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A Perfect Free Agent Exists for the Twins


Right now, the Minnesota Twins have failed to do much of anything on the free-agent market. Despite the feeding frenzy leading up to the lockout, the only player they brought in was pitcher Dylan Bundy. It’s now slim pickings out there, but there’s one guy they have no excuse not to sign.

There’s no denying that Derek Falvey has a ton of work to do when filling out Rocco Baldelli’s pitching staff. Jose Berrios has been traded. Kenta Maeda is on the shelf. Michael Pineda is gone. Bundy joins holdovers Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan as the only arms currently penciled into the big league rotation.
 
Minnesota needs someone to own the designation of staff ace. The Twins also currently have a projected payroll of just $91 million. Put those two realities together, and you get an equation that results in needing to spend something like $40 million and find a top-tier arm. Come on down Carlos Rodon.
 
The former Chicago White Sox lefty has been through quite the past few seasons. After pitching just seven and ⅔ innings in 2020, the White Sox non-tendered their former third overall pick. His season-best innings total came way back in 2016 when he threw 165. Often injured, Rodon has thrown just an average of 58 innings per season from 2017-2020. Then came 2021, and Rodon responded by putting up a breakout campaign.
 
Named to his first All-Star Game, Rodon also finished 5th in the Cy Young voting. His 2.37 ERA was bolstered by a 2.65 FIP and a 0.957 WHIP. Dropping a full walk per nine off his career average and jumping his strikeouts per nine by more than three, it was every bit the dominant performance you’d hope to see. Rodon got there by allowing the lowest hard-hit rate of his career and gave up his second-lowest home run rate.
 
Looking through his peripherals, there’s plenty to be excited about as well. Rodon generated a career-best 34% chase rate and another career-best 14.9% whiff rate. He’d never generated a CSW% (called and swinging strikes) better than 29.3% until he hit 30.3% last season. Those realities coincide with a velocity boost that Rodon saw an average fastball sitting at 95.4 mph, nearly a mile and a half bump on his career average.

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That’s where things also get sticky for Rodon. Dealing with a shoulder injury defined simply as “fatigue” in August, his velocities saw a decline down the stretch. Following a return from the IL, Rodon worked five games for Chicago, going 23 total innings, or an average of roughly four and ⅔ per start. The results were promising in that he posted a 2.35 ERA and held opposing batters to a .536 OPS with a 25/6 K/BB. An average fastball velocity that sat at 96-97 mph from June 8 through July 18 got back above 95 mph just once the rest of the way and averaged just 93.3 mph once he returned from the Injured List.
 
Therein lies the rub and why Rodon is both available and a perfect fit for the Twins. This front office has avoided being locked into long-term pacts, especially with pitchers. They wanted no part of a seven-year deal with Jose Berrios, and even Kevin Gausman’s five-year contract may have been too much. There’s no denying they should’ve been a big player for Marcus Stroman on a three-year deal, but this is a spot to right that. Because Rodon has been hurt and Minnesota likes to keep risk relatively low, the two should be made for each other.
 
Rather than getting the $20+ million annually or five-year deal Rodon may have earned in a normal situation, he likely should be available for something around $30 million on a two-year deal. The contention has remained that if the Twins want to avoid the market trends of length, they must be willing to spend above value on shorter-term opportunities. This is a perfect spot for Minnesota to strike, whether a one or two-year deal. Rodon gives the club an ace, and if the injuries persist, there’s no real setback with the short agreement.
 
We won’t know how things work out for Rodon or Minnesota until the lockout is lifted. The landscape could change for players and ownership going forward, but it’s hard to see these two sides fitting any less perfect than they appear at this moment. Leaving just one option on the table gives Derek Falvey little room for error, but this is a situation where he needs to put his best foot forward and not miss.

