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Royce Lewis: Trade Chip?


Cody Pirkl
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Royce Lewis may be the shortstop of the future. He also may not. This is likely the biggest question in the Twins system as they figure out how to move forward into 2022.

Royce Lewis was drafted as a shortstop with the possibility of center field as a fallback option. Players with such athleticism are often the type to go number one overall. His performance has been a bit inconsistent offensively and his defensive future remains in question as well. Still, he remains one of the top prospects in baseball, despite two consecutive lost seasons, because of his perceived ceiling.

The Twins future has changed a lot since Lewis was taken #1 overall in 2017. Their desperate need for a shortstop remains, but Lewis’s center field fallback option has been complicated by a Byron Buxton contract extension and the acquisition of Austin Martin who appears to be another fringe shortstop option bound to fill in at center field. Unlike Lewis however, Martin has shown consistent offensive tools that foreshadow a surefire Major League career very soon.

The Twins have a question they have to ask themselves this winter. They not only have a long term need at shortstop, but an immediate one if they want to contend. The stopgap options on the market dwindled before the CBA lockout although several star options remain that could be signed to long term deals. They also have a desperate need for starting pitching, a market that has been picked over when it comes to the high-end options. Could the Twins cash in on their former number one overall pick on the trade market?

Before Lewis’s injury some within the system considered him questionable at best to stick at shortstop. Much like the recently-acquired Austin Martin, without the ability to play that premier position he could still be a valuable player, but not one that fills the biggest hole in the system. The Twins would be years away from an inhouse option taking the reins at shortstop. 

Prospect value is fluid. On one hand, Lewis took a hit to his prospect value by missing 2020 and 2021. On the other hand, if he truly isn’t a future shortstop then his time off hasn’t made that abundantly clear to the Twins or any of the teams that may be interested in acquiring him. It’s safe to say right now that some teams would still be willing to take a sizable gamble on Royce Lewis, the shortstop. It’s just a matter of whether the Twins would. 

There’s no doubt that Lewis could still be a major piece of a trade for a significant pitching acquisition. With one decision the Twins could pivot to signing a shortstop like Trevor Story to a long term deal while also bringing in an anchor for the rotation via trade. It’s the kind of move a team would make if they’re truly serious about contending right now, which the Twins should be. 

In the end, it all comes down to how the Twins value Royce Lewis. It’s possible he’s lost some shine, but the same front office saw him as the best prospect on a draft board including players such as Hunter Greene, Trevor Rogers and Shane Baz.

This isn’t necessarily a call to trade Royce Lewis. We have to assume that nobody knows what to expect from Lewis’ future better than the Twins. I would say however that if they think Lewis is another player without a sure position to add to a list that already includes Austin Martin and Luis Arraez, it may be time to start considering getting creative with how to address their needs in the rotation and the middle infield. 

Do you think the Twins should at least consider trading their former number one overall pick this winter? Let us know below!
 

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His trade value is at the lowest point.  Two lost seasons have to make others concerned.  Why would a team trade a player who could be an outstanding talent unless they are blown away with the return.   His value is down, our need for him is up.  I am ready to say take the SS position and show us you are ready or not.  Unless they grab one of the really good SS that are left it is time to gamble on his potential. 

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"This isn’t necessarily a call to trade Royce Lewis. We have to assume that nobody knows what to expect from Lewis’ future better than the Twins. I would say however that if they think Lewis is another player without a sure position to add to a list that already includes Austin Martin and Luis Arraez, it may be time to start considering getting creative with how to address their needs in the rotation and the middle infield." = CONCUR, I would even go so far as to trade 2 of Lewis, Martin, Arraez for 1 legit SS or legit SS prospect who we could sign to an extension (I have not researched who fits that bill)'  If you wanted to try to get it done cheaper, I'd risk Lewis for Nick Allen of the A's, who has the floor of 2020 Andrelton Simmons at rookie prices.

 

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I really don't see a team willing to trade a quality MLB caliber starter straight up for Lewis at this time. He could be part of a package but even then there are probably only a few teams that would consider a trade. All the other teams know the Twins roster situation which would drive the price tag even higher for a quality pitcher. Unless there is a team with a serious need for an athletic unproven injury prone player with as of yet no real position, that has a pithing surplus (how many teams have that) The price would be quite high IMO.

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At this point I would not. Unless you are able to package him to get a piece for the rotation now. Someone from Miami or Oakland.

See how he works through his rehab and progresses this season. Hopefully he is ready to go this spring and give him every chance to show he can stick at SS. His value is as a hitting shortstop, otherwise he is just another average outfielder which the Twins already have plenty of. 

