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What if the Best DH Option for the Minnesota Twins is No DH At All?


Much has been made this offseason about what the Minnesota Twins should do at designated hitter. Should the Twins bring back Nelson Cruz? Should they make a big offer for Marcell Ozuna? What about Yasiel Puig? What if, though, the best DH option for the Minnesota Twins is no DH at all?After the other-worldly production that the Minnesota Twins have received from the designated hitter position over the past two seasons, it’s easy for Twins fans talk themselves into spending money on bringing back a big name designated hitter again for 2021 and beyond. However, with the scarcity of payroll capital in a COVID economy, as well as the replaceability involved with the DH position, rolling with internal options could make a lot of sense.

 

There is another benefit involved with entering the 2021 season without a de-facto designated hitter though ...

 

In each of the past two seasons, the Minnesota Twins have suffered from critical injuries at inopportune times. In 2019 Byron Buxton (shoulder) missed the entire postseason while Max Kepler (shoulder) and Marwin Gonzalez (oblique) were extremely hampered by injury in October. In 2020, the Minnesota Twins suffered all season with injuries, finishing third in the American League with its batters spending 212 days on the injured list throughout the course of the season, and had Byron Buxton (concussion) and Josh Donaldson (quad) miss some and all of the postseason, respectively.

 

Some injuries are inevitable and will happen no matter what, but there are ways to curb the likelihood of injuries for a Major League clubhouse. One of those ways is to utilize off days and have players spend entire games on the bench. Another way is to utilize the designated hitter position as a way to give players rest from the field while keeping their bats in the lineup. The former is something that Rocco Baldelli has done constantly since joining the Twins, while the latter has yet to be used in the Badelli era.

 

The reason that the Twins have not been able to cycle players through the designated hitter position over the past two seasons is because of the presence of Nelson Cruz. While Cruz is an absolute force at the plate, he has no ability to play in the field and is thus permanently penned in as the Twins designated hitter. This then puts the Twins in a position where they need to either play their players nine innings in the field and suffer the health consequences, or not play them at all and suffer the on-field production consequences.

 

While the Twins would certainly feel the giant loss of Nelson Cruz’s right handed bat from this lineup next season, the added flexibility that the Minnesota Twins would gain in the health and freshness department would be a huge development for the team. Additionally, the DH flexibility would allow the Twins to platoon the position and play the matchup game to set themselves up for success and minimize the impact felt by the loss of Nelson Cruz. Against right handed pitchers the Twins could platoon any of Jake Cave, Alex Kirilloff, Max Kepler, or Luis Arráez who all own an OPS above .800 against RHP and against southpaws the Twins could cycle Miguel Sanó, Josh Donaldson, Byron Buxton and Mitch Garver who similarly all mash left handed pitching.

 

Together, the Minnesota Twins could put together a “cumulative” designated hitter with an OPS above .800. This “cumulative” DH would be a downgrade over the production that Cruz has put up by himself over the past two seasons, but as he continues to age will likely match the numbers that Cruz will put up and will provide the team with tremendous flexibility to both stay fresh and healthy, expose matchups, and provide the team with a financial boost to spend their payroll space in other areas.

 

What would you think about the Minnesota Twins entering the 2021 season without a designated hitter? Do you think the added financial and health flexibility gained would be worth the loss of a bat like Nelson Cruz? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!

 

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I am torn on Cruz.  The first month of the season he was Mr. Clutch and literally almost single handedly propelled the Twins into 1st place in the division.  The next month where it looked liked he was hurt not so good.  

 

Honestly I don't love the idea of losing his bat as it seems to be the most consistent bat we have.  It is also a bat that can do damage.  The question is will he stay relatively healthy throughout the season?  If no then that money could be spent on pitching and or as you said rotating players through the DH.  If he does stay healthy though you lose one of the best bats in MLB and that will hurt especially come playoff time.

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This is one of MANY decisions that the Twins will need to make over the next few months.

 

They are heading for a major turnover of their roster with Odorizzi, Hill, Bailey, Clippard, May, Romo, Gonzalez, Adrianza, Avila, Rosario, Wisler and Cruz all possibly departing.