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I am content with one FA if it is quality and your choice makes great logic.  Rodon, Ober, Ryan and two of Balazovic, Winder, Sands, Bundy, Duran, Richardson, Canterino, Strotman would give me some hope for the future (even though I am a Bundy sceptic).   They are not going to fill out the staff unless there is a massive trade, so a good anchor and a rotation of young arms lets us see what might be happening beyond 2022.

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I'd take Rodon, but he's not going to come close to making the team a contender. And if the Twins aren't a contender, then he's probably trade bait come July if he's on a two year deal.

Which, is fine. Maybe the team is just good enough to hang on to him for year two, but in either case, it's not doing a lot to get the Twins a championship. This front office has to eventually look the boogeyman in the face and start giving out some long term deals to starting pitchers. They just can't keep dipping into the shallow end of the free agent market and sign three starters EVERY offseason, it's inefficient and takes an awful lot of luck to hit on the right arms every year.

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1 hour ago, nicksaviking said:

I'd take Rodon, but he's not going to come close to making the team a contender. And if the Twins aren't a contender, then he's probably trade bait come July if he's on a two year deal.

Which, is fine. Maybe the team is just good enough to hang on to him for year two, but in either case, it's not doing a lot to get the Twins a championship. This front office has to eventually look the boogeyman in the face and start giving out some long term deals to starting pitchers. They just can't keep dipping into the shallow end of the free agent market and sign three starters EVERY offseason, it's inefficient and takes an awful lot of luck to hit on the right arms every year.

I don't think the plan is to have to sign 3 starters every offseason. I think 2 years ago was supposed to be the last season of that plan. Then last year was. Now this year is. The plan is to start producing their own arms. But then covid happened and delayed the arrivals. Then they all got hurt. But now they're all starting to need 40 man protection so they can't really delay anymore. The young arms are the plan. They're really what will make or break Falvine. I think that's why we hear them talking about being creative with piggy back starters, etc.

I'd think Rodon on a 1 or 2 year deal would be good and it's a move I'd make. Nothing wrong with bringing him in and flipping him at this deadline, next offseason, or the next deadline if that's the best move then. But I'd bring him in and at least have an opening day starter worthy of starting opening day. But everything, in 2022 and beyond, comes down to whether or not they can start producing their own arms. If they can't it's all a lost cause.

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20 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

I don't think the plan is to have to sign 3 starters every offseason. I think 2 years ago was supposed to be the last season of that plan. Then last year was. Now this year is. The plan is to start producing their own arms. But then covid happened and delayed the arrivals. Then they all got hurt. But now they're all starting to need 40 man protection so they can't really delay anymore. The young arms are the plan. They're really what will make or break Falvine. I think that's why we hear them talking about being creative with piggy back starters, etc.

I'd think Rodon on a 1 or 2 year deal would be good and it's a move I'd make. Nothing wrong with bringing him in and flipping him at this deadline, next offseason, or the next deadline if that's the best move then. But I'd bring him in and at least have an opening day starter worthy of starting opening day. But everything, in 2022 and beyond, comes down to whether or not they can start producing their own arms. If they can't it's all a lost cause.

If there was an arrow in the center of the bullseye, this arrow would split it down the middle.  As tough as it is for some folks to accept, the best case scenario is a product of developing pitching and it sure looks like the front office agrees with you.  That said ... Rodon on a two-year deal would be great even if he becomes a trade chip.

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I think he will go closer to a 20-25M/year deal if it is only 1-2 years. Maybe you can get it at 18M/year for a 4 year deal. At FG the projection was 3/45 or 4/80. MLB trade rumors had 1/25.

I agree though that Rodón is a must sign to be competitive next year. He has no QO attached. He has ace upside when healthy. He should be the top priority for the Twins FO if they are to ever be believed again in their statements about spending and being competitive.

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26 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

I don't think the plan is to have to sign 3 starters every offseason. I think 2 years ago was supposed to be the last season of that plan. Then last year was. Now this year is. The plan is to start producing their own arms. But then covid happened and delayed the arrivals. Then they all got hurt. But now they're all starting to need 40 man protection so they can't really delay anymore. The young arms are the plan. They're really what will make or break Falvine. I think that's why we hear them talking about being creative with piggy back starters, etc.