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Given two lost seasons, I don't know how much value he really has at this point.  Could someone bite?  I suppose so, but I don't really see getting much of a return until he gets back into game action.  And if he produces, then trading him probably doesn't make much sense.

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There is only one scenario where I would trade Lewis at this point.  And that would be if we were to sign Story to a 4+ year contract.  We would then have our good hit SS for the foreseeable future.  If that were the case I would consider packaging Lewis for multi-year team control SP.  But I would not trade both Lewis and Martin.  These guys are still just 22 years old, and both have high up side major league talent.  And even as young as they are, I believe they are both pretty close to ready.  But if we were to sign Story and trade for top of the rotation SP, that would show we are serious about competing.  And that's all I really ask for.

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I am not against trading Lewis IF the deal was right, but that is not going to be the case given his injury history and lack of great offensive numbers.  I wouldn't trade any top 5 prospect for one year of control over any pitcher, and probably not for two years of control unles he were of the Montas or Castillo level. Now the front office's reticence to sign a free agent pitcher has really put them behind the 8 ball.  I think they are trying to play the Rays' game but they have shown no evidence that they have the talent to do so.

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Martin, Lewis, and Arraez are characterized here as players without a position. Another perspective is to look at them as players who can play many positions (SS, 2B, 3B, 1B and all three outfield spots).   On top of that, I remember one commentator said the ceiling for Royce Lewis (as a draftee) was becoming another Derek Jeter (defense, offense and high character team leader).   In other words, I wouldn’t trade Martin and Lewis for “My Friend Irma” at this time.   OK, maybe Martin.    Arraez clearly has trade value and could bring something in a trade.  

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As a rule I would say giving up a top "bat" prospect for pitching is not good strategy. Unless is an ace type on a good contract. Otherwise. Pass.. 

Lets remember folks.. he is 22 years old yet. Give him this next summer to see where he is at .. We have a plethora of OF so we need to give him a shot at SS in a serious fashion... along with Martin. One of the Two "needs" to be our SS for the future. 

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In an earlier article that also brought up the "possibility" of trading Lewis, I had mentioned (as MikeLink45 did at the outset here) that trading Lewis when his value is at it's lowest ever---much like Byron Buxton), is not wise.  I still feel that way.  I think the Twins, in Arraez have a GREAT trade chip for a team like Oakland.  Oakland has something I very much want:  Frankie Montas.  Given how certain teams like the Dodgers and Yankees ALSO have SP'ing concerns it's going to make getting SP'ing on the trade market more difficult if those teams decide to "compete" for SP's.  

Face it, the Twins need GOOD SP's.  In fact, we're desperate.  If I HAD to, I'd deal Arraez AND Lewis for Montas and Bassitt, and I'd throw in Donaldson to get Chapman.  Maybe I toss an arm like Winder or Canterino in as well.  THAT's the only kind of scenario I give up Lewis for.  A true blockbuster to set the Twins up for 2022 and beyond.   If I'm giving the A's an infielder who could be a future batting champ AND a former #1 overall pick who still has tremendous potential I'm swapping the 3B-man as well.  If the A's are truly considering a major rebuild, they take on Donaldson's contract for the short term and have the Twins take on Chapman's for the longer term.  They give up two GOOD SP's to get a solid bat with versatility (Arraez) and as I said, a former #1 overall pick who is just 22 years old and still has tremendous potential.  

But otherwise, I'm very much likely to keep Lewis than to trade him.  

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No. You don't trade a prospect who is rated as the best athlete and fastest runner in your system. On scouting reports he was given "a significant upside at shortstop" review at the game's most valued non-catching position.

 If people didn't know before, they should know now that the Twins won't compete through the free agent market. That leaves them with competing through home grown talent.

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47 minutes ago, gman said:

Need to let him re establish himself after two years off first. I find it hard to watch a player we drafted number one leave without at least getting a cup of coffee on the big league club for some big league evaluation. 

 

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You want to trade Lewis with out giving him a chance to prove himself? Is wrong! He needs to be given a chance to prove himself at the mlb level orAAA. I am willing to trade anyone providing the return is more than adequate.  The market place would most likely soft on Lewis because of the uncertainty about him and most teams that need ss have fixed their need for a ss. Those teams who will be in need of a ss in 23 and beyond have similar prospects as Lewis. Let’s exercise patience with Lewis. If Lewis has to be traded then to the Marlins for Alcantara or T. Rogers.

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Someone like Oakland would take him in a heartbeat. But there is still that great unknown, and what the Twins actually get in return (remember, his worth IS based on signing bonus, training invested, and future potential). 