 

Many decisions will be made on how confident the team is with the players in the system as well as the availability and cost of free agents or trade targets

 

It will be very interesting to see how all this plays out...

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While Cruz has definitely been a huge plus in the lineup over the past couple of seasons, I feel this is the easiest place for the Twins to save money without a major hit to their offense. We have quite a few good young bats in the system. They "seem" as if they can hit for power and average. Again, not as much as Cruz has in the past couple of years, but not an automatic out. They would be an inexpensive option so we could spend money elsewhere. plus it is a reasonable way for the Twins to give every day players a bit of a day off. While it is unknown how these young players would perform in the big leagues, it is also unknown how much longer Cruz can play like a 20 year old.

I think it is a good move.

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The route suggested is what many teams have done over recent years, and normally is done when no true DH can be found.  For whatever reason many players perform worse as a DH than when they play the field.  I am one that thinks if you have a guy that performs well as a DH you should stick with them, and not shuffle so many guys into that roll for a game or two, for rest purposes.  I also find it unlikely too many players bats, save sano or rooker, that will be worth resting on defense but keeping bat in on offense.  

 

It is a option if Twins feel the need to save money and get younger guys at bats and would not be opposed to it. 

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I don't think Cruz's bat was as consistant at the end of the season. Was it an injury issue or time catching up? And that was just on a short season. Would a long season look even worse as the season wears on?

 

Pitchers also seemed to start throwing him more sliders and at times he looked kind of helpless against them. Is the aging process causing him to cheat a little on the fastballs and leaving him more vulnerable to the sliders.

 

I don't claim to be an expert on any of that, just throwing out those possibilities and wondering if the Twins see the same things. That would definitely cause them to rule out a 2 year contract.

 

 

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I'm not a big fan of pursuing a DH. If one materializes on your roster, than use him as "the" DH as Sano might become someday. I like rotating guys to DH. Breaks the routine, concentrate just on hitting, injury relief, whatever. I think it helps keep everybody's batting eye in tune. But it's hard to argue with a guy who can mash as a DH everyday. Is that guy still Nellie Cruz?

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 Cruz's       leadership is invaluable, we can`t replace it w/ an expensive bat. So if can`t resign Cruz, I agree w/ you that there shouldn't be a set DH but used it   to rotate       to   our strategical advantage & get bats in the line up 

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The only flaw with this theory is, if/when all those regular players do suffer injuries and are out for weeks/months, it suddenly means all those DH options are playing in the field everyday, and your DH becomes Jake Cave on a daily basis.  I, for one, would much rather see a true DH.  For that period when the DH is out, or needs a rest, that's the time to filter in these other guys.  

 

I would much rather see a really good hitter playing DH day in/day out, hitting somewhere between 3rd-5th slot, than going back to the days of guys like Jake Cave hitting 7th-8th as your DH.  

 

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In theory, I completely agree with the idea of using the DH position as a way to rotate players through “half” days off, give more at-bats to players who are defensive liabilities, and generally provide a way to keep people fresh without losing their bat for that day. The one exception to this theory is if you have a DH who is a consistently high OPS guy with power that can anchor the middle of your lineup. In other words, Nelson Cruz the last two years.

It’s all really boils down to whether Cruz will be the same guy this year as the last two, and whether he requires a two year guarantee to stay. I see this is kind of a binary choice. I have enough confidence in Cruz to guarantee him 2021 and give him an option for 2022 that could met based upon performing like he did in 2019. If we can’t make that deal, don’t guarantee Cruz two years and whatever you do, don’t go on and find another guy to be a full-time DH. Instead, sign or bring up a player to rotate through the OF/1B and rotate guys in the DH slot while maintaining a consistent lineup. And for the love of God, don't sign another high SO power guy like Kyle Schwarber. We have a better version of that guy in Sano and one is plenty. More than one kills your lineup. 

Schwarber is not even close to the K machine Sano is. Not advocating to sign him, but to me it's more about him being LH than about the Ks.