I'd think Rodon on a 1 or 2 year deal would be good and it's a move I'd make. Nothing wrong with bringing him in and flipping him at this deadline, next offseason, or the next deadline if that's the best move then. But I'd bring him in and at least have an opening day starter worthy of starting opening day. But everything, in 2022 and beyond, comes down to whether or not they can start producing their own arms. If they can't it's all a lost cause.

I want the young guys to pan out, and I am expecting exactly that. 

But they shouldn't be counting on ANY of them to be a top of the rotation arm. Knock on wood, one or two are, but the most likely outcome is that they develop some middle of the rotation talent and some guys who can be quality backend/swingmen types. They absolutely should be looking to shore up the front of the rotation with an arm or two on long term deals IN ADDITION to developing their own players.

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13 minutes ago, nicksaviking said:

I want the young guys to pan out, and I am expecting exactly that. 

But they shouldn't be counting on ANY of them to be a top of the rotation arm. Knock on wood, one or two are, but the most likely outcome is that they develop some middle of the rotation talent and some guys who can be quality backend/swingmen types. They absolutely should be looking to shore up the front of the rotation with an arm or two on long term deals IN ADDITION to developing their own players.

I realize there are decent options that are not 5 year contracts but have you ever listed all of the 5+ year deals and looked at WAR by year, specifically after year 1?  There have been a couple guys like Scherzer and Grienke that performed over their entire contracts.  Outside of these truly elite SPs, the majority of free agents SPs are not very productive after the 1st year.  They are horrible after the first two years.  Therefore, if history repeats itself, the strategy of getting them for the long haul is a really bad idea.  The middle of the road guys are seldom difference makers.  They are sometimes good supporting cast like Pineada.

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2 hours ago, nicksaviking said:

I'd take Rodon, but he's not going to come close to making the team a contender. And if the Twins aren't a contender, then he's probably trade bait come July if he's on a two year deal.

Which, is fine. Maybe the team is just good enough to hang on to him for year two, but in either case, it's not doing a lot to get the Twins a championship. This front office has to eventually look the boogeyman in the face and start giving out some long term deals to starting pitchers. They just can't keep dipping into the shallow end of the free agent market and sign three starters EVERY offseason, it's inefficient and takes an awful lot of luck to hit on the right arms every year.

I don't think they are one arm away, and I think they should be giving out 3-5 year deals for pitchers. They should be adding another top level arm via trade.

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42 minutes ago, Seansy said:

I think he will go closer to a 20-25M/year deal if it is only 1-2 years. Maybe you can get it at 18M/year for a 4 year deal. At FG the projection was 3/45 or 4/80. MLB trade rumors had 1/25.

I agree though that Rodón is a must sign to be competitive next year. He has no QO attached. He has ace upside when healthy. He should be the top priority for the Twins FO if they are to ever be believed again in their statements about spending and being competitive.

I thought it seemed a bit light in writing it out, but even 2/$40 would be fine for the Twins and gives them at least another $20M to spend in 2021 alone.

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30 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

I realize there are decent options that are not 5 year contracts but have you ever listed all of the 5+ year deals and looked at WAR by year, specifically after year 1?  There have been a couple guys like Scherzer and Grienke that performed over their entire contracts.  Outside of these truly elite SPs, the majority of free agents SPs are not very productive after the 1st year.  They are horrible after the first two years.  Therefore, if history repeats itself, the strategy of getting them for the long haul is a really bad idea.  The middle of the road guys are seldom difference makers.  They are sometimes good supporting cast like Pineada.

I don't disagree with the premise that signing free agent arms, at 30 or older, to 5+ year deals is suboptimal. You're likely to watch it go downhill quickly. The problem is that's how the market currently plays. If you want to get the services of those top pitchers you either need to convince other FA pitchers to think like Trevor Bauer, or be willing to spend well above projected AAV in a shorter term.