 

Is he the true shortstop of the future? Otherwise, wheere do you play him. Same can be said for Martin, who could play a corner in the outfield.

 

Palacios is a dark horse in the mix. Who starts at shortstop in St. Paul. Does Lewis start at Wichita. Where does Javier fit into the minor league picture. 

 

Is Keoni Cavaco the real deal? Can the Twins tead water until 25/26 and Noah Miller?

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2 hours ago, gman said:

No. You don't trade a prospect who is rated as the best athlete and fastest runner in your system. On scouting reports he was given "a significant upside at shortstop" review at the game's most valued non-catching position.

 If people didn't know before, they should know now that the Twins won't compete through the free agent market. That leaves them with competing through home grown talent.

I certainly won't argue with the majority of the post, but will ask one thing:  on a team that refuses to bunt, and rarely attempts to steal bases or hit and run, what does his speed matter at SS?  Running down pop ups?  It seems from a defensive standpoint his speed would be better utilized in the OF, rather than at SS; unless he is a Simmons caliber defensive SS.  Then I would have him on the fast track right now.  

 

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I wouldn't trade Lewis in any scenario at this point. Confirming that his present value is well below what his worth to us. Lewis's worth goes beyond his stats, his baseball savvy, his determination, fire and his athleticism are very valuable to the Twins. His ability to be a true SS and CF makes him a true super utility that'll provide much needed depth at these critical positions if he doesn't stick at starting SS. We do need starting pitching and I'd trade any of our top young players except Lewis. IMO Lewis is a player that could stick w/ the Twin throughout his career.

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I'm not in favor of trading Lewis short of a blockbuster return, but the article does point out something important. I start with the idea that the best thing to do is trade from surplus to get the things you need but don't have. Where is the Twins surplus? Good hitting or high potential non SS IFs (Arraez, Miranda, Lewis, Martin), and corner OFs with power potential/longer term CFs (Larnach, Kirilloff, Celestino, Contreras). Areas to shore up? Starting Pitching, Starting Pitching, and SS, in that order.  

The point is that the team should be trying every avenue to shore up the SP and SS holes. That includes trading Lewis, Arraez, Martin, Miranda, etc. I would like to see a trade with the As for Bassitt and/or Montas and I would be willing to give up 1 or 2 of the 8 players above to accomplish that goal; 3 if we got both pitchers. Actually 3 of any of our Milb players except Winder, Baelazovic, and Sands. Our timing is off. Today's good players will be out or in downward cycles by the time the MiLB replacements are ready.  Let's capitalize on our surplus now. 

 

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1 hour ago, Mark G said:

I certainly won't argue with the majority of the post, but will ask one thing:  on a team that refuses to bunt, and rarely attempts to steal bases or hit and run, what does his speed matter at SS?  Running down pop ups?  It seems from a defensive standpoint his speed would be better utilized in the OF, rather than at SS; unless he is a Simmons caliber defensive SS.  Then I would have him on the fast track right now.  

 

Overall team speed matters a lot. Yep they have power, but how many playoffs has it helped them win? If you have Buxton, Martin and Lewis starting in the field they can't all play center at the same time. Then can also bring in Gordon to add additional speed you might get a real balanced attack to win games when the power is not flying.

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I think the Twins should sign Story. Trade Miranda or (Lewis) + who ever for a starting controlable pitcher. Let Lewis or (Miranda) play 3rd after next year. I’m not sure if they would have money to also get Rodón but I think this team would win the central. If you need to clear more room salary wise, trade Donaldson.

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Doesn't his raw talent compare to a guy named Buxton when he was drafted. If that is true I am going to want to find out what I have. He needs the chance to show he has a position wherever that might be in the field. I feel the Twin's need to keep transitioning to a more athletic player. He fits that mold.

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As others have stated, his trade value is low right now. For the Twins right now I think that they need to find out what he can do for them. If he does not meet their needs then trades would be in order. But at the low point right now I don't think they could get as much as if they played him in AAA for a while, so wait a while. 

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Just a thought: Why not let these kids play? 

If R Lewis is healthy enough to play/defend at SS, why not let him play say 4 of 7 games, 1-2 of the off games at DH.  Would this be better/worse than what Simmons did? Polanco at SS, Gordon?

Then, after 40 or so games, evaluate! At that time, the other SS (presumably Martin) would either be able to play/defend at SS or not.

If we get a rental player for a year (Iglesias ?), they would need playing time.

Bottom line: Is Lewis ready to be a major league Shortstop? Is Martin? If not now, next year?

I really don't like that strategy: I say let em play!!

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