed to MiLB deals The bullpen features new additions of right handers Corey Knebel and Adam Ottavino, which supplised more right handed power to a bullpen featuring 3 good lefties. Thielbar, Alcala, Moran, and Wacha are all capable of going multiple innings which is the way baseball is going, and the other 4 provide electric stuff to shut a game down. If the Twins are in it at the hunt, I would expect another reliever to be added at the deadline.
Lineup vs RHP
1. RF Mark Canha
2. CF Byron Buxton
3. 2B Jorge Polanco (S)
4. 3B Josh Donaldson
5. LF Alex Kiriloff (L)
6. C Mitch Garver
7. 1B Miguel Sano
8. SS Andrelton Simmons
9. DH Luis Arraez (L)
Bench: C Ben Rortvedt (L), IF Jose Miranda, OF/1B Trevor Larnach (L), OF Odubel Herrera (L)
The lineup features new addition Mark Canha leading off, with Buxton, Polanco, and Donaldson following them. I believe that this top of the lineup could be as good as any in baseball. The middle of the order features Alex Kiriloff, who we are relying on bouncing back after an inspiring few weeks before needing wrist surgery. Garver and Sano provide thump, but we know they have their warts. It doesn't matter in the bottom portion of the lineup. Simmons is easily the weak spot, but Arraez rounds out the order to potentially set up the table with 2 back to back .370+ OBP batters. Rortvedt is the backup catcher, with Miranda being the backup infielder. Larnach can fill in as a pinch hitter, and Herrera is a late inning pinch running or defensive replacement.
1. RF Mark Canha
2. CF Byron Buxton
3. 3B Josh Donaldson
4. C Mitch Garver
5. 1B Miguel Sano
6. SS Jorge Polanco
7. LF Alex Kiriloff (L)
8. 2B Jose Miranda
9. DH Luis Arraez (L)
Bench: C Ben Rortvedt (L), SS Andrelton Simmons, OF/1B Trevor Larnach (L), OF Odubel Herrera (L)
There are a few changes in this lineup in regards to who bats where, but the players are basially the same. The only change I made to this lineup was inserting Jose Miranda at 2nd base, sending Andrelton Simmons to the bench, and sliding Jorge Polanco over to shortstop. Donaldson, Garver, and Sano all slide up in the lineup as we shift Jorge Polanco down a few spots as he is not nearly as good against left handed pitchers as he is against righties, while the hitters we slid up thrive against left handers. Miranda is intriguing at the bottom of the lineup, splitting to two lefties to make sure they can't bring in a lefty reliever to face exclusively left handed hitters.
Well Twins fans, this has been Mill1634's off-season blueprint. What do you think?