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2 minutes ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

I don't think they are one arm away, and I think they should be giving out 3-5 year deals for pitchers. They should be adding another top level arm via trade.

Even with a trade, I don't think Rodon + hypothetical traded starter makes for a contending team.

And if they end up trading prospects for a starter instead of paying free agency prices, I'm going to be pretty upset. They could have afforded to pay for multiple big arms in free agency. If they trade one top end prospect while sitting at a payroll below 130M, the fans justifiably should have out their pitchforks.

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33 minutes ago, nicksaviking said:

I want the young guys to pan out, and I am expecting exactly that. 

But they shouldn't be counting on ANY of them to be a top of the rotation arm. Knock on wood, one or two are, but the most likely outcome is that they develop some middle of the rotation talent and some guys who can be quality backend/swingmen types. They absolutely should be looking to shore up the front of the rotation with an arm or two on long term deals IN ADDITION to developing their own players.

I don't disagree, just was saying this wasn't the plan. Their plan was never to go year to year signing a bunch of short term deals to build their staff (that was the part of your other comment I was replying to). The plan was Berrios at the top. Odo and Maeda types in the 2/3 spots. Pineda in the 3/4 spot. And the kids filling in the bottom and taking over the top spots as they solidified themselves. Then it all blew up starting with covid and moving into the injury-fest that was 2021.

Now should the last 2 disaster seasons have lead them to change their plan and bring in a Ray and/or Gausman on 5 year deals? Maybe. Sounds like they at least discussed it with Ray and his people. Where the struggle for them comes in is now you're at a 40 man crunch situation. That's why I think Rodon on a short term, high AAV deal makes a ton of sense. They have to count on being able to develop top of the rotation arms. They aren't ever going to be able to afford buying topline FA pitching. They can't pay for decline years. That's what makes Rodon such a good fit. Just like they'd never be able to afford Buxton if it weren't for his injuries, they couldn't afford a Rodon if it weren't for his injuries limiting him to a short deal.

But when push comes to shove they have to be able to develop their own top of the rotation arms. Otherwise they're signing guys to 5 year deals when they'll really only be good for 2 and then not only do they not have a top of the rotation arm, but they have expensive middle or back end guys. So either they need to develop guys to take the top spots from the expensive declining vets on long term deals or they need to develop guys to jump the cheaper vets on short term deals. But in the end they need to develop their own top end guys no matter who they sign. So the debate is about signing guys to long-term deals now knowing they'll likely be bad in a couple years or signing short term deals and being able to pivot and fill in as the next couple years play out and you see how good your system really is.

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6 minutes ago, snyder said:

The only way Rodon signs with the Twins is if they overpay. If the high end of the market for Rodon is a one year deal at 25 million, Twins will have to offer 45-50 million over 2 years to get him to come to a rebuilding team. You have to pay to get players to sign with rebuilding teams.

Marcus Stroman called and he'd like to disagree with you. He got what he was expected to in $ and went to a team in far worse shape than the Twins. You could actually argue he got less total money than expected since he took at 3 year deal instead of 5+ like the other guys in his age and talent range. So he got his expected AAV and went to a team in a full rebuild with very few MLB level players that likely won't compete at anytime during his current deal. They didn't overpay at all and he went there.

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I had my doubts about Rodon if they expect 5+ innings through out the season. If they've changed their mindset from relying heavily on weak SPing and a failing BP last season to relying heavily on long relief, then we have a chance. We have even a much weaker rotation so far, a steady diet of long relievers made up of rotating AAAA and weak SPs are vital.

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I'm a bit nervous about this - The White Sox knew what they were doing when they non-tendered Colome and we picked him up (yes I know he got better later), no one knows more about Rondon's medicals than the Sox do - I'm suspicious why they didn't want to bring him back.  Low floor / High ceiling type of guy I guess, but how do you make a good offer on that?