 

SO%:

Career:

Sano- 37%

Schwarber- 28%

Best Season:

Sano- 35.5%

Schwarber- 25.6%

Worst Season:

Sano- 43.9%

Schwarber- 30.9%

 

Schwarber may not be the best fit for the roster (LH hitting corner OF is something we have plenty of), but he is not a strikeout machine.

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I think it's a reasonable option if they can't work out a mutually acceptable deal on Cruz. Nelson Cruz is special and worth allocating a position to...not a lot of other guys that are worth that that the Twins could likely bring in. And his intangibles as a clubhouse leader play into that, and why he's maybe worth more to the Twins than to others.

 

With Rooker, Kirilloff, and Larnach pushing for ABs, this is not a bad option. I have a fair amount of faith in the FO these days, so I think they'll be considering this seriously as they make all of their calculations.

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A rotation of many players in the DH position would work. However, we do need to consider whether Cruz still has life. If the answer is yes, sign him back into his slot and if he falls off the Earth there should still be players to rotate in his absence.

Signing Cruz is more than just a gesture of thanks for his last two years, but rather a bet on 2021. Sometimes you need to push in.

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I honestly have never seen a lineup that I liked this idea but with Rooker, Krilloff and Garver all able to play first and Sano looking more like a true DH every day I think this might actually work> 2 of the 4 man 1st and DH and Rooker and Krilloff can both play outfield until the natural position for all is found.

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I do not think that they can pay Cruz what he wants and the same is probably true with Ozuna and those are the only two I would want to see at full time DH.  I really like having Kiriloff, Rooker, Larnach alternating at DH and LF.  And I hope they really come through because the loss of Eddie and Nelson really weakens our lineup.  Who moves up to 3/4 - I am not a Max Kepler fan - Sano's Ks are not acceptable for me.  If Garver is back to form he can be there.  But this lineup is not going to give us what we have come to expect. 

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Rotate players through the DH that at their best projections and performances regarding left/right are significantly worse than Cruz. 

 

Sure. That is a great idea. I am totally sold by all the arguments.

Make room for extra at bats that will perform signigicantly worse.

Yup.

That is a better fit, for sure.

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Rotate players through the DH that at their best projections and performances regarding left/right are significantly worse than Cruz.

You just have to make sure to use at least 3 such players in the rotation. If Player A is half the hitter that Cruz is, and Player B is half the hitter that Cruz is, and Player C is half the hitter that Cruz is, why, that's 150% of Cruz's production right there!

 

Let me explain to you sometime how I get 200,000 miles of use out of a set of four tires plus a spare that are rated by the manufacturer for 40,000 miles which I rotate every few days.

 

It's just math.

 

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Opening the season:

 

Garver/Jeffers catching. But Garver can play 1B and also DH.

 

Sano at 1B. But Sano, for all intents and purpose, would be the long-term DH of the future who can also play 3B.

 

Rooker. Corner outfield. Possible 1B. Possible fulltime DH.

 

Kirilloff. Corner outfielder. Also called a first baseman. Doesn't need to DH.

 

Donaldson. 3rd baseman. Because of his contract and age, will he switch to, say, 1st base, or need to be only a DH?

 

You got five guys for 1B/3B/Corner OF/DH. Not to mention fill-ins if someone NEEDS to not be in the field. Not taking into account keeping a Jake Cave. And Trevor Larnach is in the wings, looking for work, too.

 

That is where 2 years for Cruz becomes problematic. 

 

And Sano is still the dark horse/elephant in the room. Will he produce, or will he just be...okay. We all want HIM to be the next David Ortiz. Admit it!

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No Cruz and no Rosario? We'd better get back to the days of the piranhas to have more baserunners to score. Sano struck out last year half his at bats. After Kepler hit home runs his first two at bats, there weren't many more of them. Donaldson couldn't stay on the field. Garver was cold as a codfish soaked in lye. Matthew Taylor's points about staying fresh and Cruz's age are well made, but if the Twins go that way they had better hope that a platoon can produce without Rosario's explosiveness and Cruz's steadiness in the lineup.

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