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34 minutes ago, farmerguychris said:

I'm a bit nervous about this - The White Sox knew what they were doing when they non-tendered Colome and we picked him up (yes I know he got better later), no one knows more about Rondon's medicals than the Sox do - I'm suspicious why they didn't want to bring him back.  Low floor / High ceiling type of guy I guess, but how do you make a good offer on that?

What Chris said. Based on Rodon's medicals in November, the ChiSox didn't offer Rodon a Qualifying Offer.

I think Rodon is counting on (or hoping for) his medicals to improve by the end of lockdown. And how much competition will the Twins have if that is the case. You can't count on winning the bidding.

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1 hour ago, chpettit19 said:

Marcus Stroman called and he'd like to disagree with you. He got what he was expected to in $ and went to a team in far worse shape than the Twins. You could actually argue he got less total money than expected since he took at 3 year deal instead of 5+ like the other guys in his age and talent range. So he got his expected AAV and went to a team in a full rebuild with very few MLB level players that likely won't compete at anytime during his current deal. They didn't overpay at all and he went there.

But the Cubs do have a history of spending money and signing the big names. The Cubs could sign more people after Stroman to fill out their roster to be competitive. If the Twins signed Rodon, I just don't see them spending any more big money and they still are not competitive this year. 

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34 minutes ago, Lonestar said:

What Chris said. Based on Rodon's medicals in November, the ChiSox didn't offer Rodon a Qualifying Offer.

I think Rodon is counting on (or hoping for) his medicals to improve by the end of lockdown. And how much competition will the Twins have if that is the case. You can't count on winning the bidding.

It's a bit out of left field, but I wouldn't be surprised if the White Sox agreed not to give Rodon a QO if he agreed to let them match any free agent offer. He just seemed like a pretty obvious QO move.

I only suggest it because they just won the division, have money to spend but so far haven't done much. More importantly, even after two dreadful injury filled seasons by Rodon, the White Sox already brought him back as a free agent last year and were rewarded for their continued relationship with an outstanding season. I could see the non-QO offer as a reciprocation of their affinity and an olive branch since they got him on the cheap and well below arbitration salary last year.

That's probably all too conspiratorial, though if he ends up resigning with the White Sox, I'll probably figure out a way to bump this post. :)

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"Perfect?" 

I definitely wouldn't put him at that level. A nice add? Sure. 2/$40M? Not bad, not great. But Rodon is far from perfect. He's always had stuff, but 1.) is never healthy (including last year), and 2.) had a great four-month stretch. The White Sox didn't even offer him the Qualifying Offer and have little interest in bringing him back. 

So yeah, he's a nice option and maybe he'll actually even stay healthy. If so, that's great. But it is a huge risk. 

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We need guys to start 30 games, and go deep (i.e. at least into the sixth inning more often than not). Hopefully push waaaaay above 150 innings pitched.

 

None of the Twins prospects will push beyond 150 innings: Winder, Balazovic, Duran whatever. Even Ryan. Ober might. Jax could possibly. But there will be a lot of Triple-A tag-teaming or, if back to rebuilding mode, just pitching 4-5 innings at best. You can stand that for one or two guys at best, but 3 or 4...no...because the 1-2 is 3-4 and the 3-4 is 5-6 pitchers you have to carry on the 40-man and shuffle.

 

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6 hours ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

I don't disagree with the premise that signing free agent arms, at 30 or older, to 5+ year deals is suboptimal. You're likely to watch it go downhill quickly. The problem is that's how the market currently plays. If you want to get the services of those top pitchers you either need to convince other FA pitchers to think like Trevor Bauer, or be willing to spend well above projected AAV in a shorter term.

How many pitchers did Cleveland sign to this type of deal before their run of success. How about Tampa? Whether people here like it or not, this is what they’re trying to build - a pipeline like Cleveland and Tampa had. They’re not going to blow a bunch of money or trade off a bunch of prospects to block that pipeline. I’m not saying they won’t acquire one, and maybe sign or trade for another cheap reclamation project but people here need to realize and accept what they’re trying to do, or just keep complaining.

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If you want to get the services of those top pitchers you either need to convince other FA pitchers to think like Trevor Bauer, or be willing to spend well above projected AAV in a shorter term.

This is the betwixt and between spot. I'm not up for allowing risk assessment to become definitive roster construction strategy. Rodon is risk, but maybe there is another way of managing that risk. Going out of the box entirely, look to a 6 man rotation to limit innings over the season, but retain innings expectations per game. Create an additional rotational spot for one of our minor league studs, and if one doesnt work, try another. And trade for Manea. Will cost Cantorino or Balezovich, plus another....but...there is risk in FA, there is risk in trade,...so what? They took a managed risk with JD and arguably have done well with that contract. No reason that logic cannot be applied to SP's with the same commitment to creative solutions.

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5 hours ago, nicksaviking said:

It's a bit out of left field, but I wouldn't be surprised if the White Sox agreed not to give Rodon a QO if he agreed to let them match any free agent offer. He just seemed like a pretty obvious QO move.

I only suggest it because they just won the division, have money to spend but so far haven't done much. More importantly, even after two dreadful injury filled seasons by Rodon, the White Sox already brought him back as a free agent last year and were rewarded for their continued relationship with an outstanding season. I could see the non-QO offer as a reciprocation of their affinity and an olive branch since they got him on the cheap and well below arbitration salary last year.

That's probably all too conspiratorial, though if he ends up resigning with the White Sox, I'll probably figure out a way to bump this post. :)

In the unlikely event the White Sox had a deal with Rodon to match any offer we would not be able to sign him.  If such a deal did not exist they did not extend a QO because they knew better.  So I fail to see your logic.  It seems like desperation.  That's just fine for fans.  Not so good for a FO.

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1 hour ago, Rosterman said:

We need guys to start 30 games, and go deep (i.e. at least into the sixth inning more often than not). Hopefully push waaaaay above 150 innings pitched.

 

None of the Twins prospects will push beyond 150 innings: Winder, Balazovic, Duran whatever. Even Ryan. Ober might. Jax could possibly. But there will be a lot of Triple-A tag-teaming or, if back to rebuilding mode, just pitching 4-5 innings at best. You can stand that for one or two guys at best, but 3 or 4...no...because the 1-2 is 3-4 and the 3-4 is 5-6 pitchers you have to carry on the 40-man and shuffle.

 

What's the difference if you have 2 SPs contribute 300 IP and 2 RPs contribute 140  vs  4 SPs contributing 110 IP each.  It's literally identical.  It's actually probably less stress because they are not up and down like RPs.

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I agree that Rodon is a good fit under the current circumstances and he should certainly be heavily considered.  I would offer 2-years and $40 million, possibly 3-years $51 million.  But I would also be ready to make a trade for another SP.  Montas would be at the top of my list.  Bassitt close behind.  And Pineda would be an excellent guy to have in that #3 or #4 spot.  Ryan and Ober will barely top 115 IP.  Rodon will probably only pitch 150 innings.  More bodies are needed to piece together a rotation without completely stressing the BP day in and day out.

Construct a staff thru a FA signing and trades:  Rodon, Montas, Pineda, Bundy, Ryan & Ober.  Have Dobnak available to fill in.  Then see who is performing and earning a chance at some Big League starts in-season.  Balazovic, Winder, Duran, Sands Canterino,  etc...  It's a LONG season.  With a LOT of innings.  They need more than many of us think here on TD.  While I would LOVE a SS, there are other options thru a trade than Story.  PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING.  Not just for 2022 but for 2023 and 2024.  Pitchers get hurt.  They come up with a sore or "tender" arm.  The Twins have some nice possibilities in the minors.  They are just terribly THIN at the Big League level.  Go get some PITCHERS !!

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